When we try to answer the question of why we do what we do, we generally ignore the importance of others and that our status depends on the way others judge us (In fact, stating that we do not care what others think of us is generally an elaborate form of self-deception).
Now let's honestly ask ourselves why we wear a pin, a sticker or a bracelet that symbolizes a social cause we are fighting for, such as cancer.
Visibility, but also self-esteem
All of us are playing a social game that nobody wants to admit: doing so would mean losing the status, because all our actions would respond to a dynamic game, not reliable implication. For that reason, nobody will easily admit that it carries a series of symbols to identify with others.
The symbols (from tattoos to the design of our glasses) behave not so much to look in the mirror and feel good about ourselves as to inspire a conversation, stand out as a member of a group or even to demonstrate a superior moral status.
All of this makes us feel better about ourselves, obviously, but they don't do it per se. If it were per se, then there would be more cases of symbols that disgust everyone but that someone exhibits with great dignity because they make him feel good. In other words: all the things that make us feel good aesthetically usually sign up for an aesthetic code totally or partially established by the environment in which we aspire to prosper.
Why do I wear an anti-cancer bracelet?
Imagine a specific and somewhat controversial case. Livestrong is a yellow silicone bracelet launched on May 2004 as a flagship symbol of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The price of the bracelet on the official Livestrong website is 1 dollar per unit, which is entirely intended for research in the fight against cancer.
Why do people wear this kind of bracelets? A wrong answer would be to contribute financially to the cause: if so, donate your money directly, without taking away from the organization the percentage of the cost of the bracelet. Or directly buy a hundred or a thousand bracelets and don't put any on your wrist.
Another more elaborate answer would be that the bracelet is worn to give visibility to the cause. If many people wear the cancer bracelet, the cancer issue will more easily become trending topic and therefore, there will be more people willing to collaborate economically with her.
This answer makes a lot more sense, but then it is worth asking whether acquiring to teach a bracelet to the people around us is the most effective way to proselytize.
Today, after the controversy over the doping case of Lace Armstrong, almost no one wants to be seen wearing a wristband Livetrong. What, finally, reveals that in the deep origin of wearing this bracelet is because it carries a series of meanings beyond the fight against cancer, such as wearing bold colored earrings or gummed back hair.
And that meanings are attractive to everyone, even addictive, because they make us secrete dopamine, as he explains Martin Lindstrom in his book Small data:
In general, there is a story linked to the lizard pin we are wearing, or to the black rubber strap that we wear on the wrist. They put us in the center of the story. When we become the star, the focus point, the narrator or the object of attention, our brains secrete dopamine. Any celebrity will tell you that fame and attention are addictive, which may partially explain why most social media users flow a flood of news, food and landscape photos, and receive a cascade of praise in return (" Cool, "Wonderful", "I love it").
In other words, our behavior responds to motifs with many layers, one under the other. If we stay in the apparent, superficial layers, we will hardly understand the true motives or spurs that move the world.