I was never a fan of pretension. And, I believe we are experiencing an unprecedented explosion of the behavior.
The Definition of Pretentious is attempting to impress by offering greater importance or merit than is actually possessed.
After the casual observation that pretension is seemingly everywhere these days, I was wondering what might explain the apparently uncommon growth in this trend.
Certainly, there are some obvious current Contributing Factors:
Social Equalization. Lack of growth in or reduction of household economic situations will cause many individuals to seek ways to differentiate themselves and feel special; a human need.
Information Access. ‘Google’ anything and read for 15 mins and you can usually surpass most people’s general knowledge on any subject; it’s easy to appear expert.
Knowledge Compartmentalization. Experts in maturing, competitive fields must generally evolve more vertical knowledge in lieu of broadening their expertise; they are driven to go deeper and so inevitably become less broadly expert and educated. We are in an era where a thinning veneer of disaggregated public knowledge exists; it is harder to be broadly expert.
Political Correctness (PC). There’s declining cultural willingness to openly expose or confront flawed thinking, facts or claims in social situations; this provides opportunity for pretension to thrive, even in a time of more readily accessible information.
Time is Short. Who can investigate every suspicious or questionable claim?
Unthinking Acceptance. People are often easily fooled. Humans tend to readily believe what’s in print or comes from a perceived, historically reliable source; though Fake News must now be shaking this foundation.
A Pretension is a claim or aspiration to a particular quality. Being pretentious generally connotes such a claim is unworthy.
But how do we KNOW which claims are overstated or false?
Certainly we live in an age where perception is reality as the accepted norm. Indeed today, most celebrity is built on completely manufactured perception. And the speed of acceptance is such that if something looks like a duck, it’s a duck; whether or not it quacks.
We are inundated with facts and information of obvious increasingly uncensored quality. It is an era spewing fake news and prejudicial reporting on every side; so then, who can or would routinely trouble to (say) run down every minute detail of an acquaintance or colleague’s perceivably questionable claims and assertions? There is often too little time or real importance.
If someone lays claims we are unmotivated or unable to check, perhaps we deserve them as our reality. Certainly History itself is built on such foundations.
Personally, I have lived in cultures where pretension is thought of as something as a character flaw. In an increasingly PC world it can become less clear when such behavior should even be outwardly highlighted.
Perhaps if someone purports or displays modest vestiges of some skill, knowledge or association we should always give them the benefit of the doubt with their claims? As individuals I think we tend to do this (to keep the peace; not rock the boat), even when we occasionally also record a question mark about their validity in the back of our minds.
However, if we have questions about people’s pretentions, we are unlikely to ever fully trust them on any matter of importance. Surely Leaders, Managers and friends should educate their acquaintances accordingly.
We’ve all seen people make questionable, pretentious claims regarding their jobs, lifestyles, experiences, possessions, family, associations and expertise. There’s frequently a wannabee expert proffering dubious wisdom and status at every party, dinner and social event, too.
So, it should be carefully noted that bold pretension is generally offered by a very insecure person. Ultimately, they feel vulnerable so need to make themselves more, or others less.
Now, we’ve all tweaked someone’s nose when they’ve made claims with visible flaws. Perhaps we even did this to avoid appearing gullible or unknowledgeable?
Whatever flawed claims and aspirations individuals present to us, maybe we should most commonly just let the buyers beware and bite our tongues? However, in the event of actual or material damage affecting others, it really is time to speak up. Even then it’s always wiser to be discrete and minimize any confrontation when doing so.
Humans possess and will often display unique, complex outward reactions to unwanted stimulus. And, the spur of outrageous pretentious behavior can be truly profound. Despite this, sometimes just being PC and letting things pass unacknowledged is often the wiser approach.
Do you work with a lot of pretentious people? Meet many in social situations? How do you react to these individuals?
It is easy to lose respect for people who put on airs. It is harder to walk in their shoes and understand why they do so.
So, next time you see such behavior, take a look in the mirror and check if your own peacock feathers are on display, or perhaps even stimulating the problem.