The Importance of being Honest

I heard a question recently in an advertisement for a Youtube Red show: “[as a human being,] Is it more important to be correct…. or to fit in?”

I scoffed at the notion that this question was even worthy of discussion. To me, the answer is obvious: it’s more important to fit in. People don’t care about whether you’re right. If everybody around you think that one fact is true and you know for a fact that it’s not, it doesn’t matter. In this situation, you’re wrong. In fact, if you point it out and try to prove your point, you often look rude or stubborn (or a politician).

I first came to this realization in 7th/8th grade orchestra: my teacher, Mr. Caldwell, posed this question: “if you’re playing in tune and everyone around you is playing out of tune, but everybody else is playing the same thing… who’s wrong in this situation?” Everybody had the same answer, and the answer seemed to be obvious then. It seems to be obvious now. So why is it so hard for people to realize that?

It could be that people are usually not used to being the odd one out, or that they’re not used to being wrong. It could be a combination of both. I usually find myself somewhere in the center; people ask me why I don’t keep up with shows or watch movies or listen to pop music, but I think the answer is simple: I don’t like them and I don’t find any desire to pretend to like them in order to fit in with the crowd. But what I’m quickly realizing now is that the relationships I have with people are more important than my personal taste, so it behooves me to pretend.

This led me down another path of thought: if I’m spending my entire life following popular trends and pretending to be an average person, then suddenly I’ve lost my identity. There’s nothing that distinguishes me from everybody else. I’ve effectively become a nobody, and nobody will even notice. No longer am I “that guy who doesn’t watch [show] or listen to pop music or follow sports.” I’m just another guy. I’ve faded into obscurity.

But… is that really so bad? A vast majority of people from history have faded into obscurity. We only remember a few handful in the past few millennia, but it can’t be that hard to leave behind a legacy nowadays. All you have to do is join an infinitesimal community and devote some time into it, like speedrunning video games or mentoring some homeless youth. Perhaps if you prefer not to leave behind a legacy and only want to impact the community around you, that takes even less effort: just get into a car accident during rush hour in a major city. You’re impacting thousands of people in a single day.

But all of these things are the opposite of fitting in.

So you must make a decision: which do you prioritize? Do you work hard to tell everybody the truth or do you feign ignorance to appease the masses?

Because I honestly believe that these two things are mutually exclusive.