applause for thought?

let’s explore the motives and rationale behind the clapping fad. What are its origins and why has it captured the hearts of the masses?

This item might upset some people but what I’m trying to do is analyse the current wave of “clapping for carers”. So why do people do it – is it because someone from the Netherlands suggested on social media that it would be a good way of showing how much the NHS was appreciated in the current national emergency or was it because people had seen (again on social media and television) clapping for the health workers in Italy?

Whatever, it didn’t seem to be a spontaneous gesture but one that was peer pressured by the thought and images being placed in the media. Would people in the UK have clapped if there was no television or social media – so is this about appreciation or a “herd mentality” and why do people clap anyway?

Why do we clap anyway?

Let’s look at the latter point. Clapping in most societies is a show of approval. A person wins a prize; someone wins a race; someone scores a goal etc, all good things. It’s a way of saying “well done”. However, there are many instances in history where clapping by the masses has shown “approval” of bad things. Just look at some of the old news footage of some of the tyrannical regimes that have come and gone – wildly clapped by the people – why? Well maybe we come to the question of “herd mentality” – he’s doing it, she’s doing it so I’d better conform and join in – peer pressure forcing an action that otherwise wouldn’t occur.

Go with the flow

Take the example of a football match. A player makes a really bad tackle on an opponent. The members of the crowd that follow the team of the tackler applaud this but how many of them actually thought “that was really bad – dirty tackle – could have broken his leg” But because a group of maybe 10 to 20 clapped it “forced” others to do so. Not for one minute am I comparing the work of the NHS to a football match, just looking at the psychology of peer pressure.

So what is the Clap for Carers meme really about? Is it so that the people doing this can appear on social media a “appear” to be supportive? I bet that there are a fair few of these people who are hypocrites – not practising social distancing; making unnecessary car journeys; seeing family and friends despite them living elsewhere – so tell me how are these types of people that then clap on their doorstep “appreciating” what the carers are trying to do? Do they think that it is like a confession – that they will be absolved and forgiven for their sins of not social distancing etc etc?

Listen to me clap

Ah, but it looks good for the neighbours, doing their bit to show that they really appreciate the hard work and sacrifice of the people on the “front line” whilst in the same breath they will still see their mates, still use the car to go just about anywhere and still ignore the rules that we have been asked to obey. Indeed, I wonder how many of the people who posted on social media themselves and others clapping for carers were, before all this happenend, berating the NHS for having to wait in A&E for hour upopn hour, or whinging at the fact that the ambulance took longer to come that they expected, or went private because they “didn’t trust the NHS”? I bet that there are those folk out there and how do they live with themselves?

My own view on the Clap for Carers is well do it if you truly believe that it will demonstrate appreciation. However, you should also be clapping the refuse collectors, fire crew and so on. These people also save lives in their line of work but go largely unappreciated. But let me put this to you. Jo and Dave work together, and they both produce an outstanding piece of work. Jo presents the results of this work and is roundly applauded by his peers but gets no financial reward. Dave doesn’t get any appaluse because he didn’t stand up and present the work, however, he gets a pay rise for his contribution – who’s happiest and who feels like they have been appeciated? So maybe, clap along with your buddies, but think about lobbying MPs to look at raising the cash to actually so that the caring profession is truly appreciated by rewarding them properly.

James Räkningen

James holds an MSc and a PhD in pharmacology and vascular hyperreactivity in obesity and diabetes. He has also lead teams of translational scientists developing cancer therapies. James is a new contributor to zenscape.