During the covid shutdown, my kids began sending silly videos to our family chat. I thought they were a lot of fun and found I could watch them on my own on TikTok. I had a difficult time concentrating on reading material during that period, so TikTok filled the need to escape for a few minutes. Now I have been watching long enough now, for its algorithms to determine what content I enjoy and feed me only that. I no longer see funny dances and flash mobs, or makeup tutorials that appeared in my early feed. Now I receive a constant visual diet of watercolor artists, furniture refinishing, cute kids and dogs and for some reason…Karen’s!
For those of you living what I assume must be a serene life away from social media, a Karen is a term that's been adopted for a white woman, or sometimes a man, who is caught committing acts of entitlement or racism in public.
Adult tantrums have become a massive trend, with what seems like endless videos of people screaming and having inappropriate reactions to minor situations. Evidently not receiving a food order quickly enough is enough to enrage some people and having an unhealthy interest in where or how someone you don’t know parks their car often ends in police intervention.
I find these behaviors both repulsive and fascinating; like not being able to look away as you pass by a car accident. I watch in stunned silence, mouth agape. Do people really behave this way? Are they not embarrassed? How does one come to believe themselves to be so entitled? What creates this high need for attention?
I'm not sure if people are behaving so badly in higher numbers, or they are just being called out for it more. According to mental health professionals, it's definitely true that everyone's anxiety levels are running high. What people are really experiencing is anger, a secondary emotion, meaning it often shows up when trying to cover up another emotion like anxiety, fear or shame. Anger helps people avoid those more uncomfortable emotions and makes them feel strong and more powerful instead.
People who spend their lives blaming in anger instead of taking responsibility for their own emotions and behaviors creates feelings of entitlement. Entitlement means believing you should receive recognition without earning it. It's the belief you are superior to others because of your race, gender, sexuality, nationality, or economic status and you have difficulty accepting anyone different as an equal.
Psychologist Joshua Grubbs, the primary researcher on entitlement, stated
“Entitlement is a toxic trait, repeatedly exposing people to the risk of feeling frustrated, unhappy, and disappointed with life. Oftentimes, life, health, aging, and the social world don't treat us as well as we'd like. Confronting these limitations is especially threatening to an entitled person because it violates their worldview of self-superiority. By reacting to these perceived injustices with anger reassures themselves of their own specialness, and the cycle continues.”
One reason for the rage we are seeing currently could be all of the social upheaval people are feeling now. Not only is there social, political and economic instability but there are also mass shootings and racial violence. People are being forced to face up to their own privileges and prejudices.
All of those 'Karens' are obviously angry about something, and they need to blame somebody who is different from them. A person who is entitled has their own ideas of where they fit in socially and what their rights are, and they do not like being challenged, questioned or criticized by someone younger than them or a person of color. They tend to think. 'You're worse than me, you're less than me. I know the system is on my side, so let me call the police on you."
Entitled people’s thoughts and actions are centered around their own rights and needs, with less attention being placed on community. At United Way we strongly believe in being aware and connected to society and being mindful about how our choices affect everyone. We believe that working together for the common good is the only way to make positive change. So, calling all Karens – join us, let’s work together and LIVE UNITED.