The BGA has always taken an interest in social behaviour. If that interest sometimes led to sirens in the night and lifelong enmities it must be remembered that you cannot make an omlette without cracking eggs. The trick to a really good omelette is not to crack the pan either…
Social signalling is a popular topic right now – the forms of communication that we see on the internet in forums, social pages, websites, and columns such as this one. Each has its own special format and in some cases the purpose of the signal can be quite different. Here are some examples:
a. The virtue signal – this is a posting on a social site or a column written to draw attention to the goodness of the writer – to their virtue. The world abounds in evil and misery, and the virtue signaller has a wide choice of topics they can discuss – to make themselves look good.
No-one can pretend that murder is a good thing. So the virtue signaller comes out with a passionate cry that murder is not good – confident that everyone will have to agree with them. They appear a good person for decrying a bad thing.
It becomes a little fraught when they mix politics, religion, sex, and commerce into this cry of virtue. They tend to give off hints of their own prejudices, bigotry, malevolence, and cupidity even as they wave the banner of goodness.
Some people have asked what the best response should be to a virtue signal. The Guild feels that you must either preserve a dignified silence or respond with wholehearted enthusiastic agreement. Whichever course you adopt, attune it to the level of virtue that the original signaller has tried; if they are modest, be modest in your silence – if they are flamboyant, be the same with your stonewall. Likewise, if you pretend to agree with them let it be either a modest social tail wagging or a complete public leg-hump.
b. The vague signal – this is the social post that starts with air and ends with clouds. No part of it is either intelligent or intelligible. You are lucky to see it on Facebook or Twitter -if it came to your email account your ISP would spam-can it staunchly.
Well, a signal is a signal, and this one indicates that the signaller wants you to make earnest and sympathetic enquiries about them. This is so that they can tell you their troubles and, if possible, blame you. This may not be convenient.
The Hearty English Major approach is best here:
” For God’s sake buck yourself up and stop whining! ” is a comfort for many in this situation. Not for the signaller, of course, but for you. Try to snort as you type – it comes through in the punctuation.
c. The outrage signal – this is sometimes linked to the virtue signal but may be a separate thing. In the purest cases it is a reaction to some horrid world event. The signaller foams and imprecates, threatens and howls, finally throwing themselves into a corner in tears. Most of the targets of their anger are far away and untouchable, and nothing ever comes of it.
If the targets are not far away – if they are local persons, firms, and events – it becomes a little more interesting. Publishing a rant doesn’t constitute defamation in many cases but borders on it for others. Responding to a rant as a disinterested third party is a temptation but you really don’t want to include yourself in the ring. If you feel the need to press something, press the emoji button and claim later that it was just your knuckle brushing the keyboard.