The psychology behind boycotting Chick-Fil-A: Is this a means of expressing tolerance or intolerance?

Last week, in a scandal that rocked the fast-food world, it became public that Don Cathy, president of Chick-Fil-A, the popular eatery specializing in chicken sandwiches, believes operating his business  “on biblical principles.” Moreover, current records reveal the corporation’s monetary and public support for organizations that specifically denounce gay marriage rights.

Stemming from various political platforms and the sweeping trend of individual states offering legalization on their ballots, the gay marriage debate represents a major American controversy. Within the past decade alone, we have seen a huge influx of support for marital equality rights. a stark contrast from the opposition seen just half a century ago.

Thus, the the huge backlash from online and media sources comes as no surprise. Facebook and Twitter pages are littered with Chick-Fil-A boycotting movements. Even politicians have joined the chaotic party. Former presidential candidate and Republican governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, declared August 1 as “National Chick-Fil-A Day” and former Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin, made a promise “to stop at Chick-Fil-A on her way home.”

So, what’s the psychological dilemma here? Have we given a company’s moral beliefs, rather than quality of service, enough power to stream into our consciousness when making the simple decision regarding what to eat for lunch? It appears so. Those who support of gay marriage are enraged: many have vowed to halt all business in Chick-Fil-A.

Despite the red-hot popularity of this scandal, surely, the argument will cool down and diminish, leaving consumers with the ultimate decision of whether or not they want to support Chick-Fil-A in the future.   Interestingly, this company made no attempt to hide its moral beliefs; the information was publicly available for anyone who sought it. The media only recently decided to shine its spotlight on the controversy.

Still, most consumers are largely unaware of major company origins and owners’ religious/moral affiliations. Most will argue that it doesn’t matter, as long as the product at hand is of high quality.   Atheists who shop at Forever 21, for instance, should note that the owners are born-again Christians who claim “God told them to open the store.” Other mainstream companies with ethical controversy include Curves (owner donates to anti-abortion campaigns), Tyson Foods (has about 120 employed chaplains to provide pastoral support), and In-N-Out Burger (prints Bible verses on wrappers). Should pro-choice women stop working out at Curves? Should non-believers feel hypocritical eating a Double-Double from In-N-Out?

From a psychological perspective, boycotting Chick-Fil-A does seem like an appropriate reaction to take a stance against discrimination. Boycotts, indeed, embody powerful movements. Their intent is to deny the corporation customer business, and subsequently, demonstrate that they have made a wrong decision. Boycotting puts that decision on exhibit for the world to see. In the past, with regards to making civil right strides, these movements do appear to be somewhat successful. Strangely, the loss of money is not the main factor predicting success. The sudden transformation from a positive perspective on a corporation/business/etc. to a negative one can cause far more long-lasting damage. After all, restoring a destroyed reputation and earning back lost respect is much harder than recovering from a temporary income blow.

Those boycotting Chick-Fil-A establishments are voicing their refusal to support a company that does not believe in a right they believe in. In this case, it is gay marriage.

However, is this, in an ironic sense, intolerant? To be straight-forward, refraining from Chick-Fil-A solely based on their anti-gay stance, shows that the particular consumer does not wish to support a company that holds a different opinion from their own.

What about the thousands of Chick-Fil-A employees serving food who support gay marriage? Should we encourage them to quit their jobs? If a Chick-Fil-A employee is gay, is he/she being a hypocrite? More importantly, however, do we have the right to call him/her hypocritical? 

Tolerance stems from the notion of respecting everyone’s beliefs, even if they may differ from your own. Is one viewpoint enough to denounce an entire company for their so-called bigotry and intolerance? 

To play devil’s advocate, if we refuse to take a stance against Chick-Fil-A, are we simply just encouraging more intolerance? By purchasing food from this corporation, are we inadvertently supporting a company that does not support a cause many people now fiercely believe in? Would we be hypocritical to vote in support of gay marriage, while, at the same time, giving money to an organization that opposes it. The nature of this answer might be simpler if the company in question were a school or housing complex or extra-curricular club, but it’s not. It’s chicken sandwiches.

Where do we draw the line at differences? Surely, liberal consumers shopping at an establishment founded by conservative owners would disagree with some of the company polices and vice versa. Should anti-birth control advocates boycott a drugstore for selling condoms? Are vegetarians unethical for buying food at commercial supermarkets that have butchers?  Most would agree that doing so would be ridiculous, if not impossible. In reality, boycotting against corporations that we morally disagree with would ignite a countless, never-ending spew of boycotts. 

The answer to this controversy is not a conclusive one. Fortunately, consumers have the freedom to shop around and purchase whatever they please, either choosing to abide to moral ethics or disregard them completely. The president’s opinion aside, Chick-Fil-A does not hold a chicken sandwich monopoly; therefore, the choice to boycott this corporation is a personal one.

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The psychology behind the poor excuse, “I don’t have time.”

How many times have you complained in utter exasperation, I just don’t have time? For most of us, that phrase embodies an automatic response, one used hastily when inquired about leisure activities or self-indulgence.

Time, in essence, is a meticulous socially-constructed force, one designed to create boundaries, convenience, and structure. Without time, our modern world would be nonexistent, and rather we would live in a chaotic mess characterized by prehistoric times, where people rose when the sun came up and slept when it came down. Back then, time was marked by the external factors of the day, by the lightness in the sky, by the chill in the night.

Today, we arguably live in a 24-hour time zone. Thanks to the invention of lights and technology, we can perform tasks and work in a “round-the-clock” fashion, whether they are done at three in the afternoon or three in the morning. With the ability to conduct business at all hours of the day, we have essentially undermined the rigidity of universal travel lines. Yet, this virtue comes at a heavy cost, one that presents us with an even more perplexing dilemma. Despite the increased options for merging time at our convenience, we are also living in an exponentially fast-paced, high-volume lifestyle. In fact, society seems to encourage the notion of multitasking and overworking; for some, it has become habitual to respond busy when others ask how we are.

Still, I challenge this disposition. Yes, one cannot deny that we are often pressed to the core, existing on a schedule marked by deadlines and dates. But, in a number-crunching sense, each day provides us with 24 hours. We receive 168 per week and approximately 5,048 per month. Over the course of one year, we enjoy 1,842,520 hours. That’s almost two million. Naturally, we do not live in a utopian society. Within the realm of our unwritten code of human behavior, we are expected to live with some degree of structure. For instance, we all need to sleep, eat, and use the restroom at some point. Consider that biological, evolutionary needs. In a secondary sense, we also spend a large portion of mandatory time in school or working. Most of us, fortunately, are blessed with leftover spare time after all these essential requirements are met.

When people reflect on how they spend spare time, they do it poorly, just as a dieter reflects on his food habits or an impulsive shopper reflects on her recent purchases.  Sure, they’ll remember the big events (eight hours spent working, one hour in a meeting, one hour at the gym, etc., etc.). But, what about all those in-between minutes, all those stolen licks and bites, that three-dollar drive-thru coffee? What about the details?

We are masters at wasting time; slaves to doing things we don’t necessarily like or dislike doing. This is not a rant against spending time on frivolity. We all benefit from leisure; however, when we are actually granted with true leisure, few of us actually enjoy it. We instead fill the gap with sub-par activities; maybe flipping the channels or surfing the web. Interesting how much of us use the phrases, I don’t have time and I’m just killing time in the same day.

This may have to do with the human drive towards short-term gratification. Instead of viewing seven spare hours a week, we may only see one hour a day. Instead of using each one to do a small chunk of a task we enjoy, we see it as “too little of time” to do anything we like. We fail to see our allotted time in the big picture. We live by excuses; rationalizing our flaws using skewed logic to make ourselves more socially desirable and generate a higher sense of self-satisfaction.

While time may be pressed, we all know those people who seem able to “do it all.” These are the super freaks who can juggle full-time work, family life, romance, and hobbies. Oh, and they also seem to find time to travel the world or train for marathons. Their agendas, whether tangible or not, are often color-coded, scratched-out, written all over, and jam-packed. We think they are different from us; special and entitled. Yet, they share the same twenty-four hours as the rest of the world. They still eat and sleep and use the restroom, and most of them went or go to school and work.

 

How do they do it?

Simple. Instead of wasting time on things that don’t matter to them, they “waste” time on things that do. Rather than seeing an hour as just an hour, they see it as a chance to get started on something, without feeling that rushed sense of anxiety to finish it. They see one hour as a yoga class, walk with their spouse, cooking time for a lavish dinner, or a manicure with a friend. For bigger passions and life goals, they may view that hour as time to write one page of a novel, practice a new chord on the guitar, or learn a few phrases in a different language. These people realize progress is a bit-by-bit process, and while it seems they can do everything in one day, what is really happening is that these people understand that very little can be done in one day. Moreover, they do not berate themselves for spending weeks or months in pursuit of a passion or goal.

They know their priorities, and they live in a way that moves from top priority to bottom priority, whereas so many others work in the opposite direction. They shift their lives in ways that maximize their passions and goals, rather than dismissing them. They channel their spare minutes into activities that provide an energy surplus. Thus, they feel more fulfilled and ambitious, because they perceive spare time as a means to improve mood, rather than just stabilize or diminish it.  

Techniques:

1. For one week, track down everything you do in the day, from waking up to going to sleep. Yes, it’s tedious and difficult, but it will be an incredible eye-opener to see how much time you are likely wasting on things that don’t serve any purpose in your life. These priorities are not a one-size-fits-all; how we choose to spend our time largely defines our personalities and lifestyles, and is a strong predictor in the types of relationships, careers, and passions we choose to pursue. If an activity provides you with positive energy and pleasure, do not second-guess its virtues, despite criticism from others.

2. Notice how much spare time you have in a day; notice what you do during that time. Notice the differences between using that time ineffectively and using it effectively.

3. Set a one-day goal, one-week goal, one-month goal, and one-year goal that can be achieved within your allotted spare time. Nothing work or school-related. These goals will provide a sense of direction, and the satisfaction generated from achieving them will be tremendous.

Why is everyone snapping pictures of their lunches? A critical analysis of the Instagram social media phenomenon

First, there was Myspace with its alluring, vast world of friend-to-friend interaction made possible and convenient through a constant stream of comments, messages, and photos. Then, Facebook emerged, shaking up the technological world with a sleeker, faster way to communicate with virtually anyone around the world through a medium of status updates, birthday messages, chatroom options, public and private groups, fanpages, and even geographical location notifications.

Now, we have Instagram.

What started out as an app available through the iPhone has now become a household term thanks to its availability through Android users. Today, millions of users use this new branch of social media to express themselves through cell-phone snapshots.

Less talking, more picture-taking.

So, what’s the draw? Pictures of lunch platters, pictures of a single cup of beer, pictures of the weather forecast, pictures of a popular meme? When photos were first available to upload online and share, we used these resources to send photographs of ourselves to our loved ones.

Now, we take pictures of our plate of tacos.

A quick Google search displays thousands of websites and tools available for photo-sharing and uploading. Yet, Instagram remains stubbornly popular, most likely due to its simplicity and attractiveness. There is no cost, no need to attach USB cords or camera plugs, no long-waiting period, and photos can be instantly uploaded to a host of other social networks. Moreover, Instagram offers retro filters, which indeed make it possible for anyone to appear “Photoshop” pretty. And, let’s face it. The unadulterated art of expression manifested around the same time our human species evolved. Just think of those ancient hieroglyphics and caveman drawings! Expression separates us individuals; it is the embellishment that creates individualization, the very element that distinguishes the core of “who we are.” Similar to the shiny, white, untouched paper before the author has scribbled his first word or the nondescript piece of wood before the sculptor has sharpened her tool, Instagram embodies yet another blank slate designed for the throes of creativity, allowing us to mold ourselves into whatever personality we wish to depict.

Things are arbitrary. A can of Coke has no significance on its own; however, when we give attention to it, we attach a powerful meaning to its image. Taking a picture of this item gives it worth; it has now become a memory, a part of our ever-evolving process of individualization.

Social media represents a highly powerful tool, in that we can recreate and present ourselves in whichever way we please. What goes through our minds when we choose a particular element of our day to capture and upload and share for the world to see? Do we want to express a particular emotion? When we feel grateful for our significant other, do we post a picture of the bouquet of roses he surprised us with? When we are experiencing bliss and serenity, do we capture the memory by uploading a picture of the beach or sunset? Yes of course. Users take these photos to make the mundane more significant. Instead of passing around bulky photo albums, we scroll through our phones, indicating the pictures we like by simply “double-tapping” and initiating conversation by providing comments. Likewise, users can choose to “hashtag” their photos using the # symbol. For example, a photo depicting a couple holding hands may feature #lovehim or #sohappy. When a user clicks on these hyperlinked texts, he or she is taken to a lumped group of the same hashtag, making it easy to browse through a particular theme or trend. This is yet another way to provide a sense of belongingness.

So, why does this seemingly simple and unoriginal application generate so much popularity? The rise of smartphones, for one. As technology rapidly advances, more people are choosing to use their phones as a means of doing essentially everything, from banking to emailing to web-browsing to playing games and, yes, to taking and sending pictures. For another, people have argued that Facebook and Twitter just promote arrogance, with people bragging about their achievements or exaggerating their lives. While pictures also hold the ability to shed one’s life in a positive manner are more indirect. Rather than boasting about an awesome view during a hike, one can just capture a photo of it and let the commentary and public opinion unravel. Finally, we live in a society that thrives on basic, fast-paced learning. Since the written word materialized, we have been arguing whether we learn and process information better when it is visually presented to us. While Instagram does not answer that question, it does indicate that perhaps we do find visual information extremely appealing.