Fake it, fit in with society

I know your secret — you know the one I'm talking about. Fine, you might not since you might be doing it subconsciously. But don't worry because I'm in the same boat and so are your friends and relatives, and let's not forget the president of the United States does it too. I'm talking about the act of "faking it," which Stephen Dubner describes in his podcast titled "Faking It" in a brilliant metaphor. He says, "If the human psyche were a big map, nestled somewhere between the Sea of Cheating and the Valley of Lying, you'd come to the Kingdom of Faking It." So what is faking it? It's not directly lying or candidly cheating, but more of a combination of the two. This brings us to the question of whether people should actively resist from faking it, and is it really wrong? I think not — in many aspects, we do it throughout our normal day without realizing that we do, and, in a broader sense, it's essential. Faking it helps us to blend into a particular group, to assimilate into a culture and to appease as many people as possible by being just like them.

Consider someone you might have heard of — President Barack Obama faked it all the way to the White House, according to Mark Halperin in his book, "Game Change." Halperin was referring to the nationwide criticism that Obama faced because of his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, during the presidential election of 2008. The media aired clips of Wright saying controversial statements in his sermons such as, "America deserved the 9/11 attacks" or that blacks shouldn't say "God bless America" but "God damn America." The American public was astonished by these remarks from a man who Obama said was like an uncle to him and helped bring him to Jesus and church. Obama even borrowed the title of his book, "The Audacity of Hope," from Wright's sermon. How could Obama possibly sit through these sermons in which Wright said such horrible things? Halperin says it's because Obama wasn't a regular church attendee. Like many in his demographic, he stopped going to church except on rare occasions after his daughters were born.

Obama's campaign could have simply admitted that he was faking it but couldn't since he placed such significance on his faith and religion. Obama had to fake that he was a devout Christian because that's what Americans saw in an ideal president, especially in the Southern and Midwestern states. He essentially had to appeal to all of America. As Halperin further explained, Obama had no choice but to fake it all the way to his presidency.

Sure, the president fakes it, but so do you. Think back to when you were a toddler, and you got into a fight with your sibling or friend. What did your parents tell you to do? William Ian Miller, author of the book "Faking It," explains you said sorry. Suddenly, your parents would interject and say, "Say it like you mean it." From an early age, we're taught to fake it all through our lives. The same holds true for a cheating lover, who justifies his or her actions by saying a seemingly sincere "I love you, I really do." Think of items that Spencer's sells such as fake cigarettes that light up and create smoke. These items are meant for young adolescents to fake it to seem cool and fit in with the rest of the hip American adults that smoke. What harm does faking it cause?

It's a better decision for these children to smoke fake cigarettes than real ones. And about that cheating lover, maybe he doesn't love you as sincerely as he says it, but that doesn't mean he's lying. It just means he loves you a little less than what he makes it seem to be. Obama faking his consistency in religion didn't hurt a soul. Instead, he went on to make a tremendously moving speech about race that defined the American ideology.

During my childhood, family and relatives told me that eating any type of meat was taboo in the Hindu religion. My grandmother would press the issue so much as to say that I would become whatever animal I ate in my next life through karma. My parents made it clear that I wasn't allowed to bring any meat into the home, so I was surprised when my mother took me to a McDonald's at age 5 and bought me a Happy Meal with chicken nuggets and a shiny new Dr. Eggman toy. Was this my mother's way of faking it through me — telling me not to do one thing, but enticing me to do the opposite with the incentive of a toy? Perhaps my mother was thinking for the long-term, so that I wouldn't be an oddity in school around my friends and not starve in an Outback Steakhouse. She let me fake it. Like Obama, I didn't stand out when my Indian relatives questioned me about my religious disciplines, and I had fit right in with my meat-loving friends during school lunch.

So is everyone, ranging from the average person to the president, biologically hardwired to fake it? Dubner points to what scientists refer to as the "signalling theory," which examines communication between individuals. The central question is when organisms with conflicting interests should be expected to communicate "honestly." The lone wolf faces a dilemma of sticking to his ideals and fending for himself or compromising with the standards of the wolf pack. According to Miller, faking it is a part of our society — it is a coping method with others. He says it is not only part of socialization, but a larger part of civilization. Essentially, Miller is saying people fake it because they want other people to like them. We generally want to fit in and assimilate into other cultures, thus we don't like being the lone wolf.

Amit Jani is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. His column, "The Fourth Estate," runs on alternate Wednesdays.


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