Under Microscope

It's another world under the microscope.

Deceptive Social Benchmarking: Righteousness as a Product

It is no secret that most famous people, however rich they are, always attempt to appear relatable. They will occasionally pretend to have regular people problems. If this type of deception is too obvious i.e., it is not credible that they can have those problems now, they will at least tell stories from their past to establish a similar relatability. Obviously, it is difficult to truly know these people unless their behavior can be observed on a day-to-day basis. Why does a certain level of relatability improve the popularity of actors, singers, or other famous people? Perhaps more importantly, why do we like people who are going through difficult problems?
Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly comparing ourselves to the people we see around us. This includes everybody from the richest to the poorest. We compare our lives to the multimillionaires. Then, we compare our lives to the homeless people we walk by. We aspire to the beautiful, the rich, and the talented. We like learning about their lives because the information we get fuels our goals, plans, and more commonly our daydreams. Knowing about the lives of well-off people is, therefore, enjoyable. However, some people can quickly realize that aspiring to be like these people does not get them closer to their goals. This realization can ruin the entertaining aspect of learning about well-off people.
Ironically and maybe confusingly, we also like to learn about the messed-up lives of the poor, the uneducated, the unlucky, and even the criminal. Why? Because we compare our lives to theirs and feel better about ourselves. Famous people are trained to remember this. When they tell a story about their fake messed-up lives, people feel even better. Our lives are better than the drug addicts, the alcoholics, the morbidly obese, the hoarder, the mentally ill, etc. Everybody knows and expects this. But we feel even better if the person is supposed to have a much better life than ours. Then we really feel like we are not losers.
There is probably at least one show about each specific and common human problem. Since no one can have all those problems at the same time we can always find a show that will make us think that we have it better.
There is obviously something extremely wrong about this negative feedback loop. We are not attempting to better ourselves or help other people to feel better. We are simply relishing the fact that there are people out there who have it worse than us. When we look at people with terrible lives, we judge them to feel better. This scheme is now so obvious that people who call themselves judges go on television and other media to judge people on our behalf. We do not even have to figure out what is wrong with the lives of these people. There are professional actors who do this for us. Some of them we call doctors; some of them we call judges; some of them call themselves investigators. In reality, all they do is to lower the social standards of the viewers. It may lead to a temporary positive feeling in the minds of the audience but in the long run everybody loses.