virtue signaling trends

How Virtue Signaling Subtly Controls You

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  • Avatar The Envisionary
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  • Avatar  by The Envisionary

  • The article explores the psychological link between virtue signaling and control freak behavior, with the subtle nuance between the desire for approval and the desire for control.

    In a world today led by consumerism and the attention economy, we see more and more people virtue-signal, often unconsciously. And in an era where social media now amplifies every gesture, ‘virtue signaling’ has become a common accusation.

    Whilst it’s a term often thrown at those who publicly express moral viewpoints, ostensibly to garner praise or acknowledgment, at the same time there’s a personality type familiar to many: the control freak – a person who feels an overwhelming need to impose their order on the world around them.

    Though seemingly different, these two behaviors may share a hidden psychological link – a desire not just for approval, but for control.

    In this article, we explore how virtual-signaling may have ulterior desires and actually stop us from being about to adapt and think freely.

    What Is Virtue Signaling? And Why Do We See It So Much Now?

    Virtue signaling is the act of expressing opinions or sentiments publicly to demonstrate good character or moral correctness. It ranges from social media posts about social issues to wearing statement clothing. The underlying motivation is often seen as a desire for recognition, sometimes innocently, sometimes not, and often in an attempt to be seen as relevant, important, or just to be validated.

    virtue signaling yoda

    The likes of social media has turned virtue-signaling into daily action or even an ingrained habit, as so many now spend their days seeking to be heard amongst a crowded world vying for attention. Whilst it may seems like there’s no boundaries to opinion online, as anyone can speak their mind behind a mask, we are increasingly seeing virtue-signaling find its way into the workplace, and even in daily public settings.

    For example, you may be on a train and someone may ask you what stop you are near because they fell asleep and weren’t sure where they were. Then before you can answer someone else jumps in to ‘save the day’ and try to help that person out by giving them the answer first.

    What might seem like an innocent example of someone trying to help can have deeper consequences. For a start, that person didn’t even see their own rudeness in jumping into virtue-signal when another person was asked, plus when people start virtue-signaling they can also start judging others more (unconsciously) or gain their self-worth from what others think of them.

    It might still strike you as innocent, but what virtue-signaling can do is make people seek attention or status from others rather than work on themselves, or even mind their own business in certain situations that have nothing to do with them. It can make people opinionated and judgemental, and at worst, controlling.

    The Hidden Controlling Side Of Virtue-Signaling

    Control freaks exhibit a need to control situations and people, often stemming from anxiety, fear of unpredictability, and a desire for stability. They impose their will in various contexts, subtly or overtly.

    It’s a narcissist’s dream – to be able to come across as virtuous whilst subtly controlling under the illusion of compassion.

    Where virtue-signaling and control freak/narcissist behaviours cross, but still differ slightly, is in how they both often seek validation.

    For virtue signalers, it’s approval for being morally correct; for control freaks, it’s acknowledgment of their authority. Both are attempts to shape their social or professional environment – a form of control – but one is often deemed as doing good for society whilst the other is seen as being bad (even if the same psychological deficit lies beneath).

    This is why you can see more and more people jumping into action getting their selfie sticks out and adding virtuous comments such as #peacefor… #jointhe… whilst something is trending, only to move swiftly onto the next virtue-signaling stunt not long ago.

    fake virtue signaling

    It can come across as ‘being nice’, but it’s really just insecurity that needs validation from others and instant gratification to just feel normal. Sadly, some people aren’t even consciously aware they are doing so, which shows the power of social conditioning, and the danger of not being able to adapt to think for yourself.

    These behaviors can strain relationships, as people end up attempting to shape the social narrative to align with personal (biased) viewpoints, and can also reflect a societal issue with authenticity over appearance.

    They underscore the importance of discerning genuine concern from performative or controlling actions.

    The Hidden Controlling Aspect Of Health & Safety Virtue-Signalling

    In some contexts, health and safety concerns are leveraged as a means to exert control, rather than purely for the welfare of others. This can manifest in overly restrictive policies or guidelines, where the pretext of ‘care’ is used to justify controlling behaviors.

    Understanding this dynamic is also crucial in differentiating genuine concern from a desire for control.

    We can see examples of this when liberal freedom fighters end up inadvertently leading freedom of speech or sensitive worries towards more control measures, or when overly-conservative controllers try to freeze out options so you are forced to pay more in manipulated supply and demand channels.

    We’ve also seen many companies jump on the virtue-signaling bandwagon trying to create trust and loyalty to their brand, but if anything it can come across as a bit fake and disingenious, especially i their previous policy was all about ‘profit-at-all-costs’. Well, this is just another direction for them to try and make profit, by pulling the wool over people’s eyes by acting like they care (whilst wanting you to put money in their pockets).

    A lot of virtue-signaling ends up leading to mistrust in society. You have people jumping on movements like #metoo damaging worthy campaigns and turning them into fake stories for attention and profit, and Youtubers flying planes into the ground just to gain views.

    Attention seeking is at a whole new level because self-control and morals are at an all-time low thanks to the bandwagon effect of collective thinking.

    selfie stick

    How To Combat Controlling Virtue Signaling (& Develop Forward-Thinking Instead)

    Combatting these tendencies starts with self-awareness and seeking to be more adaptable and individual in your thinking, as if you continue to virtue-signal you actually become led by your limbic system which in turn lowers your availability to use your prefrontal cortex at the same time (meaning you don’t analyse or think for yourself about what you are doing much, which for budding forward-thinkers means you have a mental block towards adaptability).

    This means refraining from jumping on bandwagons for instant gratification, and worse, pretending to help causes when in reality you are just trying to help yourself due to insecurities.

    Developing forward-thinking that helps you question your actions, not just as you are doing them but before you join a bandwagon mindlessly, can help, but so can having a focus on an inner project or purpose that doesn’t need to gain validation from external domains.

    Tools like Psychology Today’s Self-Assessment Tests can offer personal insights, and having social media detoxes can also help take your mind away from the constant social conditioning.

    Avoiding seeing selfies as something you must do for validation from others (often strangers you don’t even know), and instead considering the real experience of what you are getting involved in, can also help (unless you want to find yourself getting selfie dysmorphia or selfitis).

    Tools & Next Steps

    Calm App

    Tools like the Calm App can be invaluable in managing the anxieties that often fuel control freak tendencies.

    Read ‘Virtue Signaling’ Books

    For those looking to delve deeper, books like “Virtue Signaling” provide a more extensive exploration of the subject.

    5 Day Social Media Detox Challenge

    Join the challenge that helps us get away from the influences that drag us in to seek validation and virtue-signal.

    Get Forward-Thinking Coaching

    Additionally, seeking forward-thinking coaching at The Envisionary can be a useful combative to virtue-signaling and free us from tendencies to virtue-signal for social approval.

    Forward-thinking coaching can help you overcome major blocks to our adaptability and individuality, relearn how to think more openly and creatively for yourself, and build awareness of our biases and conditioned patterns.