What We Want Matters

By | Emotional Intelligence, Blog, Brain, Culture, Dysfunction, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Marketing for Peace Builders, New Posts, Organizational Development, Persuasion, Platform Building, Presentations, Privacy, Problem Solving, Relationships, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy, Technology, The Future & The Singularity

We as a society of consumers, publishers, advertisers, and owners have failed to understand fully the radical implications of the communications schema we now live under with the presence of the Internet.

When almost everyone in the world has access to a keyboard, a microphone, and camera, almost everyone will become a publisher.

But, someone must fund that publishing in order for it to be seen by an audience willing to be changed by its presence in the world.

And while publishers may fail to understand the relationships between awareness, advertising, persuasion, publishing, and creation, consumers do themselves a disservice when they pretend that what a third party–wedged between them and the publisher–wants doesn’t matter.

There are multiple parties to consider in this transaction that is now going on at scale in the world right now:

Publishers are people (and sometimes organizations) who want to publish. They create, comment, click, like, share, and otherwise either participate, or validate, an opinion, a fact, or an idea through their actions.

What publishers want is a platform upon which to publish and attention from the audience they seek to impact.

Consumers are people who want to consume. They passively watch, applaud, share, click, like, and otherwise take in the opinions, facts, and ideas that publishers create.

What consumers want is to consume. Preferably without much action or engagement on their part and with as little friction as possible.

Owners are brands, organizations, and community builders of all types and stripes who want to own a piece of the communication real estate that the Internet has created. Owners create and own.

What owners want is to get paid for their work, their creativity, their cleverness, and their time spent building something for others. And they want to get paid as quickly as possible, as much as possible, as often as possible.

Advertisers are organizations, buyers, creators, and others who seek to intersect themselves in between owners, publishers, and consumers, ostensibly for the benefit of publishers and owners, but in reality, for the benefit of themselves.

What advertisers want is attention, awareness of the products, services, and processes they are seeking to persuade consumers. And they want it at scale, with as little friction as is possible.

There is little alignment between all of these parties (even though there is often confusing overlap), as the Internet has fractured and atomized the 20th century’s mass media, mass audiences, mass attention, and mass awareness.

With this lack of alignment comes confusion, misunderstanding, miscommunication, and at the end, scandal, corruption, mismanagement, and further erosions of public and private trust.

The best alignment is the type that removes the middleman from the interactions between the publisher and the audience and gets the publisher and the audience aligned.

The worst alignment is reflected in what is happening right now.

We as a society have gotten the Internet we asked for; dare I say, the Internet we wanted.

Now, at the beginning of yet another unraveling, a further atomizing and erosion inflection point in the overall communication culture, it’s time to ask for, and to want, something better.

Network Leap 4

By | Blog, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Media, Music, Networking, New Posts, Old Posts, Opinions, Persuasion, Platform Building, Privacy, Social, Social Communication, Social Media, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy, Stress, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Twitter, Twitter, Virtue, Website

The impact of the next leap remains non-obvious for too many people, and too far off in many individuals’ minds. But then, there is the alarming presence of all the obvious “whens” all around us.

When the AI gets so good that human beings can’t tell the difference between the computer program and the human being.

When the machine learning gets so good that human beings can’t navigate managing and strategizing about the flood of data coming at us faster than the machine can.

When the amount of collected data is so overwhelming that human beings are paralyzed by analysis rather than having the courage to act in spite of the implications of the data.

In a world of those “whens”—which are arriving to the present as fast as they possibly can, no longer “whens” but “nows”—the only areas remaining to categorize, atomize, and to deliver on spec at low cost to an eager consumer, will be the emotional content of individual, human-to-human interactions.

The next leap is not around AI, machine learning, the Internet, or social media applications.

The next leap is not around robotics, data analysis, electric cars, augmented reality applications or virtual reality.

The next leap won’t even be around the industrialization of outcomes to spec on price, cost, labor, and work.

The next leap will be people—individuals, corporations, businesses, churches, schools—preserving and paying for the texture that individuality brings to human interaction.

The companies that are playing the long game of digitizing everything—every human interaction, every job, every product, every process, every service, and every crumb of knowledge—understand this las concept innately.

Google’s next great leap from dominance in the digital world will be from industrialization of outcomes to spec in a digital environment, to dominance in the material world of emotional, human-to-human interactions where spec means something different from individual to individual.

Are you playing Google’s long game, or are you playing humanity’s long game?

There is Risk Everywhere

By | Emotional Intelligence, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Culture, Dysfunction, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, New Posts, Organizational Development, Persuasion, Presentations, Privacy, Problem Solving, Reconciliation, Relationships, Strategies, Strategy, Stress, Virtue, Workplace, Workplace Development

There is risk everywhere and fear of risk leads to avoidance, delay, or surrender in the face of conflict and change.

The thing about risk profiles is that they differ based on the stories that we tell ourselves about how we can either succeed or fail in the face of conflict or change.

The stories of failures (“People like us tried something like this before. And it didn’t work.”) and the stories of successes (“People like us tried something like this before. And it worked.”) both share at their core, a story about risk looming large.

If you want to succeed in managing a conflict effectively, or if you want to manage change for other people, or if you want to “win” at a negotiation, here are three points to consider about risk.

By the way, these are not exhaustive points, they are merely starting points:

Everyone has a risk profile. Many people believe strongly that they have something to lose.

For some, its respect, face, honor, the ability to do work tomorrow, or even deeper emotional hurts.

For others, its position, title, money, or the ability to get to show up tomorrow in a place that feels safe.

Most risk profiles, based on fear, is not about physical harm (most of us in the West have eliminated those factors from our daily lives) but is instead about psychological harm.

And psychological safety.

Everyone’s risk profiles mismatch to everyone else’s. This should be obvious, but the fact of the matter is, empathy is in short supply—and always has been.

It becomes even less of a factor when we are so focused on convincing the other party that their risk profile is wrong or misguided, we miss the fact that what matters is empathy to the presence of the mismatch, rather than trying to resolve it.

Everyone wants risk reduced at the least, or eliminated entirely at the most. Reduction and elimination of risk are acts that move parties toward a sense of safety in situations where risk is high, profiles are mismatched, and empathy is in short supply.

The party who succeeds in diplomacy, change management, or conflict reduction is the party who is in tune with what stories will reduce (or eliminate) feelings of risk in the other party.

By the way, the things that people focus on as being “risky” or that they believe they have to lose the most, sometimes are drivers for their most impactful, deeply held stories.

Understand the risk profiles (and the safety and trust needs) of the other party at the table, before trying to convince them of your “I’m right.”

That way, you’ll be sure they listen.

Culture of Immediacy

By | Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Media, Networking, New Posts, Platform Building, Privacy, Problem Solving, Relationships, Resolution, Social, Social Communication, Social Media, Stress, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Virtue

The culture of immediacy that we have created with our digital social communication tools, has convinced our brains that problems of all kinds should be solvable immediately, to our specifications, and with little effort (or friction) on our part.

Here are a few examples. Your mileage (and examples) may vary:

Climate change could be solved tomorrow…if only the “right” people oversaw the solutions. Like the people who populate my Facebook feed…

Elections could turn out with the “right” outcome with results that I could see immediately…just like a Twitter poll does…

People could treat each other with fairness, justice, and equality in a pretty cool and hip way…if only it were the “right” people doling out the fairness, justice and equality…and all others who don’t agree (or aren’t hip or cool enough) could be blocked or never seen anyway….just like in my SnapChat feed…

Rights, responsibility, accountability, and freedom. These are human conditions that took centuries to adjudicate, argue over, and have conflict about, to come to the space of where we are now as a global culture.

They will not fall to the growing culture of immediacy anytime soon.

Netflix, podcasts, YouTube videos, search results. These are tools of communication that operate on the principles of speed to market (your eyes) and entertainment (your brain).

The slow, plodding things that need to change (i.e. systems) are hard to shift, require emotional energy in the face of human intransigence and institutional friction, and need conflict to change. It used to be that we recognized and passed on to the next generation, the idea that incremental change was enough and that lifetime change (on the scale of anywhere from 35.5 to 78.8 years) was enough to get a society and culture to where it could reasonably be expected to be.

But this idea of plodding, incremental change is slowly eroding in the face of collective minds, attitudes, and behaviors being transformed by the culture of immediacy that our digital social communication tools provide.

Combine this fact with the reality that the inner workings (both the how and the why) of our digital social communication have become incomprehensible for the average person and that we have elevated this incomprehensibility from a minor annoyance (think about how you could repair a car in your garage only 50 years ago) to a belief in the magical genius of self-interested companies (think Google and how the algorithm of search works), and we have a giant problem on our global cultural hands.

Relationships with people are boring, mundane, exciting, and thrilling.

Solutions to people problems cannot be solved through the clever application of another frictionless algorithm.

People cannot be inspired through speed, or motivated through impatience to change.

The hard work, the meaningful work, the work of people conflicting against other people, is the last thing that will survive the cult of immediacy we have built.

If we let it.

And the changes that can come about from that survival is worth leveraging all the immediacy-based, incomprehensible tools for good, that you can.

The Privacy of Memory

By | Active Listening, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Networking, Neuroscience, New Posts, Platform Building, Privacy, Relationships, Social, Social Communication, Social Media, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy, Stress, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Virtue

We lose a little of ourselves when we outsource our memory to Google.

But not in the obvious way that we think of.

What we lose in the privacy (some would say inaccuracy) of memory is the ability to forget.

And to be forgotten.

The privacy of memory and the palaces that we build in our minds of truths, facts, lies and stories is more valuable than we know to preserving the best parts of our fragile humanity.

In the rush to electronically preserve the truth in non-debatable, and factual ways, we are losing the pleasure (and the privilege) of the privacy of choosing what we want to remember—and what we have the grace, forgiveness and ability to forget.

When we can call out each other using facts we like that work for us (and avoid or dismiss the facts that don’t), our social media communications and interactions become about expressing the rawest of emotions with immediacy, in the face of overwhelming facts that are preserved as eminent, and indisputable truth.

Google can’t help us here. Neither can artificial intelligence. Neither can another social communication platform.

Only human beings can preserve the privacy of memory in relationship with other human beings.

Network Leap 2

By | Blog, Media, New Posts, Old Posts, Platform Building, Privacy, Problem Solving, Relationships, Social, Social Communication, Social Media, Strategies, Strategy, Technology, The Future & The Singularity

The leap from here to there has never been closer.

Sure, leaping is naturally hard.

That’s why people caution other people, before they embark on a path they can’t see, into a future they can’t understand, with outcomes that are unimaginable, to “look before you leap.”

It’s been written before that, in the context of a conflict, this is terrible advice, most often given terribly.

In the context of the idea of the primacy of the network over everything else , leaping from the Internet “in here” (the greatest communications disruption tool invented by man yet) to the network of physical relationships, textures, and moments in the world “out there” (the physical world), it’s actually great advice.

The difficulty of leaping from inside the machine to outside the machine is misunderstood and underappreciated. Google is trying it’s best to make that leap, as is Facebook, but the real players in the leap from virtual to physical, might be platform builders who understand two things:

Connectivity is not a bug, it’s a feature. Too often in the non-virtual world, connection is now shifting from being treated as something to be hoarded (though there are still those who do that) to something to be freely shared. This shift is thought of by the hoarders as a bug in the system and they do all they can to wipe it out.

Access is a responsibility. Too often in the physical world the location where the fiber optic wire ends (the last mile concept) is thought of as the place where it’s not financially worth it (a profit can’t be made) to provide access to the people living beyond that, sometimes literal, “last mile.” This mindset is shifting, because the reality is that access is gradually moving from a limited privilege to a global civic good.

Once people, businesses, and networks wrap their heads around these two philosophies, and then are self-aware enough to act on them with intentionality, “look before you leap” will return to being the terrible advice it always was.

HIT Piece: 10.11.2016 -“For” You, or “To” You

By | Advice, Blog, Facebook, Google, HIT Pieces, New Posts, Old Posts, Privacy, Social Communication, Social Media, Strategy, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Truth, Twitter, Twitter, Website

The government (and the corporations that consort with it through lobbying efforts) can’t provide every service, fulfill every need, and relieve every want for every individual.

The government (and the corporations that consort with it through lobbying efforts) can be hampered from taking away rights and encouraging responsibility, from individuals.

One perspective is known as “positive rights” and the other perspective is known as “negative rights.”

In online interactions with corporations that are coalescing and acting like “real-world” mega-corporations (consorting with, and lobbying against or for, government policies and such) the issue in conversations around online anonymity is whether or not you believe that those mega-corporations should do for you, or should not do to you.

“For” you, or “to” you.

The preposition makes a difference.

If you believe that Google should do for you, then you will gladly give over your private data without a thought, to companies that view you as a product, and your privacy and anonymity as an afterthought.

If you believe that Facebook should not do to you, then you will be savvy about what you reveal online, where you reveal it, and to what company you give access to your data. You will interact with companies on the Internet who view you as a customer, and your privacy and anonymity as their first thought.

The preposition makes a difference.

If you believe that SnapChat should do for you, then you will gladly stay inside the walls of that communication garden, adopt the rules of the garden without thinking, and will complain when the rules of the garden are changed—as they inevitably will be—because you didn’t build SnapChat. Evan Speigel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown did.

If you believe that Dropbox should not do to you, then you will gladly pay for their premium service which protects your anonymity and expands company revenues in ways that allow it to continue to grow, because you will realize that you aren’t the product. The cloud storage is the product. And you won’t get caught the next time there’s a data breach.

The preposition makes a difference.

If you believe that AirBnB should do for you, then you will gladly applaud as they make changes to who can use their app as a part of their service, to reflect current political and social considerations based in long-simmering cultural passions, rather than revenue based considerations.

If you believe that Uber should not do to you, then you will sign petitions to bring Uber to your town, while also insisting on anonymity in driver data, protection from harassment from incumbents such as taxi drivers and others, and encourage the founders to develop robust responses to charges of sexual assault by drivers in countries not America.

The preposition makes a difference.

If you believe that the Internet should do for you, then you will happily engage with the Internet as a finite communication and connection tool. You will be happy inside walled communications (Skype), commodity (Gmail), and collaboration (GoToMeeting) gardens, and you won’t explore much further than those gardens. Because the Internet has too many options, is too confusing, changes too fast, and is too chaotic and scary to make an informed decision about services or products.

If you believe that the Internet should not do to you, then you will read blogs that have only been read by under 100 people or so, you will mourn the death of RSS feeds and will manage your email subscriptions carefully, and you will be unhappy with the “walled gardens” that the majority insist upon using. Because the Internet is infinite, never-ending, and like any other communication tool, requires self-control to manage, intuition and critical thinking to navigate, and patience to address on its own terms.

“For” you, or “to” you.

The preposition makes a difference.

When considering issues of online anonymity, harassment, bullying, bad behavior, privacy concerns, data breaches, and all the other unethical and illegal behavior being engaged in by individuals and corporations, the understanding of the difference in the meaning behind the preposition matters.

[Opinion] Reading Tea Leaves

By | Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Negotiation, New Posts, Old Posts, Opinions, Persuasion, Privacy, Problem Solving, Relationships, Technology, The Future & The Singularity

We like the prediction business because as human beings, we dislike uncertainty.

If we can know what’s going to happen next, we feel a sense of control.

If we know what’s going to happen next, then we put trust in our own ability and efficacy in order to “fix” whatever problems might arise.

If we know what’s going to happen next, then we feel as if there is a chance to gain safety and security in an insecure and chaotic world.

Psychics, soothsayers, and seers; analysts, pollsters, and pundits; politicians, priests, and professors; well-meaning prognosticators, all.

But see, the tension that lies deep down is between the soothing predictive words of person standing in front of us (or the person on our computer based devices) and the suspicion that we have, resonating from a deeper place of intuitive knowledge, that such predictions are false.

But since we can’t know the future, but we can prove the present, we buy into the lull of certainty that prediction gives us, and we err on the side of prediction, rather than dancing with the uncomfortableness of uncertainty.

Patience.

Being aware of, and secure in, the present.

Letting go emotionally of events that happened in the past.

Not needing to be in control of everything, all the time.

These are emotional skills that, once honed to a fine point, make human beings less susceptible to the predictions of well-meaning prognosticators.

Because the only thing that is guaranteed to be knowable, is that tomorrow will come, no matter how we feel about it.

HIT Piece 9.13.2016: Facebook-as-the-Internet

By | Emotional Intelligence, Blog, Entrepreneurship, Facebook, HIT Pieces, New Posts, Old Posts, Platform Building, Privacy, Social, Social Communication, Social Media, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Truth

You are probably going to read this post by clicking on a link from Facebook, if you read this at all.

More likely than not, you won’t read this if you see it posted on LinkedIn (it seems too arduous to click on an article, thus the increase of click-bait recently on the platform).

If you happen to see the link to the blog post on Twitter (I didn’t pay for it to trend, nor do I have enough heft to cut through the constant firehose of information on the platform) you most likely won’t read it either.

These three platforms (along with Google) have created an environment of ease of access, shareability of information, and have grown through social proofing (“Everybody else is there, so I must be there as well”) that their influence as media companies is now being seriously discussed by media companies still around from the 20th century.

This leads to three problems, beyond the obvious ones though:

  1. There are biases evident in both the algorithms that run these platforms (as usual, computer models and programs are created by human beings, and human beings have biases) but that phenomenon is compounded by the fact that the people using the platform the most have their own biases. The real struggle is not to get more human curators to do the work of curating that an algorithm is programmed to do. The real struggle for both human curators and the human programmed algorithms running in the background of these platforms, is to educate and inform the audience using the platforms in spite of their biases.
  2. Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pintrest, Snapchat, and on and on, are not the Internet. They are applications built atop the Internet. By only accessing information through these silos (the search engine Duck Duck Go actually gives better results than Google) the “lock-in” effect gets deeper and deeper in the person doing the search. This can be a positive. But it can also create myopia, willful ignorance, and a lack of curiosity about the world outside of these platforms.
  3. In the future, the social media and information communication platforms built on top of the Internet will become more fractured, not less. This is the reaction/response to the first two problems, and to solving the problem inherent in the sentence that opened this post. Eventually, more and more niche audiences, being less and less served by the platforms built at “mass” (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, et.al) will seek information out on the long-tail of options. There will be some reverting back to what came before social media (i.e. chatrooms, discussion boards, email listservs (I’m on two or three) and other tools) but eventually, niche audiences will seek access to their own silos outside the megaphone of established social media platforms.

Note, I did not say that these platforms would be profitable, popular to the masses, or easy for outsiders to integrate to and use. Reddit is already like this to some degree in its resistance to monetization, its relative openness, and its vain efforts to curtail its core users’ language and political preferences.

But as every woman seeks the promise behind being her own information queen, the seduction inherent in getting away from Facebook-as-the-Internet will grow in popularity and promise.

A Treatise on the Evil in the Human Heart

By | Active Listening, Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Culture, Dysfunction, Education, Emotional Intelligence, HIT Pieces, Leadership, New Posts, Old Posts, Opinions, Peacemaker, Privacy, Problem Solving, Reconciliation, Relationships, Resolution, Social Communication, Strategies, Strategy, Stress, Truth, Virtue

Jesan Sorrells of Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)

Some of the things that I am about to express today may offend you.

Some of the things that I am about to express may not apply to you.

But either way, they are statements, ideas, and conclusions, that have not been discussed enough lately in the discourse that has been permeating our long, national narrative for at least the last twenty-five years, but they are present most recently in our national non-discourse, since the death of a man in St. Louis last year.

Or maybe it was the death of a young boy in Florida.

The deaths are only the latest example of human beings engaged in the ultimate conflict—violence—with each other, as a way to resolve issues.

These deaths are troubling, but not for the obvious reasons that drive social media communications, meme generations, outraged postings, declaratory blog posts, media declarations, and the fake outrage of television pundits, entertainment celebrities, and social justice advocates.

These deaths are troubling because, instead of drawing the American (and global) population closer together, they (and their immediate, reactionary aftermath) seem to only drive people further apart, into separate camps, meme-ing and glowering at each other with outrageous social media declarations about “unfriending” people who disagree.

Their deaths are troubling because the underlying issue beneath of all of these deaths is never truly talked about, examined, or dissected.

Maybe because that issue appears to “obvious,” to “easy” to deal with, or perhaps, the issue appears to be so unsophisticated to our contemporary minds, that it overwhelms us with the depth of its simplicity.

But, much like Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is often the most accurate one.

But not the easiest one to solve.

[Opinion] The Dark Heart of Man

***

 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” ― Aleksandr SolzhenitsynThe Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

Discussion about the depth, breadth, and nature of the problem of human evil—and changing the hearts and minds of the people who have a propensity to do evil rather than to do good—gets less and less sweeping media coverage of any kind these days.

Collectively, we have decided in the United States (with much of the rest of the world not far behind)—that people (both individually and at scale) will just be perfect (or can at least be coerced into being good) if enough laws are passed, if enough people are socially sanctioned and made uncomfortable about holding and expressing uncomfortable opinions, and if the public responds quickly enough to get outsiders to straighten up.

We believe the Rousseauian myth (though he was not the first to express it) that man is driven to commit evil because of inequalities in society (a society, of course built by imperfect men) that manifest through the disparate gossamer of poverty, racism, sexism, or whatever phobia there is of the moment.

Culturally, we accept that the root of human evil is not based in a soul fallen through the curse of Original Sin (I mean…who wants to talk about sin?), but instead we believe that evil lies somewhere buried in deep in all of the social structures humans have invented, built and maintained over time.

We genuinely believe that if we just change the structures, either gradually or immediately, that justice will be meted out, that death will come only to the guilty, and that peace and freedom without consequence will reign.

And that would be a fine, worthy set of beliefs to pursue, if they weren’t proven catastrophically wrong, time, and time again.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Aaron Burr shooting Alexander Hamilton in a meaningless duel over politics, honor, and expedience.

The Hutus and the Tutsis engaged in genocidal mass slaughter with machetes in Rwanda in the 1990’s.

All over the world today, children wake up and are abused, beaten, and even worse, on their way to adulthoods, where they will continue the patterns of senseless abuse with their children.

A few days ago, a man shot police officers doing their job.

A few days before that, a man was shot in a traffic stop.

A few weeks before that, a man shot 50 people in a nightclub who weren’t bothering anybody.

A few months before that, a child was shot in a neighborhood scuffle.

And for years upon years, the crime rate in major cities in America has been ticking ever so slowly downward, even as the heinousness of the crimes that created public ripples through immediate reporting shock us even more with their depravity.

A few days ago, a college student got drunk and raped another college student.

A few years ago, cocaine, and then crack addiction were tearing up cities with murders, thefts, and all other manner of depravity.

And now heroin is doing the same thing, in “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” rural areas populated by the poor, the abused, and the neglected.

A few decades ago, some cops pulled a man out of a car in LA and beat him, seemingly without provocation—and no one put down the camera to stop them.

A few decades ago, violent riots swept through cities, following an endless spate of assassinations that no government entity could prevent.

In the 1930’s a government put the pressure to its own citizens and ultimately drove many of them into gas chambers, putting the horrifyingly apt title of The Final Solution to a process that had previously had no designation, other than the term pogrom, going back into the Middle Ages.

The examples overwhelm because at the bottom, they are about the depravity and evil of the human heart, which is desperately wicked, desperately ego-driven and selfish, and desperately desirous to do whatever may come to mind unto others without consequence, rather than having anything done unto them.

The typical, rule/sanction based bulwarks of religion, government, and even social sanctioning are gradually losing their ability to sway people away from committing individual acts of evil. Paradoxically, they are gradually swinging toward passively supporting, more and more, collectively larger acts of systemic institutional evil, because, as the Founding Fathers noted in the Declaration of Independence “…all experience has shown, that mankind is more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

And as the rule/sanction moorings fall away, one by one, the only thing that is left between people are relationships; the ties that bind, as it were. And even those are tenuous, at best, without something else buttressing them.

Do black lives matter?

Do white lives matter?

Do cop lives matter?

Do civilian lives matter?

Do children’s lives matter?

Do women’s lives matter?

Do men’s lives matter?

Do rich people’s lives matter?

Do poor people’s lives matter?

Does changing the human heart matter?

Does it start with you?

Peace Begins with You

***

And now we are at the crux of the current manifestation of the age-old matter in our digital age.

No hashtag ever changed a thing.

In person change has always been fraught with difficulty, misunderstandings, miscommunications, negative escalations, and conflicts. When people talk with each other face-to-face there is always the opportunity for confusion and conflict, particularly if the conversation in question is questioning deeply held stories around values, worldviews, and frames.

It takes a lot of emotional quickening to escalate from a conversation to a confrontation to a conflict to a fistfight to a war. There are many discrete steps in face-to-face communication that social norming has established, developed, and refined for thousands of years to limit such escalation. But, as is always the case, human beings’ tools for communication get better, friction and misunderstanding increases, even as the speed of communication increases, and conflicts flare up.

From carrier pigeons to riders on horseback to the telephone to mail by airplane to emails and now Twitter, there have always been people who would rather fight to hold onto the status quo in their hearts, than take a risk and explore a different way. As the speed of our tools has increased how fast we get a message and then react to it, (going from days or weeks to micro-seconds) there hasn’t been a commensurate increase in the heart of rational contemplation.

Thus we get to social media communication.

The collective social media population reacts within seconds to an offense that culminates publicly only after brewing deeply in a human heart for years, and then uses the immediacy of social communication tools to psychologically manipulate people on the other end of the message into reacting rather than thinking.

And there’s really only two reactions available: fight or flight.

Not a measured argument.

Not a reasonable discourse.

Not knowledge or growth.

They are looking for either a respondent’s heels or their fangs.

In the case of the Internet, and the communication tools we have built on top of it, we have exchanged immediacy for escalation, and have confused personal passion driven by our reactions for legitimacy of an assertion.

Ease of access to digital tools also allows our solutions to deeply heart-based problems to be focused on the tawdry and the spectacle—which is short term—instead of the deliberative and the reasonable—which is long-term.

No hashtag ever saved a child.

Our desire to comment, burn, and react on the basis of spectacle, indicates that the type of communication we desire is that which will be friction free, painless, non-relationally based communication, when we want it, how we want it, that allows us to do what we want, when we want, how we want.

But this is an inherently selfish and vain position, a reaction from deep in the human heart to strike immediately at those who hurt us. A reaction that culminates in employing the phraseology of escape (“Please “unfriend” me if you disagree with me”) rather than the language of understanding, compassion, and recognition that we are all fallen.

We are all in need of justice with mercy, compassion with understanding, and reconciliation without strings.

No hashtag ever made a traffic stop less dangerous, or more dangerous.

Online communication will always be fraught with difficulty and no amount of changing a name policy, policing speech we don’t like, or building walls and doors into our platforms (or our physical lives), is going to prevent than difficulty.

The solution to all of this, as with most things, lies in changing the motivations, the drives, and the worrying tendencies deep in the dark heart of man. But we cannot begin this change under our own power.

My long, troubled, questioning journey through physics, philosophy, politics, and even religion, has convinced me that the solution to the all of these motivations, drives, and worrying tendencies, endlessly repeated from one news cycle to another, lies first in individually establishing a heart-felt, meaningful, personal relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer, reading the Bible, and joining with others in community of all races, genders, orientations, and beliefs.

But many people (some of whom are my friends on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms) are unwilling to believe that the solution to all of this depravity is this simple. Some of you (if you’ve made it this far) will probably be vehemently disagreeing with me. Some of you will be confusing the ineffective, rule/sanction based bulwark of religion, with meaningful relationship with other people in Christ.

I welcome your feedback.

I am friends (and nominal associates) with all manner of races, sexual orientations, political positions, and religious/non-religious people on many social platforms. I do not run from disagreement on this conclusion, and I welcome questioning.

Because I am talking about relationships.

Real ones.

When you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, not a rule based relationship, you don’t go it a nightclub and shoot people. No matter how egregious their life choices may seem to you in the natural.

When you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, you pray for those who have wronged you racially, ethnically, and socially, and you let those prayers change your mindsets, behaviors and attitudes before you put on your policing uniform.

When you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, you let that relationship determine when to disobey (civilly) those in authority, when to obey (in civilly) those in authority, and when to let God sort it out.

When you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, you are not frightened, worried, or consumed by human injustice perpetrated by human actors; instead you are emboldened to act with courage in the face of all of that, knowing that Jesus walks before you—so who can be against you?

When you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, you are able to forgive your enemies before they do unto you, without rancor, without judgment, and without fear of what you will lose.

I am convinced, now more than ever, that the greatest impact we will ever have on each other—the greatest ability that we will ever display to others to show them how to “destroy a piece of [their] own hearts” is by walking out the love, compassion, and nonviolent response exemplified in the life, actions, and words of Jesus Christ, to people whose opinions, positions, and even behavior and actions, we find to be scary, repulsive, revolting, and even violating human decency.

Our role is not to deal out death (whether that be rhetorical death via a social media post or literal death via a weapon) in judgement, for who can know all ends of the human heart?

Who can predict how walking out the impact of a relationship that goes above all human knowledge will affect that other person who disagrees—even unto death?

No hashtag ever generated a relationship with Christ in another human being.

***

The solutions are simple, but not easy.

Teach your children to use kind words with each other and role model not looking at the phone.

Go and talk to your neighbor who disagrees with you politically, economically, racially, scientifically, emotionally, and find out why they disagree through actively listening to them, rather than making a judgment.

Take the inner journey toward Jesus Christ, with or without a Bible believing church behind you. This journey—if you take it as seriously as you take protesting, demonstrating, and inspirational posting—will change your heart fundamentally, if you let it. It is no surprise that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a practicing Reverend first, and then a nonviolent demonstrator, and then a public hero.

No matter what your title, your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, your desires, or your needs, begin with changing the world, by changing yourself—your own dark heart—first.

Avoid dealing out metaphorical (or even literal) death in judgment, and instead lead with compassion.

For justice without mercy is merely dressed up revenge.

And mercy without justice is merely watered down passivity.

We are all called to be active, not passive, players in this life, regardless of our title, our position in life, our past history, or our current situation.

I am not preaching human love. I am not advocating for human understanding. I am not writing for more of the same thing that doesn’t work. I am not telling you who to vote for. I am not telling you what church to go to. I am not telling you what pundit’s video to reTweet, or what meme to post.

I am focused, laser-like, on uplifting you toward examining yourself first and then looking at others. I am focused laser-like on destroying pieces of my own heart that are capable of evil. I am focused laser-like on attaining and facilitating the justice that Jesus Christ would have me attain and facilitate, rather than engaging over and over again with my own anger, disappointment, and disgust.

And the diamond through which I am shining that laser-like focus is my real relationship with Jesus Christ.

The solutions cannot be all wrapped up neatly at the end of a 2700-word + essay, because the problems are buried deep in the human heart.

They’ve been going on since man disobeyed God in the garden of Eden, and then, Cain slew Abel and his blood cried out from the ground for justice.

They’ve been going on since Abraham bargained with God for the preservation of Sodom and Gomorrah.

They’ve been going on since the Romans burned Christians as pyres to light Nero’s palace.

They’ve been going on since the Catholic Church killed Jews and other non-believers, in the Inquisition.

They’ve been going on since one part of our country decided that they would rather engage in an apocalyptic Civil War than give up the trade of humans as chattel.

They’ve been going on since Vladimir Lenin decided that in order to make a “perfect world” he would have to break some eggs.

They’ve been going on since Hutus and Tutsis destroyed Lake Victoria with each other’s dead bodies.

They’ve been going on since a cop shot a man in a car for no other reason than he appeared to be threatened.

We cannot begin changing others under our own power until we change ourselves first.

If we could, we would have done it already.

We need more Jesus, not less.

And not the Jesus we make up to make ourselves feel comfortable about our human evils, and to justify our judgements and decisions, but the Jesus who is what He says He is.

Or else…well…just look at the headlines, the videos, the news reports, and the decay of interaction to see what the inevitable outcome will look like.