Today, I choose to experiment
I was nearly flat broke when I moved to New York City. It was my new-yet-incomplete statement—with its corresponding materialistic half life—following my divorce, house short-sale, and departure from Connecticut.
I had poured every dollar I had into getting from there to here. And I was free, wandering out of the Cave of Convention into this unformed, unwalled, untethered abyss. It could be anything it wanted to be—at any given moment.
In those early days, I drained my checking account to buy bitcoin (just $240 apiece at the time). I ate a river of ramen and $2 chicken thighs. I blew cash I didn’t have on wine and books. I worked and saved and wrote and explored.
Failure was a distinct possibility, yet a diminished threat.
Let’s experiment: Creativity. Diversified risk. Fear was a luxury I literally couldn’t afford.
I rode the wrong subway lines. Far too early to be a travel guide, I advised disheveled tourists on how to get from Here to There.
Every street introduced new smells set to the soundtrack of languages I couldn’t identify. Street festivals emerged along casual jaunts for cigarettes, eggs, and vegetables. So much to discover…
I envisioned a new direction for this business and then plunged ahead with it. (816 New York’s voice very often expresses the manifestation of one experiment or another.)
Without abandoning common sense, I said no to very little—external or internal. I absorbed. I experimented.
Every day, the abyss morphed.
It solidified into something, then nothing again. Routines were established, then abandoned. Convention tried to sneak in, but eventually, I trapped the swarthy devil and pitched him overboard.
That formless place has been as much my touchstone as it has been my workshop for unapologetic (some might say fatalistic) trial and error, mostly about my own behavior, character, and relationships. A solitary journey, indeed, but worthwhile.
Let’s talk about yesterday.
I leapt wildly into that boundless ether in a way I never have before, creating an experiment with wider-reaching ambition (and higher rate of failure) in reaction to seeing 14 slaughtered UN peacekeepers in the Congo belittled on a Washington Post Facebook post.
Among other brilliant epithets was this one:
why waste time trying to being peace to these animals We need to get out of every country we trying to save and just let them all kill themselves. They dont want us there to begin with.. [sic across the board here]
I don’t read social media comments on news stories for the same reason you don’t: They are pointless, often incendiary, bigoted, and hateful. I believe that if Trump’s narrative hadn’t been fed via social media, that problem would’ve died on the vine.
Zuckerberg and the news outlets know about this problem. They’ve expressed their mea culpas while shrugging their big, corporate shoulders. “We’ll try to think of something.”
Then Russia and 100 other things. More mea culpas.
Still the content churns.
Maybe it’s not their fault.
They didn’t teach hate.
They didn’t 100% engineer a person’s likelihood to respond to every fucking thing seen on a feed of thousands of things. They couldn’t have anticipated the bloodthirsty competition and tasty data social media would create—clickbait, thumbs up, thumbs down, anger emoji, love emoji, shares, and those most valuable little nuggets: comments.
That’s our marketing world. You’ve seen Mad Men. Marketing is about getting customers to click little levers and launch pellets. Over and over and over. I’m not in love with that part of it, to be honest, which is why we do things a little differently around here.
But to solve for that particular X—breaking the system that has turned thought into emotionality—means social media and news media organizations would have to limit themselves—the data they gather, the social engineering, the social experiment they’re running:
What makes women react? What makes men react? How many people will react to this? How much garbage content can we create? How much clickbait is too much clickbait?
What they seem really good at ignoring is the hate in the comment feeds. Isn’t it their responsibility to give a shit about that, in that their prevalence in our lives has irreparably changed society—especially because a huge swath of non-terrorism-related people get incensed every time they scroll through their feeds? While others have become desensitized?
Are you still with me?
So yesterday: I’m going deeper into the void on this thought—which is not original, by the way, just there and begging to be examined in light of this Washington Post Facebook post, the politicization and lack of compassion for the 14 people who lost their lives and the countless injured. (The same applies to every other tragic national and international loss that seems to exhume trolls from holes.)
Social media was an experiment. The Mr. Hydes it has created don’t negate the presence, relevance, or power of the Dr. Jekylls. The corporate argument seems to be: You can’t censor speech, and shouting into the void is pointless. So we’ll do nothing … for now.
Illogically, the problem is both recognized and sidelined. Every single day. Since eliminating news on social media is impossible, I’ve proposed an idea that will at minimum and quite cleanly disrupt the hate narrative in one area.
I invite you to please read the full story, sign, and share the petition. At the very least, this experiment is worth a shot.
Like social media was an experiment.
Like starting a business or a new job is an experiment.
Like sometimes… life is simply some grand experiment. And failure and humiliation loom. Experimentation is idealistic and challenging—and beautiful. It ignites creativity and problem-solving. That’s how we’ll create a better world.
Experimentation creates movement.
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