What are we so afraid of?

Communication & relationships,Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 6:00 pm

Why are we so sure we know, and why do we care what everyone else thinks of us?

Road Closed

 

I’ve been noticing this come up again and again recently. It’s entirely possible it’s been a common topic before I noticed it but since I started paying attention, I see it everywhere. Last January I wrote a blog post/confession coming clean to the notion that I assume everyone around me has it all figured out and by some stroke of chance no one has realized that I’m just making it all up as I go. Yet. And the subtle back of your mind stress that goes along with such a thing. I number of people reached out to me and thanked me saying they were so happy they weren’t the only ones who felt that way. These were all people I respected and looked up to in ways, and people I knew had it all figured out— something didn’t add up.

Some people told me to look up impostor syndrome which I’d never heard of before but haven’t gone a day without hearing about it since. Remember in 2007 or whenever when every single person you met claimed to have ADD and that was the excuse for some weird personality fluke of theirs? I feel like impostor syndrome is the ADD of 2013.It keeps coming up in conversations, conferences, podcasts and blog posts. Everyone is an impostor it seems, or are they?

There is a terrific episode of WTF with Marc Maron where he’s chatting with Dan Savage, and they discuss that— at least in the US— only in-the-closet gay guys and straight dudes are constantly worried what other people think about their sexuality. Constantly worried that some action, some comment or some ill perceived glance will make everyone around them think they are gay. (Or in the case of the closeted ones, something will give away their secret) He added that women don’t generally have this concern because society is largely cool with a little girl/girl action without any assumption that either girl must be a lesbian for this to happen. And similarly no gay guys are worried about being accused of being straight, regardless of wether they ever had a straight sexual/romantic relationship. A gay guy can admit to dating women in college and not have their sexuality questioned, yet some straight guys are worried if they sit too close to another dude everyone will assume they are gay.

Tara just wrote a heartfelt post here on Medium about being afraid of turning 40. About thinking her age somehow reflects her usefulness, and the assumption that people are constantly judging her because of it. She points out that she never considers other peoples age, but is sure everyone is thinking about hers and afraid that they will assume she’s too old and thus must be out of touch. Of course she’s amazing and talented and has a line of people fighting for her time and attention. That’s not something that will suddenly change when she has one more candle to blow out on her birthday cake — but that doesn’t play into her fears.

I think with all of these examples, what it boils down to insecurity, but why are we as a society so insecure? Why do we care what anyone else thinks? It’s as if we can’t be comfortable with ourselves without someone else’s approval? Do we really think that lowly of ourselves?

I like to think that heavy doses of punk rock growing up was something of a don’t-give-a-fuck vaccination and I now have a healthy immunity to a lot of this. And I also feel fortunate to be able to quickly suss out what I can control and what I can’t, and then not stress much about things that are outside of my hands— what someone else thinks of me is planted firmly in the latter category. But even then I occasionally find myself wondering what people actually think of me. And I’d be lying to suggest I wouldn’t prefer that those opinions are positive, but I’m also not willing to compromise myself in hope of that. Perhaps that’s a different conversation but it took me many years to be comfortable in my own skin, as a kid I certainly wasn’t. I wish I could point to a single thing that helped me turn that corner but I can’t really put my finger on it. I don’t know what advice to give people, I don’t know what advice I would want to hear. Or would listen to now or then.

I think the main the thing is— we have to be comfortable with who we are. If we like ourselves then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks because we know we have value, we know we’re worthy. If we don’t like ourselves, we’ve been listening to the wrong people and need to tell those people to GTFO of our lives. Or change the channel. For me, I think I’m just going to try and be more vocal about telling my friends and people I care about that I like them, not what they can do, or what they can do for me. Maybe I can’t change the world, but I can start with my circle of friends.

(cross posted to Medium too)

Message Boards might just be the solution to Comments

In the mid 90’s the community where I spent the most time online was Alen Yen’s ToyboxDX. This site was the epicenter of the Japanese toy collecting world, and naturally in our pre-twitter, pre-blog, pre-social networking world, the message board there was where all the action was. This was also a pre-wikipedia world so research was much trickier and that message board was invaluable for those of us trying to figure out what toys which companies released and when. I still have good friends who I first met soaking up details about rare chogokin and sofubi there. We had built a vintage toy nerd utopia… and then the Transformers kids showed up with their unrefined discussion about toys made in the 80’s. People threatened to leave the site because it had become a cesspool of US released plastic toy talk. It was a nightmare as you can imagine.

Until someone had an idea – what if, all Field of Dreams style – we could build something for those Transformers dorks that would be more appealing to them and would get them out of our faces. We made a special “Transformers” section of the message board (along with an “off topic” ghetto) and instantly the problem was solved and the classic toy threads returned to their previous unmolested toysnob glory.

In the years since then I’ve thought about this strategy time and time again when working with communities online. Adjusting where someone hangs out is easier than adjusting how they hang out. It’s not about getting someone to talk about something else, rather finding the right place for what they want to talk about. (more…)

Encryption and Privacy – What I’m Using

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[Originally posted on Medium] Can you imagine if an email program shipped today without a “reply all” feature? Or a browser shipping without tabs? It’s a crazy prospect because those things are used so frequently used, to not include them would ensure instant death for this new software. I’ve often complained publicly that privacy and encryption tools aren’t thought to be just as crucial, and expressed some annoyance that developers don’t consider them mandatory. Afterall, if these options were baked in and simple people would use them all the time, right? Or at least much more frequently. Recently a friend threw this back at me and asked if we, all of us, are not to blame for these things having a low priority because we neither use them regularly nor demand their inclusion in our software?

I initially objected to this idea, but the more I thought about it the more it rang true. Saying “it’s too hard to use so I’m not going to bother using it” doesn’t provide any motivation for people to make it easier because hell, people aren’t using them anyway. On the other hand if people used these things regularly and “how hard it is” became a common gripe, then making it easier would suddenly be very attractive. Looking at it this way, maybe we really do only have ourselves to blame that these technologies and assurances aren’t ubiqitus. And when faced with a realization like that, I always feel like I have to at least try.

So I spent a few days looking back over the tools I’ve used in the past, the tools I want to use now and bringing things a bit more up to date. There’s always a balance between convenience and usefulness because I know myself and if something is a pain in the ass I’ll eventually stop using it. So one of my main criteria here is that is has to be easy to use, even if there are a few hoops to jump through in the initial set up stages. I’m a Mac users and do a lot of my work in the browser so I have a preference for tools that “just work.”

As I have these conversations with others from time to time, I thought I’d share what I found and what I implemented so that perhaps others might find something useful in the mix. I don’t pretend to be an expert here and welcome suggestions for improvement. (more…)

Introductions: The Art of Curating People

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(I initially published this piece on Medium)

Over the years I’ve often found myself in the situation of knowing two awesome people who didn’t previously know each other, and been lucky enough to put them together and see even more awesomeness result from that new connection. I’ve done this enough that from time to time people have referred to me as a hub that connects a bunch of spokes. I blame my short attention span on the fact that I’ve got a foothold in a number of different networks – technology, art, music, etc… – which helps out here as well. To skip to the point, I like connecting people.

Now I should point out immediately that I don’t just connect anyone and everyone, and this is where the “art of curation” business comes in. I could be mistaken, but I think I have a pretty good sense of what people are doing and where they might click and I take considerable care on who and how I introduce people. You’ll see why that is important in a moment. So of course, in thinking about introducing people, how you do that becomes ultimately important. In this, as with many other things in my life, I think about what I like, what works for me, and then try to apply that outward.

What I like: When someone I know and trust connects me directly to someone else they know and trust, gives context for the introduction (who each of us are, how they know us, why we’re being introducted), and then gets out of the way so that I and my (potential) new friend can chat and see what might come from this. I feel like this is the most natural way to meet someone and interact with them, with the least pressure. The best introductions that have ever been presented to me have happened this way.

What I don’t like: When someone I know puts me in touch with someone, or asks to put me in touch with someone, and then tries to play middle man on all interactions, almost holding the contact for this other person at arms length. Right away I feel pressure to say the right thing, or to jump through someone elses hoops and it becomes very difficult very quickly to interact with this new person. I’ve made a few freinds from this, but more often than not talks never go beyond the initial moderated chats.

What I really, really, really, really don’t like: When someone I may or may not know connects me with someone they may or may not know, gives no context for the introduction and then acts like the three of us are instantly best friends, business partners and possibly lovers. This is awkward on every level, and there’s really no way anyone can walk away from it feeling at all positive. (more…)

Research, global citizenship

I’ve talked about this idea here and there in the past, and am working on a longer piece about it but I wanted to throw out some ideas here and get some feedback to see what people thought and what issues are the ones most likely to be stickiest. So this is obviously a continuation of some of the ideas that have come from the technomads discussions and kind of gets into the roots of what citizenship is all about. And how that all plays into the world in 2013 and beyond.

When thinking about citizenship I think it’s useful to discuss the pros and cons, as well as the past vs the present. Let’s think of the big ones.

Most obviously the major benefit of being a citizen of anywhere is the support that comes along with that. I think this is the main thing – having a government “watching your back” so to speak – at least while traveling internationally anyway. You could argue that many of the benefits you receive as a citizen inside any country are also shared by many non-citizens inside that country so classifying those as perks of citizenship are difficult. Being able to vote is a plus, at least if you want to help influence the direction of some level of politics. If you don’t live in the country you are a citizen of that becomes less important, until you start thinking about “branding.”

The “branding” (I don’t know what else to call it) that comes with being a citizen of somewhere can be positive or negative depending. In some places in the world advertising that you are an American for example could attract some unwelcome attention – people who are upset with actions the US government has taken might project those feelings onto individuals. Similarly being an American might grant you some extra freedoms in other parts of the world where there are positive relations.

In the past, being a citizen of some place related much more to where you were, since people didn’t travel as much as they do now. And there was risk of neighboring people invading you, so having a country looking out for you was a pretty good thing. These days, with much more bouncing around the world which passport you happen to have is just as likely to cause problems and headaches as it is to open doors. The argument that a citizenship reflects a culture makes sense in really small geographic countries, not so much in widely spread ones.

I’m thinking a lot about the value of “where you are from” vs “where you are” as well as “where you are going” and how these things play together – nicely or not. I have a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. Would love to hear peoples thoughts on anything that might relate to this.

Locals Only

Ripley getting set up in First Class

Several years ago while giving a lecture at The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, the professor hosting my talk astutely noted that everything I’ve been involved with – be it putting out records, putting on art shows, building blogs, etc – all seemed to have a strong desire to build a community, and observed that perhaps a lack of community, or belonging as a child may have led to a life trying to manufacture that community. This was an art professor, not a psycho analyst, but he was more right on then he realized.

I moved around a lot as a kid so I never had the “I’ve been here all my life” experience that many other kids had. I was always the new kid and I was always trying to find my place in a group of friends who had known each other for years before I’d shown up. I was constantly trying to prove my worth and value to that community, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. When I was old enough to realize there was a world outside of my immediate surroundings and that I could actually interact with that world, I realized that world had communities too and that I might find a place that I fit in. And when the internet became an option that got a lot easier. I learned that the first and best way to a add value to a community was to actually build it.

And I love the communities that I’ve been with, but on some level I’ve always been envious of the people who grew up somewhere and were a part of the local community because of that. I have a great amount of Los Angeles pride but I’ve lived there for only 12 years. That’s longer than I’ve lived in any other place, and longer than many people who move to LA, but still nothing compared to people who were born there. And while this may not have any basis in fact, no matter what I do in LA and how much I rep it I’ll always feel that I don’t have as much claim to the city as others. (more…)

Reoccurring theme

Communication & relationships,Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 12:44 pm

Many months ago I did an interview about my involvement in Coffee Common and earlier this week I did an interview about Safecast. Both of these were published this week, and I noticed an interesting similarity running through them…

From Birds of Unusual Vitality:

“I look at my involvement with Coffee Common as a lot of trying to get people educated on things so that they can force the change that would never come from the industry itself. More educated consumers ask better questions to cafes, then cafes have to come up with better answers to those questions – and as a result of all of this, things changes. Trying to change something from inside an industry never actually works (or it takes years and years) I prefer the people to cause a revolution.”

From Fast Company:

To date, Safecast’s volunteer team has measured and mapped more than 3 million data points that comprise a rapidly growing dataset that will serve as a valuable baseline for the kind of in-depth environmental data the world largely lacks. And perhaps that will prompt people into demanding more–and more transparent–data sources.

“People assume crappy data is legit, and nobody’s held accountable,” Bonner says. “But by pushing this issue and publishing this really specific data, now people have to answer questions like, ‘Why is your data so much less specific than this data?’ Asking more educated questions is always good.

An Open Letter To Conference Organizers and Panel Moderators

Communication & relationships — Sean Bonner @ 2:51 pm

Howdy,

First of all, I love what you do. Really. You’re terrific, and your efforts make our lives better. Don’t ever change. Well, actually, there is something that needs to change.

There’s a problem that persists across almost every conference I’ve ever been to. The good ones. The bad ones. The Amazing ones and the Meh ones. And we need to address it once and for all so that it can be prevented from happening in the future. (more…)

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