Virtue signalling should be avoided like a bad cliche.
If there were a master list of bad people, virtue signallers would be found among comma abusers, nose pickers, bad parkers, puppy kickers, and those with impaired grammar. I repeat: they all have the wrong opinion on Oxford Commas. All of them.
Do not be like them.
A quick definition: virtue signalling is worrying more about how your virtue is perceived than about about how virtuous you really are. In other words, the problem with virtue signaling is the focus on *appearing* rather than *being* virtuous.
There are reasons for doing this, and all are rooted in selfishness.
- You might be insecure about your personal virtue.
- You might just want the approbation of the crowd.
- You might want political capital on-the-cheap.
- You might even financially profit from virtue signaling.
Now, when I say “you” above, I clearly mean “you-in-the-general-sense-so-please-still-listen-to-my-indictment-of-you” and not “you specifically.”
There is no need to be virtuous on the outside. The outside doesn’t matter.
Instead, be like Severus. Severus does not change his profile picture to have a background flag of the tragedy-of-the-week. Severus does not engage in the “I’m-more-inclusive-than-thou” war that inevitably follows, and he does not post “You-know-who-we-forgot-in-the-most-recent-tragedy?” posts from others. Severus doesn’t even post excellent commentary on the evils of virtue signaling (or thoughtful commentary on the evils of the concept itself) and he doesn’t talk about how it’s better to do something rather than merely say something.
Rather, he lives a good life quietly, and ignores the crowd. He doesn’t much care that everyone thinks he’s evil. They’re wrong, and he can make a potion called “Draught of Living Death.” He’s a rockstar, and your argument is invalid.
Now notice: as far as I know, he doesn’t have a facebook account. If he does, he probably uses it to post pictures of potions, or read up on the latest problems in the ministry of magic. He certainly gets off of social media altogether to do actual service in his community, help his neighbor, or occasionally buy himself a butterbeer.
But aren’t those who complain about virtue signalling also signalling their virtue?
Yup. Funny, huh?
Those who complain about virtue signalling are, themselves, virtue signalling. They primarily do it to let everyone know which tribe they are affiliated with (the anti-SJW tribe, mostly) and they are just as guilty. If anyone ever publicly accuses you of being a virtue signaller, you should at least appreciate the irony.
Example: Someone posts something about how racism is the worst. Someone else says “stop virtue signalling!” Who is the bad guy here?
The answer, obviously, is anyone who is judgy enough to engage in such a post in the first place. It’s a waste of time, and it’s really none of your business. Go live a good life, and stop worrying about how people perceive you.
(But really, virtue signalling is a question of intentions, and those are hard to read. And more importantly, you’re going to waste your life judging other people, and really you shouldn’t do that since you’re not in sixth grade anymore.)
Here are the ways that you, too, can be as virtuous as Severus:
- Live a life of virtue, and don’t worry about whether people think you’re good or not.
- Don’t judge others as being virtue signallers. Maybe they’re putting the Paris flag up because that’s something small they can do to try to make things better.
- When other people try to do something good-but-small or good-but-ineffective, don’t rain on their parade. I work in middle school. If I chastised every ineffective apology or ineffective act of reparation, there wouldn’t be anything left. People have to learn. (And you shouldn’t be judging them anyway, right?)
- Read and reflect on Mathew 6:1-8, (or the religious text of your choosing. They all preach this. Like, really.)
- Don’t get your self-esteem from likes, shares, or retweets.
- If you are virtue signaling because you need the self-esteem, there are easier ways. Like this. Or this.
- Don’t knowingly signal your virtue.
- Individual virtue signalers are bad. The virtue signaling industry is worse. (I take a pretty hard view on this: there are people out there who want to make the world better, and there are others who want to profit off of your innate desire to see and encourage good in the world. Do not support the latter. Be skeptical of the former.)
- Go out and actually do good. Do it quietly.
- Social status is the worry of 7th graders, supervillains, and politicians. Not real humans. Stop worrying whether people like you. The only thing worse than finding out that the crowd doesn’t like you is finding out that the crowd doesn’t care about you. Find meaning in other ways.
- Get off of social media occasionally for heaven’s sake. Go for a walk. Kick a soccer ball. Throw rocks into lakes. Something.
Meaning in life comes from things other than praise. Things like being praiseworthy.
Adam Smith wrote:
“Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of love. He naturally dreads, not only to be hated, but to be hateful; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of hatred. He desires, not only praise, but praiseworthiness; or to be that thing which, though it should be praised by nobody, is, however, the natural and proper object of praise. He dreads, not only blame, but blame-worthiness; or to be that thing which, though it should be blamed by nobody, is, however, the natural and proper object of blame.”
But, then, Adam Smith didn’t have a Twitter account.