Trust, But Verify…Aw Hell, Don’t Trust Either.

Impressive, isn't it?
Impressive, isn’t it?

It took about 5 minutes to make this. It would have taken less if I hadn’t messed about with the fonts.

One reason to distribute quotes this way is that images are easier to share than text, so it more likely that it will go “viral.” Another seems to be to make it more memorable or even more credible.

We love quotes, especially when they validate what we already believe. We really love it when the quote comes from someone we already trust or are already seen as an authority in whatever arena the quote covers.

But when you see a quote online try to remember these two things:

“Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.” — Oscar Wilde

“The problem with internet quotes is that you cant always depend on their accuracy” — Abraham Lincoln, TED 2013

Haters Gonna Hate. And Get Nothing Done.

I didn't get a harrumph outta that guy.
I didn’t get a harrumph outta that guy!

Poke around the ‘net for more than a few minutes and you’ll find plenty of blogs, pictures with inspirational text, tweets, and statuses, telling you how you have the power  to change the world.

I’m not here to debunk that. Absolutely not. I believe you do have that power and if we disagree on anything, it’s probably about scope. But that’s a different conversation.

However, I do think that changing the world does start with a proper mindset. You have to set your mind on what you want to create. It can’t be about what you want to destroy. This might sound a little woo-like for me, but I actually have some practical reasoning behind it.

Changing just about anything more all-encompassing than your sheets requires cooperation from other people. You can get people to buy in to negative cause for a while but it’s not a sustainable, world-changing strategy. Hating things is tiring, and when the hate doesn’t translate to action it’s easy to throw up your hands and give up. Or redirect the hate in a different direction.

Witness the U.S. election cycle for the past few decades. It’s up-and-down, back and forth. Someone wins with a negative message, rules one of the roosts for a bit, gets little done because there is no one to work with, and then gets knocked off the roost by the other group’s negative message. Repeat until we are frozen in a struggle…to destroy the other guy while getting nothing else done.

There’s another, more dangerous, reason why an endeavor based on destruction is doomed to fail. When you base your effort on stopping the other guy there’s a tendency for everyone to become the other guy. Even your allies.

History is rife with examples of this happening. Pick any religion and look at the different sects and how and why they were formed. Look at the current state of any political party that is in the minority.

If you are a dog trainer, take a look at young dog trainer’s group whose raison d’etre is a list of things they don’t approve of and the internal strife that they are currently suffering. They won’t be the first group founded on similar principles that will ultimately slide into obscurity after turning on themselves. It’s all about the foundation.

If you want to change the world you need to be for something. On the surface it may seem like a word game, but when it comes time to find and collaborate with other people, it just might be the only common ground you have – or need.

Outrage Fatigue

Yes, a variation on XKCD's Duty Calls. Decided to be a little different.
Yes, a variation on XKCD’s Duty Calls. Decided to be a little different.

Somewhere on the Internet, right this very second, someone is writing a post or comment that you would find utterly unacceptable and outrageous.

I’ll give you a second to get over that.

Ready now? Good.

The upside to the Internet’s gift of near instantaneous communication to people almost anywhere in the world is that we can share our thoughts and opinions.

But of course, the downside to the Internet’s gift of near instantaneous communication to people almost anywhere in the world is that we can share our thoughts and opinions.

All this sharing and feeling inevitably leads to outrage. Outrage over what the politician said. Outrage what the actress did. Outrage over what the dog trainer did.

Lots of outrage. 

And then, at least for some of us, we end up with outrage fatigue. We stop getting outraged, because we just stop caring. In some ways this is good – maintaining a near-constant state of outrage isn’t mentally or physically healthy. In other ways it can be bad – while outrage might not be productive, caring certainly can be.

So the question is, when should you care? Obviously things that directly effect you and people you care about are things you should care about. Maybe drawing a line at things you can or cannot change and at actions that will or will not change them is a start? Can you stop those celebrities from hitting each on elevators? Can you get a TV show cancelled? Will posting post yet another video excerpt from that show help get it cancelled…or maybe get it more viewers? Will linking to yet another rant from thinkprogress.org or drudgereport.com change minds or start another fight?

Remember, the people buying ads don’t care why they get eyeballs, only that they do get them. Spreading outrage doesn’t hurt them – it’s part of their marketing plan. That applies to reality show producers, politicians, and A&R executives.

I am far from being able to say that I am taking my own advice here. You don’t have to dig deep in my timeline to find an Internet mortar shell or three. But I’m working on it.

What are your thoughts? How do you decide when it’s worth getting upset or fired up over something?

How to Not Be Happy and Share It Far and Wide

Check out this comic. If you click on the image below, the entire strip will show up on the original site. You may have to click on it again to zoom in. (It will open in a new window.)

apersonwashappythumb

This strip is from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. SMBC is one of my favorite web comics. It’s aways different, usually funny, and sometimes very thought-provoking.

The obvious metaphor here is for religion, and it is certainly apt. An important part of some religions is to “share” it with people. Even if sharing requires a sword, a gun, or a law outlawing things your religion doesn’t approve of.

Even if your religion doesn’t remove the rock from your head it might be your job to share it because, similar to the cartoon, if it doesn’t remove the rock from your head you must be doing it wrong.

But I think it’s about a lot more than just religion. Or, to put it another way, we have more religions than just religion.

Your “rock” might have been needing to lose weight and a Paleo (a diet I believe the Jehovah’s Witnesses created) might have been what “got rid” of it. It might have been needing to train a dog, and a clicker (Testify!) might have been your fix. It might have been being unhappy, and religion might have been what made you happy. It might have been having no customers and Twitter, a blog, or Google+, might have been what generated some business for you.

It’s natural to want to share a solution for a problem with our friends, and it seems natural to assume that if it doesn’t work for them, they must be doing it wrong. In this strip there’s a little problem with that though: our hero didn’t really understand what made him happy and shared the wrong thing.

This happens to us too. Did changing what you ate make you lose weight, or was it the process of paying attention to what you ate and how much? Did a clicker train your dog, or was it you learning about behavior that did it? Was it religion that made you happy, or was it taking the time to examine your life, your relationships, and how you treat people? Did Twitter get you clients, or did thinking about how to talk to people in terms they understand do it?

But the real important question is this: does the fact that it worked for you make it universal?

Which takes me another point that this strip brings up. Our hero never figured out what made him happy again and as a result his teachings were by definition flawed. Despite having the purest of motives, he never managed to help anyone. Success does not make one an expert.

So what did his followers think? That it was their fault. If he’s happy and I did what he says and I am not happy, I must be doing it wrong.

You’re doing it wrong is a very powerful phrase. So are You’re not trying hard enough and You just don’t want it to work. They all divorce the teacher from responsibility and put the onus on the student to teach themselves. Good teachers use these phrases sparingly, if at all.

But you can build an entire religion on you’re doing it wrong.

I’m going to leave it there because I still have a bunch of rocks in my head and the last thing I want to do is risk sharing the wrong one.