February 06, 2017

I guess the Super Bowl makes me more honest than usual

Hello nurturers,

I've been struggling a lot over the last couple years, and of course particularly in the last six months, with how *mean* the social web can be. How mean we are to each other. And how naive I sound to others when I think we can be something else to each other.

This has gotten me into reading about the New Sincerity movement of the 1980s that then got a major boost of attention in the 1990s by beloved and troubled writer David Foster Wallace. Before the social web's explosion, DFW predicted our descent into snark as a prevailing tone by writing about the saturation of irony that came with post-modernism (In short, modernism is defined by big grand single narratives where all is solved, think sitcoms like the Brady Bunch. By contrast post-modernism features individualized and nuanced views informed by existentialism and leveraging irony, think sitcoms like Seinfeld and 30 Rock). That post-modernism that DFW feared has a bedrock understanding that no one is redeemable, the world is vapid and only the brightest of us get the joke. Post-modernism sneers at modernism. And gosh, is there any better way to understand the state of the social web today than that? Cruelty and snark keeps you from vulnerability. 

But over the last generation there's been this response -- sometimes clunkily called post-postmodernism though I much prefer New Sincerity -- that says we can merge the two: find authentic, shared experiences.

So much of what I've been reading just clicked into place for me when I watched this great 10-minute video from Youtuber Will Shoder that helpfully synthesized David Foster Wallace's New Sincerity push. And then it all made sense to me. I'm struggling with a post-modern world: my heart is with the New Sincerity movement. 

I want to be earnest. Irony is a tool, and I love being as sarcastic as anyone. But I am above all a pragmatist. I want solutions. I want to be a part of making the world I live in better and closer to what I care about and irony is just one tool that can't do much on its own. I care. And I get hurt. And I get fat. And I struggle beyond belief with trying to be the best version of myself. But sharing is a dirty, dangerous business today. ...Which is -- you get it -- ironic. In the age of sharing, we do not actually share. Because so much of the human experience is pain. We need that too. And, man, David Foster Wallace (and lots of others) got that. We need the chance to be, as he wrote, "pathetically human" together.

I like to believe that's what we're doing right here. Thanks for trying it out with me.

And now the links.


Donate here to this homeless street newspaper for me. For years, I've been a fan of One Step Away, which is a program from a social services nonprofit. It's a newspaper led, written, edited and sold by people experiencing homelessness. This year, I'll take part of their 'Big Selloff' program, where I'll be paired with one of their members to sell papers. This doubles as a fundraiser for the program to pay for printing costs. I'll shout you out on Twitter if you support me and the program. (Yes Fundrise takes a percentage)

Subscribe to my NEW weekly podcast! Oh my, yes, I've launched a weekly podcast using six years of live recorded storytelling events. Search "Story Shuffle" in iTunes or Google Play. I shared some lessons here.

Seek other perspectives. Particularly for reporters, I strongly recommend listening to this conversation between former George W. Bush spokesman Ari Fleisher and Meet the Press host Chuck Todd about liberal media bias. Say what you will about GWB, most tend to say Ari was serious and smart. 

Related: There might be some genuine truth to Trump's polling numbers being off. Even if that surprises you.

And because I've essentially promised this newsletter will not be dominated national politics, this isn't quite about Trump but about changing times. Watch this recent interview with Jon Stewart, which isn't highly partisan but thoughtful. This tighter clip gets to my favorite point therein: both sides now put all of the worst qualities of a candidate on those who vote for that person. That misses that we vote for lots of different reasons. No, no, no, no, no all Donald Trump voters are not racists. And no, all Hillary Clinton voters are not guilty sheep. We must talk to each other. We cannot be angry.

Even if someone was angry or mean first, when you are angry online, you are contributing to the temperature online. I choose to resist by demanding civility. 

Tell me what online tools and work hacks you have. I love that stuff. I shared here what online tools I use.

Prioritize data intelligence. If you want to do anything big, like run for president or pursue a major referendum, it's going to all come down to data analysis -- quietly or not.

Watch this video of a poem written and read by Jamila Lyiscott. It's beautiful and thoughtful. (thanks Katey Metzroth!)

Learn about getting a new office for your company. I helped lead that effort and shared some lessons here.

Get storytelling lessons from anywhere you can get them. I've been diving into this Youtube series that dissects storytelling lessons from great screenplays and screenwriters. I'm enjoying real lessons for my fiction writing, like this one featuring Gone Girl.

Fear the loss of antibiotics. Perhaps our greatest challenges of the 21st will be finding new solutions for problems we thought we already solved, like antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Watch the prison documentary 13th on Netflix. I really enjoyed it and was taken by the connection between the 13th Amendment (which ended slavery) and the prison industrial complex. It's complicated.

Related: Get jobs for returning citizens. Read this profile on Generocity.org on one man struggling after leaving prison. It's too common but fortunately we might have already gotten him a job.

Did media literacy backfire? Gulp.

You're cooking pasta wrong. I love getting cooking tips. Here are some super simple ones about the always basic act of making pasta.

Who knows what the visionaries of today are right about. Two hundred years before Christ, Aristarchus of Samos believed that Earth rotated around the Sun. Of course he was derided as indecent.

Track and support a secure web. Try this tool. Oh and use Signal, the secure messaging app.

And now a person I love.

Person: Tayyib Smith
Geography: Philly
Interests: hip hop, cities, Philadelphia, redlining, identity politics

Tayyib (@215tayyib) is something like a dean of Philadelphia's creative and cultural community. He is charged and thoughtful and ever curious. He's as hard and challenging to me as anyone and I love that. I had drinks with him a few weeks ago and no surprise I found him with some wonky book and a bowl full of ideas. It's just like I met him in 2010, some mix of quietly conspiratorial and openly excited about some possible future. Check out his new hip hop entrepreneurship program for kids. He hasn't changed, down to his surprising little high pitched laugh. I want him in rooms I'm in, not because he'll command a stage or a microphone (because he won't) but because he'll be surveying and assessing the dynamics thoroughly. He'll make you work for it. But it's worth it.


Stick with me, I'll be honest and vulnerable with you. Try doing the same with someone else too. Drop the snark, show some love.