Posts Tagged change

Just yes or no, thank you.

Posted by on Friday, 20 December, 2013

binary_mcclanahoochieIs social media reducing our critical thinking skills to mere binary this-or-that type choices?

Whether it is gender roles, politics, or any other topic of human conversation, it seems to me that the way in which social media allows us to share our views has relegated the conversation into two buckets: I agree, or I disagree. Through the binary “likes”, we are encouraged to think in simple terms; a single click if I agree, or a comment to explain why I don’t. What is discouraged by virtue of the tooling features is deeper or more complex thought. While many of us retain the desire to engage in this complex discussion, the single threaded nature of commenting serves to drive conversation down a single path which encourages one-dimensional thinking. Lateral thought or more critical thinking processes are being diminished in importance to the deference of group-think and soundbites.

I don’t know if I’m right, wrong, or in-between on this, but what I sense in the social spaces is a growing frustration and chasm split between us and them.

We are in an epidemic of one-dimensionalism and binary thought. That is to say, our society is being torn asunder by our inability to attribute more than a black/white view of each other within conversational contexts. Too often have I seen conversations in social channels quickly veer into a this-or-that discussion: you’re either for or against, pigeon-holed with no grey areas regardless of how deeply we try to clarify. These social conversations only serving to strengthen an us versus them mentality, widening any small divide from mere cracks to broad chasms of perceived ideological differences between people.

Mark Judge touches on this singularity, this one-dimensionalism perfectly in his call to boycott the next Star Wars Film in his blog post here: , (with my own hat tip to Mrs.Campbell for the share on Google+). In his post, Mark discusses how geeks are falling into this trap of only being interested in one thing; that we have lost our broader scopes of interest to the deeper focus on one.

Similarly, Matt Walsh blogged about the power hierarchy fallacy in the way people talk about their spouses (with another hat tip, this time to Suzi Meiger for her share on Facebook):

While I don’t fully agree with Matt in his post (I don’t think he takes it far enough and falls down a bit when basing his post from an assumption of male leadership and two-gender marriages) I think his ideas and intent is closer to being palatable by the majority than most other posts I’ve read on similar topics; that treating people as people, as equals in a partnership where power dynamics can shift and sway, where respect for the individual is tantamount to any societal pressure to behave in a certain way is critical to our future success as a culture.

Like I said, I don’t know if I’m right, wrong, or otherwise, and I don’t know what the answer is to the question at the beginning of this post, but what I do know is that more complex thought and conversations are necessary in order to save ourselves from the pigeon holes and land mines of conversation and interaction via social media. And, if it wasn’t already evident, let’s drop the name-calling, shaming, and dehumanizing words when disagreeing with others. It serves no other purpose than to diminish ideas without actually addressing the problems with the ideas presented.


image credit:  Some rights reserved by mcclanahoochie


The dark-side of social media: the chasm of polarization

Posted by on Friday, 17 May, 2013

IMG_6225If you’ve been reading my posts here for any amount of time, you know I am passionate about social media and the transformative powers it imbues upon us personally and in the business worlds.

But social conversation also has a darker side; one which has an equally transformative power, but often goes unrecognized until the damage is done. That dark side is the undermining striation and polarizing effect of opinionated conversation.

While social media has given anyone with an internet connection an audience and a voice far greater than history has seen before, how we choose to wield that power to express opinion must be done so with thought and intent. Without it, we begin to see that dark-side rear its head and begin culture shifting us into opposing sides of issues that are either wholly irrelevant, or have far more facets than a simple two-sided opinion could accurately contain. As with most things in life, there are very few times when something is as simple as right and wrong.

How we discuss these issues, however, can either serve to help or hinder our cause… or in an even more Homeric manner, help or hinder our future. We are all embarked upon our own Odyssey, and the choices we make on a day-to-day basis relating to how we use our social voices, defines our collective end result. Understanding how our words impact not only ourselves, but our community and our culture is a critical insight we need to recapture.

Take, for example, current political discussions. I am certain that neither of the major parties are hell-bent on destroying the United States. More so I am also certain that both parties believe in their hearts that they are doing the right thing to ensure the success of the country and avoid failure. That is not, however, the indication anyone would get from social conversations which frame the issues into an us versus them mentality; that we are right and they are wrong. This deeply polarized view leaves no room for the plethora of grey areas that surround such complex issues involved with a government covering such a vast geographic region and the millions of people to whom it is beholden.

Social media, by virtue of the short sound-bite type postings, encourages over simplification of complex topics when the realities of life dictate the absolute opposite: that there are not simple solutions to the issues we face today. After all, if there were simple solutions, these diametrically opposed conversations would be short-lived and the simple truth of right versus wrong would prevail. Instead, we are faced with conversations laced with vitriolic and polarized speech, serving only to widen the gap between “us” and “them”.

The dark-side, dear friends, is the chasm of divergent opinion growing between us all. That chasm, as it grows, pulls us apart from community and drives us towards more insular engagement bordering on xenophobic, and the desire to remove ourselves entirely from open conversation.

The take-away and call to action here?
Pause for a moment and recognize that none of us want to destroy our country. Before using our social soap boxes to lambaste perceived opponents of opinion, step out for a moment and look at the larger picture to see all points of view knowing that anyone who holds a differing opinion feels just as correct as we do. So, when we return to our social channels and engage in conversation either in our own posts or as comments in others’ posts, we are sure to do so with respect, rationality, and an understanding that we are all in this together. If we can do that, we can begin fighting this chasm of simplistic and polarized ideologies and work not to build a bridge over it, but to fill it in so it no longer even exists. Realize that when we use our social pedestals to speak, people really do listen and with that audience comes responsibility to use your voice wisely, with an understanding of both the positive and negative effects it can have.


Posted by on Wednesday, 4 January, 2012

Admittedly, this is an odd topic for me to be posting about.

This isn’t about overt negativity (though that is a problem as well, just not one I wish to tackle here and now), rather, this is about the passive, subtle, invasive, and far more difficult to accurately identify negativity. Negativity which manifests itself in such common ways as to be virtually unnoticed let alone identified as negative.

I’ve been working on the concept for this post in my head over the past three months now. But today it came to me from such a different perspective, that I’ve had to stop and re-evaluate how I put this out there. So let me be clear here: everything in this post stems from bits I don’t like about myself, things I see as a reflection of me elsewhere in the world both on-line and off.

I’ve noticed in the past 37+ years of my life, what I will call a personality trait geared towards negativity. Some may call it pessimism, and at times it is (lord knows no one has ever mistaken me for an optimist). At other times, I’d go as far as to call it a sense of entitlement or selfishness. But, most often, it is just a subtlety of verbiage which casts a grey pall upon the mundane; a way of simply missing the positive in a situation and instead focusing on a down-side, problem, or general dislike.

With the abundance of over-sharing on the social web, this negativity is highlighted and brought into greater focus. Complaints, or simply negatively tinged updates run rampant and, by my guesstimation, likely make up as much as 65% of all posts on social sites. Obviously I am shooting from the hip here, with no real data to back this up, just observation over the past few years, but regardless of actual numbers the sentiment stands: there is constant negativity around us all. And it is getting worse. (See what I did there?)

Something as simple as lamenting what that doughnut your boss brought in for the team at work is going to do to your diet seems innocuous enough as single status update. But, when combined with all the other updates coming across your wall/feed/dash, and in such numbers from the same people, you can’t help but be affected by it all… sooner or later that negativity will get to you, even when (or perhaps especially if) you are one of the worst offenders of it all.

Because I am as much of a perpetrator of this problem as I also observe it, I’d like to challenge you to take a moment with me and look at our own posts/status/updates over the past week and try to see them from a different perspective: are those posts tinged with a negative slant? Are the positive ones actually born of a negative perspective? Is there a way to shift the complaint to a win? Join me and let’s work to shift our perspective to the positive and see what happens!

I figure if I try and change the small stuff, the Tweets/ Facebook statuses/ G+ updates/ Blog posts, those things which I have editorial review over before clicking the share or publish button, perhaps it will become habit and bleed into other areas in my life. Perhaps, just perhaps, a slight adjustment here or there will have more dramatic ripple effects and the people around me will soon find me to be more pleasant to interact with and not as negative a person as I’ve been for the past few decades.

I’ll tell you, tough as it is for me, I feel better already.