I've been reflecting on whether or not unfettered exposure to the human race through digital mediums has had a net positive (pun intended) effect on our society. Way back when social media was a new phenomenon, I (like most early adopters) thought 'the more the better!' Surely the more people I could come into contact with, the more opportunities I'd have for learning, creating and participating in important activities in the world!
But I was wrong, wasn't I?
Despite the diversity of the human race's cultures, religions and political philosophies - there are certain things we all have in common. Some are good, of course, and some are very, very bad. And, in addition to sharpening one another and vetting ideas with these amazing digital tools, we also seem to have amplified some of our worst social and societal dysfunctions.
Less than two decades after social media became a 'thing', I'm witnessing public discourse that amplifies some of our worst tendencies: cognitive biases, the erasure of nuance, and a reliance on punitive shaming that places more value on signal boosting to like-minded camps than in pursuing truths with intellectual fearlessness.
In fact, it is FEAR I see driving most of the public discourse. Fear that comes, in large part, from the incessant drumbeat of rhetoric that is pounded out each day by people who have literally made a career out of pointing out The Problems.
Pointing out problems is the easy part, friends. At a certain point, pointing out problems (and in fact, the same problems over and over again) becomes a way to avoid having to DO anything about them.
We need solutions. Real solutions. Not just a lot of good ideas. Not pep talks, or inspirational memes. Not more affirmation and recognition of our own pain and discomfort.
What are Solutions?
Solutions are ideas that have been vetted, fact-checked, supported with research, tested and found feasible, and had real, sustainable funding/resources gathered to ensure their success.
The Problems are self-evident for anyone who is aware, and those who refuse to see/acknowledge the problems are useless at this point. Their life will be full of hard lessons, and it's not my job (or yours) to try to teach them.
I'm not talking about "earth-shattering solutions that will revolutionize the planet and bring about peace for all mankind". No, that's not how it works. It's never been how it works. What we need are people working on their solutions where they are, with what they have, in real life. People that are laser-focused on solving things that can. be. solved. right where they are.
There are no cookie-cutter universal solutions to the embedded tribalism(s) that plague our species...everything has to be developed and applied in ways that are relevant in local, relational systems.
You can't fight big, bad ideas. Solutions are not about converting other people or trying to make assholes feel sorry for being assholes. You can't "solve" racism, sexism, or any other -ism. Those things have been part of humanity since before history.
But you CAN find ways to empower individuals and communities despite the existence of our individual and collective limitations. You can create structural tools that are customizable across subcultures and communities that help minimize and marginalize the effects of our worst human tendencies. You can make a world of difference in the lives of the individuals that you know and see every day. You can create your own community of people that are committed to the highest ideals you share, and spend what little time you have on this planet making things better for everyone in your orbit (whether they deserve it or not--that's really not your call.)
Trying to change the world doesn't work. We change ourselves, then we empower others around us to change. If we're lucky, we may only help a handful of people level up in our lifetimes.
But if we ALL committed to doing this? Just imagine.