The Downfall of Jantelagen – Social Media Posted by Marcus Cederström on Feb 18, 2010 in Culture
I managed to get myself a degree in Scandinavian Studies back in the US. When I explain to people here in Sweden what that entails I am always faced with questions. Why? Why would you study Swedish culture? We don’t have any culture.
This comment always strikes me. On a personal level, it is a shame considering my passion for the subject, on a cultural level though it makes sense. Jantelagen has entrenched itself as an integral part of Swedish culture. As Jennie pointed out, the law, in its written form, originated in a Norwegian work of fiction. It is abrupt, direct, and can sometimes be viewed as quite oppressive.
It is something that can be seen in all aspects of life. From the soft-spoken Swedish athletes to the soft-spoken international Swedish companies. Rather than embrace all that makes Sweden worth reading about, writing about, learning about. All that makes Sweden Swedish, Jantelagen emerges.
Not just at the individual level though, Jantelagen also surfaces at the group level. The country as a whole suffers from Jantelagen. Sweden has made an enormous contribution to the in technology, design, social responsibility, fashion, sports, medicine. The list goes on. But showing pride in those accomplishments, or showing pride in the Swedish culture, is akin to heresy. A fictional law has been institutionalized in a country of nine million people. That in and of itself is fascinating.
Despite that institutionalization, I see small cracks. Cracks that seem to grow every time a Swede signs up for Facebook or Twitter or posts a blog post about the new shoes they just bought at NK (shameless plug: if you haven’t already, you should probably join our Facebook Fan Page or follow us on Twitter). Social media is the anti-Jantelag.
Suddenly, Swedes everywhere have a platform to express their individuality. To express their latest conquest. Their latest degree. Their latest purchase. But to do so from a distance. There is a disconnect between posting a Facebook update about your MVG and the hundreds of friends who will read it. There is no disconnect between telling your friend about your MVG while sitting around at a fika. Social media is paving the way for a cultural shift. Instead of an unwritten law which tempers the ego of even your most successful Swede, social media strokes the ego of even the least successful Swede. Jantelagen will bear the brunt of that shift.
By the way, I am good at jigsaw puzzles. Seriously. 500 pieces? 1000 pieces? 10000 pieces? It doesn’t matter. Give me a card table, a chair, and maybe some gummy bears and I will fly through the puzzle. And no, I will not use the picture on the front of the box. That’s cheating. So there, I said it. I can teach you a thing or two about puzzling.