Taylor Swift, Zara, Mark Manson and The Art of Non-Reaction

Taylor Swift, Zara, Mark Manson and The Art of Non-Reaction

What if the art of non-reaction was the new norm? Instead of diving into "acceptance, tolerance and inclusivity so long as you share my views.” was replaced by “live and let live”? Instead, in Taylor Swift's words, "Look what you made me do" was replaced by "What you do has no power over me"?

Joel Primus explores how tuning out might be the ultimate political statement to what we find to be "unacceptable":

Thanks to Taylor Swift’s listener rankings on Spotify, my girls have been notified that they are in the top 0.5% globally — a position they have no intention of relinquishing, I might add. This means, as a father who supports them in their endeavours, I listen to an incredible, no, scratch that, insane amount of Taylor Swift. I have no qualms about that, except when “Look What You Made Me Do” plays. I like the song but, even though I’m tapping my thumbs on the steering wheel every time it comes on, I begin to lecture my daughters in my best “parenting voice.” I explain that “no one can make you do anything.”.

We most certainly can be in control of our reactions to other people and the events of the world around us.

Yet, there is a morsel of truth in Miss Americana’s words. A morsel that seems more and more ubiquitous these days.

Right now we’re swimming in a toxic soup of victimhood, hysteria, and righteousness that perpetuates itself. I get it, I sympathize with why we’re all seemingly a little bent out of shape. This I liken it to the Fujiwhara effect for hurricanes, where two hurricanes collide and create a super hurricane, except I’m referring to our cultural discourse.

On one hand, you have so much general noise on social media that brands, influencers, media and politicians alike become more extreme to seize the mic, so to speak, and get their message and name out there. Social Media also prioritizes controversial content. Click-bait headlines win out, so they spark a little controversy and, voila, they’re seen! Any press is good press, right?

Conversely, what society deems socially acceptable to say is shrinking at an alarming rate. In fact, the #TW (trigger warning) alarm bells are rung so often now that it’s beginning to feel like they’re the siren song of our generation. The more the needle moves to the left (politically speaking), the more (unacceptable) space there is to the right. The more the needle moves right (again, politically speaking), the more unacceptable space there is to the left. Similarly, the more things become taboo to say or do, the more we find ourselves attacked by the social-justice police.

Not for ill intent, I might add, as there is an underpinning of positive intent behind all this moral hysteria. We all want to make the world a better place. Props to us!

But, herein lies the paradox; our intent to create the world in the image of our ideal morality is one of the reasons we’re more and more easily offended!

The more we narrow our views, the more of what falls outside of those views exists in this diverse world.

The narrower our views become, the more we are siloed in echo chambers of those views courtesy of the algorithm scripture created by tech gods.

The more tribal we become with those views (aka hive mind), the less we accept those with different views.

And the more noise we make about it on social media, the more of what we don’t want or like or accept shows up in order to cut through said noise.

Although the content of their offense is not the crux of this blog, to borrow a recent and highly controversial example, look no further than retail behemoth Zara’s recent campaign and corresponding backlash:

Cue the posts being taken down.

Cue the obligatory apology about misunderstanding.

Cue the reaction to the apology.

Cue the protests.

Cue the legislators leveraging the moment as justification for new social media censorship. laws, social conduct and DEI training due to hate speech.

Cue the cycle of continued angst and tension and protest.

And on and on it goes.  The point being, “Look what [Zara] made me do.”

I’m not commenting on Zara specifically here and nor am saying there is never cause for taking the actions above (for more on that, you can read our blog on Activism Fatigue)

…but…what if we…just…didn’t…you know…react to it?

Would the world spin into anarchy and chaos? Or would the tension actually be dialled down a little (or a lot)?

I have a toddler who is quickly forgetting “that old-time rock and roll” I used to rock her to sleep to, and is currently being educated in the complete discology of T Swift by her older sisters. She’s also a tyrant when something doesn’t align with her two-year-old worldview.  Her tactic to get her way is to be the loudest voice in the room. This infamous temper tantrum stage of life is most commonly experienced by kids in their terrible twos, teenage brats, and childlike-adults (aka Princesses and Man-children).  

Parenting 101: Do not placate the tyrannical tantrum.

The prevailing wisdom on how to parent during these (oh, so lovely) moments is simply to be calm and find a calmer place for your child to relax. Help them understand their emotions and, eventually, underlying beliefs that triggered the reaction in the first place. Be loving and present, and sometimes just hold them through the tantrum. And saying nothing at all can bring the situation back to a state of equanimity. 

Another way of looking at it is that tantrum behaviour begets tantrum behaviour or outrage begets outrage.

The end goal is to empower our children to manage their own emotions DESPITE the world NOT giving them EXACTLY what they want.

In other words, we are responsible for our own behaviours and reactions. Could this be the most important job of a parent: To raise a child that can grow up and manage their own emotions in a world of diverse and competing views? Perhaps. But most certainly it is not our employers, governments,  the media (social or traditional), movies, brands or anyone’s job to be the filter that manages what triggers our emotions. 

Nope, it’s our job! 

As such, I offer some possible antidotes by way of the wisdom of others.

To be sure, if you’re feeling a wee bit more high-strung and overly sensitive scrolling through social media or attending a family function these days, there’s no judgment here. That angst is a real thing and it’s a by-product of the ever-escalating cycle of noise, reaction, and overreaction we are subjected to each day.

But you hold the power to positively change that. You have two options: You can continue marching with the Twitter (now X) mobs and crusading against brands and people who’ve missed your mark for what’s allowed and acceptable, or you can tune that out and turn inward.

You can prescribe to the brand of acceptance and inclusivity that seems to mean "acceptance, tolerance and inclusivity so long as you share my views.” Or the more “live and let live” variety of acceptance and inclusivity where opposing views don’t mean the world is going to fall apart. In fact, the latter choice makes the world a more culturally rich and interesting place

We can turn everything into a political statement or accept that correlation doesn’t always equal causation or imply intent.

You can tune in or simply tune out. Ad campaigns are seasonal. Posts today, unnoticed, quickly sink into the depth of our digital past. If no one engages, it’s sometimes as if it never happened.

Do you want excessive poisonous cortisol coursing through your veins every time you log in and start responding to the messages and comments or, would you rather have more of those delicious feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin that come from traversing more peaceful pastures? 

Maybe ignoring something will result in the outcome we desire more than raging against it or, at the very least, make us feel a little more peaceful and at ease in our own bodies.

What if a response to that Taylor Swift song, “Look What You Made Me Do,” was NOTHING. You made me do nothing at all. In other words, what you do has no power over me. Nor do I blame you (or the world) for my feelings, and actions. I’m not a victim.  When I read this blog to my daughters and asked whether my message landed, they responded with:

“Dad, write more blogs about Taylor Switch.” Dually noted!  I suspect much like for them, it’s a life lesson that takes time and practice for all of us.

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