Why do we withhold our support when it comes to the endeavours of those around us?

If we’re happy to support the work of those we don’t know, why aren’t we keeping that same energy for those around us?

With the passing of Nipsey Hussle, there was palpable recognition of a talented and righteous individual; one who tirelessly gave back to uplift and build his community. Across traditional and social media, there was an abundance of praise for his social entrepreneurship and community activism. Even those not familiar with his music came to realise how significant his impact was.

Nipsey’s death also ignited the conversation about how much we endorse and promote those around us, instead diverting our favour to those we’ve never met and have no association with. Nipsey undoubtedly received kudos from his community. But how many would have shunned the opportunity to patronise his clothing store, The Marathon Clothing, instead opting to buy from a mainstream store or designed retailer that didn’t create jobs or contribute to the local economy? And more to the point, run by someone or a company that they had no connection with whatsoever.

The reluctance to get behind those we know and those around us is a worrying trait in society. More so because we instead often reserve that for those who we don’t know or those who are far removed from our lives and experiences.

When I think about my audience for any of my content, most engagement and promotion comes from those I’ve never actually met. There are individuals who I’m only acquainted with online through my writing who will nevertheless consistently read, share, engage and promote what I put out. Whereas only a handful of people I know in reality will share that same energy for my content.

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

I don’t take it personally, and indeed, not all of my writing will be everyone’s cup of tea; even with the bias of actually knowing me. Nor would I want disingenuous backing for anything I put out. Furthermore, I’m fairly reluctant to actively promote my own content given it’s largely just a platform for expressing and sharing my thoughts and ideas.

Although for those who have a business or commercial endeavours, the pattern of support being withheld can remain the same. Similar sentiments were echoed by Nathan Smith, CEO of Smith’s Hair Studio, via a recent Instagram story.

Smith’s Hair Studio has a high footfall comprising of local clients and those who travel further afield. With its professionalism balanced with quality banter, and trims and treatments that are consistently on point, Smith’s Hair Studio is the antithesis of all the frustrations held with so many barbershops and hairdressers.

The shop has received media coverage on Sky One and BBC Radio and is undoubtedly a local success that provides a refreshing and welcome approach to its industry. Yet Nathan has noticed a trend of some being less than proactive in their support for the shop, despite their platitudinous statements to the contrary.

A pattern of “hollow support” has been observed from some who will religiously view and “like” Instagram stories and posts promoting the shop. Or those who go as far as directly expressing their support in online comments or in person. Though for some, that will stop short at visiting the shop or purchasing any of the products under the Smith’s Hair Studio brand. It begs the question, how genuine is their support if they aren’t willing to follow through with it?

Similarly, British designer, Reece Yeboah, has spoken on social media about the appreciation his Saint London brand has received abroad compared to in the UK. The Saint London brand has gained significant traction in the UK with a capsule collection in Selfridges and media coverage including Forbes, Dazed and BBC Radio. However, the brand has seen further mainstream attention in the US, being worn by celebrities including Young Thug, Ashanti and more.

Reece has articulated his pride in seeing his brand grow in the UK but acknowledges the attention he receives abroad isn’t always forthcoming in his own country. Meanwhile, even amongst his own community and peers, there are many who would instead purchase established designer brands than give their custom to Saint London. Add in the mix Reece’s community work and fundraising following the Grenfell Tower fire, a stone’s throw from his home and where he sadly lost childhood friends, and his homegrown status is undeniable. That isn’t a reason to indiscriminately buy from his clothing line but it is a reason to at least want to see someone positive and local do well for themselves.

It’s difficult to rationalise how such a trend has come to be so prevalent. Do we fear the success of others will detract from our own activities or magnify our own failures and shortcomings? It’s a notion that arguably exists in the mindset of some and fuels the culture of reserving support for those we share the least ties with while we ignore the work of those around us. What those taking that approach fail to realise is that seeing others around them win doesn’t hurt their chances of success. Rather, it adds to the landscape of success around us which should be embraced.

It’s akin to improving a neighbourhood thanks to internal efforts. Seeing local job creation, accessible universal education, clean public spaces and quality housing for all makes for a great neighbourhood for everyone, not just those championing it. And shouldn’t we all want a neighbour who displays the qualities we’d want to see in ourselves?

Society has become wired to show a lack of appreciation for those closest to us while we blindly contribute to the success of those with whom we have no connection. It’s a myopic perspective that inexplicably eschews camaraderie and opportunity to help those closest to us.

Many are happy to observe the moves being made by others but not everyone wants to contribute to their success with support.

Social media also plays a role in the age of disposable approval. Liking a brand or celebrity on social media is often an attempt to forge a allegiance or perception that just doesn’t exist. How many people would like a post from Balenciaga yet decline to like or share a post from a friend starting their own fashion line? All because there’s a desire to be associated with the former, despite that link being refuted when juxtaposed with one’s bank balance.

We become so keen to establish these links, hoping that they project how we’d like ourselves to be portrayed, that we curb our support for entities that remind us, and others, of our actual reality. Endorsing the work of those around us can therefore be seen as an unwelcome reminder of the identity we’re trying to escape.

There’s no suggestion that we should blindly endorse someone or their ventures simply because we know them. That would be be disingenuous and generally unwelcome by those who want their efforts recognised on their merit. Though we need to question why too often we’re happy to get behind those we aren’t in any way tied to, while deciding the graft of those around us isn’t worth the same consideration and response.

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