Many of us are subconscious detectives and cops, disguised in the personalities of average personas. Although we roam through the world without a magnifying glass in hand or high-tech trackers of any sort, we naturally tend to catch the wrongs that pass through our paths. We don’t receive payment for it, or even a pat on the back in most cases. Only our cynical thirst is partially quenched as soon as we transform someone’s “your” into “you’re”.
Although the concept of “gotcha!” culture is popular amongst a large fraction of society, it’s important not to misconceive that each and every living, breathing human seeks superiority in corrections. Jarrett Young, as a Social Psychology teacher, holds a unique position in editing the errors around him: “If there’s a grammatical error in a paper that I’m grading or I’m in a position where I’m partly responsible for this student’s growth as a writer, I’ll definitely correct it.”
Outside of the classroom, Young approaches the concept of “gotcha!” culture differently. Young comments, “It irks me when people catch the mistakes of others publicly to demonstrate their superiority.” Even in a private conversation with an audience of one, superiority can still be a goal. Young thinks that “when covering a heated topic with somebody, people use a grammatical error made by the other person to detract from that person’s statement, so they say that their point isn’t valid because they formed it with poor grammar structure.”
On the contrary, Morgan Sabes ‘19 believes that “people who correct others’ grammar are often times considered ‘know-it-alls’, but in reality, proper grammar is really important. It’s only when people forget to go about correcting others in a kind way that’s problematic and seemingly cynical.” Additionally, although Young’s opinion differs, he realizes that “people have different ways of making meaning of life and might find the need to correct others to do so.”
There is loud and clear controversy when it comes to discussing the connection between cynicism and “gotcha!” culture. Whether corrections are made to increase one’s superiority, damage one’s self esteem, or as an attempt to benefit the ‘victim’ isn’t always clear. As Young puts it, “Context is a situational variable. How I react to mistakes when I’m driving versus wearing my bowtie and teaching class versus when I’m walking down the street differs.”