November 15, 2018

Food for Thought

Last weekend, I crawled the Bronx with a bunch of Instagram friends. The theme was West African food. Before eating at this restaurant, we went to an African supermarket and saw the raw ingredients. I thought I had at least scratched the surface of all the cuisines around the world; boy, was I wrong. A huge number of products were completely foreign to me. It’s intimidating and exciting at the same time.

Continuing my thought from yesterday about truth and pretext, I was arguing that normal humans put more weight on people than on things, whereas foodies (or “nerds”) tend to do the opposite. For normal humans, careers and interests they pursue are actually pretexts. In truth, their primary goal is to be respected, loved, and valued by others, i.e., “social capital.” The sense of belonging comes first. For what reason or purpose they belong is secondary, a pretext.

This is why if you grew up in a Republican community, you’d likely to be a Republican even though you think you are an independent thinker. The same is true for Democrats. If everyone did think independently, and did not prioritize the sense of belonging over abstract ideas, political allegiance would not be so closely tied to geography. Again, for normal humans, people matter more than things or ideas. On Instagram, we can see this “social capital” in its purest form: the number of followers.

Let’s say there were only 1,001 users on Instagram, and let’s also say, everyone has zero post, but silently agrees to follow each other. Each user would then have 1,000 followers. Most of you would think this number is meaningless, but this is precisely what is happening on Instagram; the only difference is that it’s not as extreme. Instagram is full of people who want followers following each other. For what they are following is secondary, or even irrelevant. This is why many of them follow you, and several days later unfollow you. The content is only a pretext to gain social capital. If they can only have social capital, they would. It’s like having sex without going out to dinner first.

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