#3. Being Part of a Mob
As for this one, I just don't understand when going along with peer pressure turned into something to be proud of.
Take the Ocean Marketing fiasco. Some idiot PR person responded to a customer with a series of emails alternating between exaggerating his own self-importance and belittling the customer, which is the sort of thing you should only do in a rap. The customer forwarded the emails to Penny Arcade, which published them, causing the whole Internet to yell at the stupid PR guy.
Most of them metaphorically, by typing, but some of the older Internet users may have yelled literally.
Whether too many people yelled at him, whether they yelled at him too harshly, whether they should have left his wife and child out of this, whether he actually has a wife and child or whether he's lying about that, too, are all important questions that I don't really care about. Let's just suppose that all the yelling was totally right and nobody overstepped any bounds.
Even in that case, there is no reason for an individual yeller to have the attitude that she was really brave in yelling at him and standing up for the little guy, and that it is a good deed she should feel proud about. First of all, you just typed a message to some email someone else posted. You weren't exactly running guns for the French Resistance.
Apologies to any readers who actually did run guns for the French Resistance.
Secondly, thousands of people did that. Since these things tend to move by word of mouth, probably all the people in your peer group were doing it. People on your favorite forum or website, or your circle of friends. You're just doing what everyone around you is doing.
If they're doing the right thing, there's nothing to be ashamed of, but it's nothing to be especially proud of, either. It's like hating racism. It's totally right to hate it, but everyone sane hates racism these days, it's not a particularly outstanding virtue to brag about. It doesn't make you a hero, just a normal, decent person. You don't go around telling your friends, "I saw someone say the N-word today and I felt it was wrong!" and expect them to say, "Wow! Good for you!"
"It took some real courage for you not to beat up that woman with Down's syndrome!"
Sometimes doing the right thing is doing what the majority is doing. By all means, you should do it, but it's not hard or brave. If you're the only one doing the right thing, and you're getting flak for it, that's the time you get to feel a little proud of yourself.
#2. Being Old
I'm guilty of this myself. Sometimes I will shake my head condescendingly at kids these days with their Xboxes and 8 GB flash cards and feel the need to let them know that when I was a kid, I had an original Atari system and a computer that saved things on cassette tape.
I wonder if my dad bought it because of this Bill Cosby ad?
Then I catch myself and wonder why I think it is such a badge of honor to have used slow, primitive computing equipment. It's not like I invented the Atari, I just happened to exist as a child at the same time it was sold. I'm basically being proud that my parents happened to have sex 20 years before this kid's parents had sex, which is really more something for my parents to be proud of, if anyone.
You can kind of see that feeling among some people who ask what's so great about Lady Gaga, saying you basically can get the same product (attention-mongerer with weird clothes) with Madonna. Maybe one of them is better or more original than the other one, I don't know. I'm not a music person. But even if she is, there's no reason to be proud that you were alive when Madonna wore cone-shaped bras. Saying she is better is one thing, but acting like it reflects on you somehow is kind of weird. It isn't like you had any control over the year of your birth, unless you are the avatar of a deity, in which case you have better things to brag about than Madonna.
Like that kickin' shade of blue your skin is.
People are the same way about sports. "LeBron, ShmeBron. When I was a kid, a guy named Michael Jordan was playing. Heard of him? Back in my day we had real superstars." Sometimes we drift into phrasing things like this golden era of sports was caused by us existing simultaneously. Like the moment I turned 8, God caused Michael Jordan to enter the NBA draft so I could enjoy basketball. But it's silly to dismiss LeBron's obvious talent just because Michael Jordan's career coincided with your childhood. We should dismiss LeBron's talent for the right reasons -- because he is a jerk.
#1. Not Falling for Something That Nobody Is Falling For
It's 2012, so we're starting to get a lot of annoying people talking about whether the Mayan apocalypse could happen, and even more annoying people seriously debunking the first people.
Usually some gullible person floats the idea that maybe it could happen, and while most people sort of treat him the same way as someone who is wondering how Santa gets to all those houses in one night, there are inevitably a bunch of people who lay out some massive, detailed 10-point rebuttal explaining how the Mayan calendar might be miscalculated, linking evidence from anthropologists and present-day Mayans about what their actual end-of-calendar beliefs are and laying out a step-by-step logical argument based on how our calendar works. Then they wrap it up with something along the lines of, "Bam! Q.E.D., bitch!" as if they just proved Fermat's Last Theorem or the existence of God.
Yeah, I know some guy "proved" it in 1994, but it was 100 pages, who is going to read that?
First of all, these people are not usually very smart. Being proud of demolishing their "arguments" is sort of like being proud of dunking on an infant. It's not really your finest moment.
Secondly, by making a serious argument about what the Mayans really meant, you're basically admitting that the Mayans can tell the future. Because what they say about the end of the world only matters if you agree they know how the world will end. If you don't believe Mayans actually possess magic, there is no reason to argue with people about how their magic works.
If someone is trying to prove to you that their phoenix feather wand would be more powerful than a dragon heartstring wand, are you going to argue about how hard it would be to put a feather inside a wand, or are you going to tell them that Harry Potter is a fictional book series?
This is why shelving books correctly is so important.
So as I've mentioned a few times, a lot of these things aren't bad things at all. Disbelieving Mayan apocalypse theories, hating Twilight and remembering Atari games fondly are all things I recommend. But so is showering regularly, and you don't get a medal for that. If you want to feel proud of yourself, go with the old staples. Do something difficult and extraordinary or help someone out. Earn those "attaboys."
For more from Christina, check out 8 Stupid Amazon Products With Impressively Sarcastic Reviews and 5 Reasons Why Anticonformity Is Worse Than Conformity.