There are two types of people, each with a different take on the importance of culture vs. the individual.
There are those who focus on the wonderful fact that anyone who works hard enough can succeed, and others who say that a culture of inequality exists, where class, color, and gender create obstacles to success.
There are those who say that social problems such as anorexia or obesity is the fault of the individual’s weakness, and others who point their finger at a powerful consumer culture that plays off of our insecurities and weaknesses.
This same tension of thought plays online, particularly in reference to jealousy and envy in the blogosphere.
I see the same post written every other week — a prominent blogger telling others that they must overcome the jealousy and envy that is destroying the community. In private, I hear a different story. I hear about a LACK of community, one in which each of us now uses every conceivable PR and advertising technique in the book to position themselves as unique, intentionally playing off the envy and jealousies of others for personal gain.
And yes, this includes anyone who seriously touts their Klout score on Twitter. Did you read about this in the New York Times? Do we want a world where a person can get room upgrades in hotels because of who he follows on Twitter?
Fact: People are going to get jealous if you use methodology that evokes jealousy. Jealousy is not new; it has been around since Cain and Abel.
So, let’s make a final decision. Is every personal ill a matter of individual choice or does the culture help foster the problem? Is McDonald’s partly accountable for obesity in America? Should advertisers be more aware of how their unrealistic views of body image hurt women? If we say yes, then what happens when WE finally become the media doing the selling to each other?
Rather than telling others, “Don’t be jealous,” we should ask ourselves, “Why do we try so hard to make others feel jealous of us?”