Friday, July 18, 2014

Pressured to be Mean

A constant partaker of short sleep-away camps, seminars and internships, I have learned all the ways to remain low and undetected. Blatantly antisocial, building limited friendships was my shield of choice, persistently protecting me from bittersweet good byes and inevitable loss of contact. However, as I left behind my desk as an intern, I can’t help but think about staying, about continuing the relationships that were planted in the past few weeks. While social media assures me that we will stay in touch, in the loop of each other’s lives, the close proximity between Singapore and Jakarta diminishes the heaviness that I carry as I walk out the doors of this bank.

Part of the Between Us series by Sarah Choo Jing

Unfortunately, social media is located in a whole different realm than the day-to-day life. Years after Facebook’s rise to fame, the rush to connect online has tapered. Despite vague social regulations, generally, “real-life” relationships need to be established prior to connecting online. Some people say, small talk will do, others believe that numerous interaction should be a precursor. But, I have had limited interaction with most of the people at work. For one thing, all of us are at work, working, too busy to talk or joke about. On the other hand, some dash in and out of the office, diminishing any time to mingle during lunchtime or after work.

Yet, once I befriended one fantastic colleague, I can’t help but wonder if there’s more. And now, I pinch myself for not befriending more people at work. The professional environment in Singapore is rather different than the ones I’ve been exposed to in New York. Perhaps, this is due to the company, industry, and its values. In New York, I interned at a research lab at children’s centre and worked on photo shoots. Both required team members to work closely. Although, we did not branch out beyond our own teams, people were friendly with one another, extending the American culture of small talk to the office.

On the other hand, I was part of a small, tight knit team in Singapore. We were so small that we joined a larger team for team lunches and off-site events. Yet, very early on, I learned that saying, “Hello!” or “How are you?” was not the office culture. Hence, I refrained from asking people to go to lunch or after hour shindigs. Sensing the social pressure to go about my own business stopped me from being a friendly, albeit possibly annoying human being. Now, I regret my decision to stand-down as I have realized, a little too late, that some of my colleagues are great people with great personalities.

Forced to know one another
Peer pressure is a constant factor in life. As social beings, we generate etiquettes and traditions. Novel features, such as social media, may shift the balance, but it will still include some form of pressure. Years after World War II, we wonder how thousands of people watched as Hitler bulldozed Europe and exterminated an entire race. The world strongly stood against the Rwanda genocide. During the 2014 Indonesian Presidential election, many fought against a candidate with a chequered past who lead an entire army. In the past few weeks, millions have debated against or for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a blogger, I have realized the importance to join the conversation, be it the election or the conflict.

Pressure presents itself in various ways. It wears a mask that hides its true nature. Many have talked about social pressures ability to turn entire nations into villains. Much of the conversation talks about the extreme. However, what happens when social pressure stops you from being nice and friendly on a day-to-day basis in a peaceful country?  

Personally, I have learned to deviate from the social norm and ignore the social pressure the hard way. Although the ramifications are microscopic in light of racial genocide and territorial conflict, it maintains some form of influence on myself, at the very least. In this case, even the smallest mistakes could hold significance. Unlike a majority of larger issues, one does not realize the mistake and its results until it is much too late. Luckily, the conclusion is obvious: be aware of the social pressures around you, as well as use your instincts to prioritize and act accordingly. Don’t sweep a potential regret under the rug, instead take that leap of faith, one that might shake your reputation. The funny thing is this could go both ways, especially in a world where good and bad are becoming greyer and greyer. At the end of the tunnel, you might find a surprise waiting for you!

*The second photo was supplied by the author


  1. Any friendship needs to people to work on it! If you do not give, you ultimately will not receive and lose out on something that could have been a life-changing experience. People will trust you with their friendship/love, but you have to work at it as well and never expect it as a "right".Friendship is like a good marriage....give more than you expect to receive and reap the benefits.Treat a friendship the correct way or run the risk of losing it.Do not be afraid to open yourself up to all the "maybe" people in your life, you will soon find out who the genuine ones are and who not.A real friendship knows no miles or boundaries, do not be afraid of it. Cherish the ones who really care for you and have no ulterior motives about it, discard the rest! Now take that leap of faith!!

  2. Tskkk....TWO people, first sentence.