(This ramble was written in response to a Medium post, “Have You Encountered the Softboy?“)
In social media and blogs online, there are stereotypes for virtually every type of person. Rather than individual characters in a story, they are instead caricatures that symbolically represent a type of gross logical reductionism. This phenomenon is particularly rampant in social media, where one bad opinion of a person can transform to represent everything about that person as a whole. It’s easy to forget whether there was ever anything good about a person at all.
There’s Bill the Brogrammer, who talks up his sex game as he hammers together a Ruby on Rails application. Perhaps he looks up women’s skirts at work and wears sweatpants all day long. There’s Philip the Fuckboy, who breaks your heart and never returns your calls. He’s out every night with a new woman, and plotting on hooking up with every girl in a circle of friends. There’s Stephen the Softboy, who leverages his sensitivity as a weapon to play with women’s emotions, and pretends to be an Ally. Because of course, how could he really ever be an Ally to any group or cause?
None of these people are real human beings. They are archetypes; abstractions that tie together human behaviors into allegories that all pretty much say the same thing: there are awful people in this world, they will use you, and you cannot trust them. Usually, they are men. Sometimes, they are women. If you’re reading a particularly conservative publication, they can even be queer or transgender.
The problem is simple: in the mind of the reader, these archetypes can override representations for real people while reducing them to the most black-and-white interpretation possible. No longer is a person just a person, no, every part of their presentation is part of a calculating sham to get the pants off of the opposite sex. Or the same sex, depending on narrative. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. With these characters, no element can be verified to be genuine. They have no real interests or passions other than breaking hearts, getting drunk, and using people.
Suddenly, an individual’s sociopolitical philosophy simply may not be what it is presented as. Maybe this person just goes to rallies to hook up with white skinny stoner girls that have dreadlocks. Forget what the sex-positivist side of Tumblr tells you, apparently having sexuality as a subset of one’s motivations for anything is wrong, wrong, wrong. Hell, maybe that’s a man’s only motivation to do anything in the first place.
“Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” — Oscar Wilde
Maybe the art that they produce is little more than uncreative doodling posing as sophistication. Perhaps their music collection is little more than a series of popular selections specifically engineered to appeal to as many human beings as possible. Did this poseur even read Marx’s Das Kapital? Doeshe even read books at all? Every element is brought into question.
The irony here, of course, is that such a mindset devalues many aspects of an individual’s humanity. If we are to be truly progressive in breaking down barriers between people, then we have to admit that the human persona is more than two-dimensional. It is complex, and not always a manufactured package.
Yes, some people out there are terrible. But it’s much harder to derive enjoyment in human interaction if we are to assume that all people are completely self-centered sociopaths.