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Is “Social Fooling” the New Normal? Navigating Social Burnout in the Digital Age

There is an interest group called “Fooling Learning” on Douban, which currently has 340,000 members. The founder of the group, “Tang the Fishing Man,” defines “social fooling” in this way – dealing with difficult-to-avoid things in life in a seemingly perfunctory way. The group’s signature was “Life is short, it seems like there’s no harm in fooling around.”

Indeed, if everything in social life is taken seriously, life will probably be very hard. On the contrary, there are some relatively neutral replies, which not only show the care and attention between friends, but also avoid arguing with friends because of disagreements. When I was young, I cared a lot about whether people’s values ​​​​matched each other, and I had very strict criteria for selecting friends. Therefore, some of the people I cared about were often the ones I offended. Now think about it, why should some things be so serious?

There is a theory called “Communication Bond Attribution”, which holds that social interaction is an effortful thing. Caring for others requires energy, and listening to others also requires energy. Everyone’s energy is limited, and energy should be given to those valuable things. The emergence of “social fooling” is actually a helpless act. The reasons include “not interested in the topic”, “unwilling to accept negative emotions”, “busy at work”, “simply not wanting to reply”, etc.

“Fooling Group” explains it in simple terms and lists various conversational scenarios of forced social interaction, allowing tired young people to easily grasp the true meaning of “fooling”. Entry-level fooling can be summarized as “tautology”, that is, grabbing the key words of the other party and repeating them to show agreement with the other party’s point of view: “What you said is great!” “It does make sense.” “That’s true. That’s what it’s all about.” The advanced version of fooling will put more emphasis on emotional identification, such as using more interjections and a series of “hahahahaha”. The highest level of fooling involves curiosity about the conversation, such as asking: “What happened next?” “What happened next?” “How did you solve it?” In the questions and counter-questions, the other party gets a strong sense of satisfaction from talking.

Emoticons are a typical case of “social confusion”, and over the long-term use process, the deceptive meaning of emoticons has become a “consensus” that everyone keeps secret and defaults to each other. In the workplace, when subordinates line up to give “thumbs up” to their superiors, this may not necessarily be a genuine compliment, but may just be a synonym for “received.” “Toothed smile” doesn’t necessarily mean that you really think it’s funny, it’s just the end of a polite reply. And those pet fights that sometimes break out between friends may just be a fun way for friends to act coquettishly and cutely when they are bored.

The originally derogatory word “fooling” has become popular as a “knowledge” among young people’s ridicule. What is the reason behind it?

Han Bingzhe’s “In the Group” said that smartphones give us more freedom, but they also produce a disastrous compulsion, that is, the compulsion to communicate. When social Internet was not so convenient, the social relationships we needed to face were relatively single and face-to-face. But today, with social Internet, social interaction has been accelerated, fragmented and multi-dimensional, and the definition has become more complex. broad. Many times, the “social fooling” born after social burnout is actually a kind of unbundling of “ineffective social interaction”. To a certain extent, it has some positive meanings, but in private and intimate relationships, “fooling” does not mean It is not a solution to the problem and often leads to overturning. Instead, it increases dissatisfaction and estrangement in social relationships.

I have a friend who has a habit of complaining to me. For example, her boyfriend forgot their anniversary, a rival company came to have a capable rival, Fa Xiao borrowed money from her but failed to repay it, and so on. She likes to chat with me on WeChat one by one about all the stories. When I am busy at work, I open WeChat and after being bombarded with dozens of WeChat messages, I don’t even know where to start replying. Even though I knew she wasn’t expecting me to help, it was more of a daily catharsis.

At the beginning, I showed my empathy and positive and caring attitude, but the situation became more and more out of control, and it even became a habit for her to confide her dissatisfaction in life to me. I thought over and over again and decided to have a good chat with her about “how to find new ways to solve life’s dilemmas.” Although the relationship between this girlfriend and me gradually became colder, I have no regrets. I revealed my fatigue to her in a non-deceptive way. This was my choice out of “social freedom” when I reached middle age. The underlying logic of “fooling” is still to maintain social relationships. However, if you only have two or three close friends in life, why be greedy?

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