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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Personal advise

I cannot say about others but I always find myself strongly attracted to reading personal advise columns in magazines and journals (viz. Dear Prudence on Slate). I suspect, though, that this holds true for others as well. Perhaps reality shows are visual manifestations of the same. I find this interest slightly fascinating. After all, people who ask questions are unknown to me. Their problems are almost always unrelated to me. Person who answers question is also self-described expert and his/her opinion are no more important to questioner than that of anyone else (we are excluding medical/legal advise). Furthermore s/he is constrained to answer by wordings of question, unfamiliarity with whole context, and lack of personal interest in questioner. Last point, of course, also imply that answerer can be unbiased and more logical then emotional and caught-in-circumstance questioner.

Yet, this interest arise. My guess is that reason is inherent urge in all of us to give advise (even when not asked, one of the worst things to do in real life) and judge others. Soon after reading question, response starts forming in my mind. It is then either corroborated, or contradicted, by expert's response. Then there is slight moment of appreciation or justification of my own response versus that of expert's. Whether I in general agree or disagree with answerer (expert) depends on our general disposition in life and our points of views on some rules which we both, individually, hold sacred (such as individual choice, individual versus social responsibility, respect and hierarchy, tradition versus modernism, gender roles, notion of shame and sin, etc.). For example, I've always found that in 90% of cases my response conforms that of Prudence in Slate but figure reduces to mere 50% in advise column in Sarita. That both magazine caters to readers of widely different attitude and culture is clearly cause of difference, and it also shows where my disposition lie.

It is also interesting to note that if I can answer same as Prudence, so should her questioner too. Still they ask? Clearly there is an advantage at being arm's length emotionally detached. I also suspect that questioner knew answer all along, but still wanted a 'official' confirmation. Or may be not.

Second reason, I think, is possibility that I may encounter a question which closely relates to my own question, and subsequent good feeling associated with knowing that there is someone else with problems same as mine. Maybe I learn about solution, or maybe, I just find consolation in the company. What do you think?

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