Statistics exist because of researches. They’re conducted by humans. They’re done to identify problems, find solutions, and discover scientific and social-based facts or findings.
For example: in Indonesia, more male students are in the engineering faculty while the female students are mostly in the linguistics faculty. Most women spend more time in shopping while their male counterparts only purchase what they need.
Directly or else, social statistics like these shape our perceptions. One of them includes believing in the voice of the majority more easily.
Then what makes one a social statistics slave? First of all, there’s nothing wrong with believing in statistics. They don’t lie. Think of them as pointers when you face the same subjects next time.
Unfortunately, some people tend to be social statistics slaves. One of the symptoms regarding that is how easy for them to generalise everything.
For example: I am personally ashamed to admit that yes, Indonesians have been known as ‘tardy’. Ask them to meet up with you at seven and they might show up at least 30 minutes later. The worst is probably those with half-arsed apology or none at all. Just an awkward grin and that’s it.
No wonder some are amazed when I show up on time or early. There are still more, though.
Many are rather taken aback to learn that I don’t like putting on make-up and shopping. If anyone wants to see me all “dolled-up”, wait until I attend someone’s wedding. I also only shop for what I need. Not much to do when the most common comments I get are:
“You’re one odd Indonesian.”
“You’re weird. Aren’t girls usually…”
What’s wrong with generalisation? Not really. It’s a normal, human reaction. Relying on statistics and what we normally see every day, we tend to feel much safer that way. At least we know something common about this person from which gender or race, that animal from which species, the product made of such materials, and so on.
Feeling shocked and rather taken aback when you learn that some of them might be slightly different is also normal. Here’s another example based on my personal experience:
Some Indonesian guys are still shocked to find out that I also listen to heavy metal. I’m soon branded a ‘tomboy’. One male colleague back then had even found it hard to accept that he made this comment:
“You’re a chick. You’re supposed to listen to cheesy pop groups, like those boybands or something.”
Well, as a matter of fact, I do that too – but that’s not the point here. Who was he anyway, telling me what to listen to or not?
Generalising is a normal, spontaneous reaction. It becomes unpleasant once it turns into stigmatisation. Based on the previous examples, looking at something different always makes us feel unsafe – more threatened to some. The world feels much safer when everything goes according to the order that we’ve always believed in. Not unpredictable or messy.
“How come girls love heavy metal? Isn’t that too loud for their sensitive ears?”
“How come boys don’t like sports? Are you a man or what?”
“Nobody else has any problems with this product. You’re the only one being weird about it.”
Just a reminder, social statistics is made by humans. What makes us social statistics slaves is when we choose to only care about the voice of the majority. They’ve become the (only?) voice we listen to and believe in wholeheartedly. What’s different is weird. They should all (at least try to) fit in. Their personal experiences are (considered) not relevant.
In society, people are different and able to naturally evolve, not by some social demands. There’ll always be new social statistics that might possibly disprove the previous ones. Just be ready.
After all, we don’t always know (and understand) everything.