Social cooling in effect



The premise is simple, when you are being watched, you change your behavior. Imagine a survey that tries to collect data on extra marital affairs in the US. It asks, have you been faithful to your spouse? The answer, whether positive or negative, is unreliable. The whole point of an extra-marital affair is that it is a secret. Only a very small minority will admit it on paper.

Every interaction we have online is monitored. Whether it is talking with a friend, scrolling, or typing a search query, everything is monitored. Not only for nefarious reasons, but it is the medium by which the internet works today. This transparency of our lives is "breeding a society where self-censorship and risk-aversion are the new normal." (

This sounds true in theory, but what does it actually look like in practice? There is a video that resurfaced recently that fascinated me in more than one way. It showed that this social cooling is not only already happening, but kids are growing up with this as the new norm.

The video is of a hunter passing through a neighborhood after killing a deer. Some kids and their father confront the man in his barbaric ways. This is all too normal. Most people have a hard time reconciling that the fresh meat we eat comes from an actual animal that was alive. Where I grew up, it was custom to slaughter a few lambs in our backyard a few times a year. These were animals that I had played with before they met their end. I quickly became accustomed to it.

But the interesting part of the video wasn't that the kid was sad to see a dead deer, it's this statement that he made:

You are using a weapon to un-alive an animal.

I had to watch it a couple times before I grasped it. This is a child out in the real world, not creating content. In fact, the kid was in an extreme emotional state where he was dropping F-bombs. Why did he choose to censor himself at that moment? Un-alive? Was he trying to make sure the algorithm doesn't flag him? Why is he saying "un-alive" instead of kill? It's like he was optimizing for SEO out in the real world.

I'm not very much in touch with pop culture these days, but clicking on the trending tab on youtube will give you a good view of this trend. Where the SEO optimizers of yesteryear kept their tricks a secret, the youth openly say why they avoid certain words. They don't want to be demonetized. I felt old trying to decipher words like SAed, grape, and PDF.

But still, this kid was not the one filming the video. He was not an activist fearing of being canceled for voicing his opinion. He was not "creating content". He was merely voicing his emotions and right then and there he decided to self-censor. 15 years from now, when he is looking for employment, his future employer will find this video but still hire him. All because he didn't use the word "Kill."