Social Networks: Having Vs. Being

Erich Fromm for PIFALI wrote a bit about being an introvert and building a social network of value in response to John Hagel’s post about measuring you’re real net worth.

There is, of course, more to it than what I wrote. To me, it revolves around two major things: Form vs. Function and Having vs. Being.

Speaking for myself, I’m a big fan of function over form – and being instead of having. These are two philosophical distinctions that separate me from what seems to be mainstream from my perspective.

Function Over Form

I have a 4×4 pickup that is set up for going offroad, but not with anything extraneous: What is there is there to meet a purpose, no more and no less. In my mind, anything but that is inefficient and wasteful. If I lifted the pickup higher, it would be unmanageable cornering on the roads – and would put the center of gravity much higher than I would want it given the hills I navigate in the bush on my land. I do not have more aggressive tires because they would be a liability on the road – but I do not have less aggressive tires because they would be a liability in the mud on my land. There’s a balance. And the vehicle is usually dirty to some extent, but always functionally sound. I am completely about function.

In contrast, I know someone with a 4×4, all white, street tires and just about every piece of plastic bolt on product you could find on his vehicle. He washes this pickup so often I’m surprised he hasn’t rubbed the paint off of it yet. He’s all about… form.

When it comes to my networks, I’m not a namedropper, and I don’t care who else someone knows or how famous they are or aren’t. I do not value people in my network based on what other people value them as – that, to me, is form. Instead, I care about what the people themselves have to offer of themselves, as well as their own expectations.

This is an intrinsic part of network building, where the mainstream – those more interested in popularity (form) are less interested in understanding (at least in my mind) and therefore truths (function).

I choose function every time.

Having vs. Being

I don’t ‘have’ connections in the way that social networks deliver their networks. I don’t count them, I do not see them as scalar quantities – I see them as vectors, as matrices of humanity that I connect to. I do not have them just as I do not have slaves; I exist with them.

This is in contrast to those that count their success by metrics, typically scalar, and these metrics are easily gamed by the echo chambers of social media where like minds rise in chorus even with bad voices and bad tunes – and, honestly, some reprehensible lyrics.

The Downside.

The downside of not having an echo chamber is that you don’t have an echo chamber. People don’t repost things you might offer, they don’t necessarily spread what you wish to spread – and I see this largely as a good thing with unfortunate consequences while in an open system where people do have echo chambers that can drown out individual voices.

So you’re likely not going to become popular this way. If you do become popular this way, it means that you are truly appreciated as opposed to not truly appreciated.

And this all revolves around what you actually value.

Respect, Trust

RespectWe know a few things about respect: it has to be earned and it’s hard to get back when lost. This parallels trust – trust and respect go hand in hand this way.

Can you trust someone you don’t respect? Can you respect someone you don’t trust? There is nuance in there beyond the black and white responses, the default ‘no’ we are taught as children.

We can trust someone we do not respect to do what is in their ‘nature’. In fact, some even expect it of them: A simple label can conjure up images of what such a person is or might do based on what they have done. That label and ‘trust’ is what builds out our negative prejudices (yes, there are good prejudices as well). Feminists often make the case that simply being a woman means that they are ‘trusted’ to be certain *things*, objectified in their own way. Black Live Matters makes a similar case about people of African descent (paying lip service to other minorities), Blue Lives Matter makes a similar case about police. We trust for better and worse that people will act in certain ways based on other things in common.

It should scare people slightly that this is how we write our software that analyzes data as well.

But there are good things about such stereotypes, too. We are more friendly with certain people, more comfortable around certain people where we blend in well. Those of lesser pallor will quite obviously feel more comfortable with those of their pallor, and those of greater pallor the same. People who wear jeans are more comfortable around those that wear jeans, those in suits feel more comfortable around people of business attire.

The problem isn’t respect as much as it is trust. It’s what we trust others to do that is the problem, our brains evolved for survival in a planet that we have become dominant over except in a few special cases.

So the next time you distrust someone – which is just trust in a different direction (for the nerds, it’s a vector instead of a scalar) – take a moment and allow that trust to change.

Or don’t and submit yourself to the status quo.

Entropy

Trigonomorphose toroïdale de l’illusion centripète de l’Être à travers l'n-sphère de l’in-formation centrifuge de l’Entre actualisant une ligne-de-fuite dans les linéaments virtuels de la Voie (dào) entrouverte par le Souffle (qì) du Vide Médian (taìjítú)Things fall apart.

Things come together.

We call this entropy when we don’t understand how or why, a derivative of our inability to predict things that happen. When good things happen, people call it serendipity. When bad things happen, people call it bad luck.

All that entropy is… is a failure for us to understand encapsulated in a word that allows us to put it outside of ourselves and blame.

There is no entropy. There is no serendipity. Everything happens in it’s own time.

Alone

Sunrise AloneYou can ignore being alone through the hard times, pushing forward out of sheer force of will – because that’s sometimes what it takes: grit, determination and tenacity coupled with strategy, observation, constant adjustments… it soon becomes a place where people do not tread because there’s simply too much to explain.

How many times have I been deep in thought, with what some people mistake as an angry face when instead it’s a face of focus? And they think I won’t let them in when the reality is that if I let it out, I’ll spend so much time explaining things that everyone will get frustrated? I am certain I am not alone in that.

The point is you get used to that, living in the simulation of reality in your head with as much data as you can possibly absorb and derive. And in these castles in the mind, you don’t realize you’re alone.

Until you have a victory. And then you look around and realize no one is there.

So you go after the next problem.

The Fish Monger

fishmongerWe don’t understand very much, and we’re not particularly good at anything other than multiplying. It’s a dark and ugly thing to say for those who don’t see the cracks in their worlds, pasted together by faith in what they have been taught to have faith in. That faith isn’t necessarily religious – in fact, most fervor doesn’t seem to be.

Underneath this umbrella of faith that shields us from reality, we live these lives of quiet desperation that Thoreau wrote about, becoming the tools of our tools. A fish can live in a system – a school, oddly enough – and survive long enough to procreate without being pressed into conformity: Lack of conformity means death by predator. Humanity is it’s own predator, where what is good for some is not good for others, where tribes divide more than they collect. Lilliputians, all.

We teach children to seek out happiness, to seek out security through financial instruments and societal connections even at the cost of principle – because principle is relative to how bad someone wants something.

When one looks beyond all this, seeing it for what it is and all the nuances that come from it, it’s hard not to be angry, hard not to be frustrated or depressed – unless, of course, you already have some security. We hold together our lives sometimes only by strength of will… and our society does the same, but our societies around the world do not have the will to maintain the present systems because the majority with less security do not feel the need. Security and the need for change are not directly proportional. It is what it is.

The fish in the center of the ball of fish are the most safe from predators… but the net catches them all the same.

What a strange aquarium we live in.

Games and Life

CandyCrushSodaI play games.

There, I said it. From playing the remasters of Homeworld II to Civilization 5. And, for those moments when I’m waiting around, I play Candy Crush Soda off and on.

There are lessons.

I’m at level 560 – an area that presently only has 3 high scores, whereas lower levels are full of high scores – about 8 I think. Few have bothered to come this far in the game, probably switching to something new. The same holds for other games I play.

The same holds true for everything I do.

Maybe I could write about tenacity, how the games that are fun are only so when they become challenging. At the levels I play at, I am challenged. Without challenge – if things are too easy – they are not fun. The more difficult something is, the more of a challenge it is, and the more of a triumph when you get further along. In Candy Crush Soda, I know that only two others have made it further than I. It’s tough.

And it depends, sometimes, on serendipity – like Life. You can make all the right moves and lose. Sometimes you make some wrong moves and win. Serendipity. Sometimes you can use all your advantages that you have accrued and still fail, sometimes you can use them and it’s overkill. Just like Life.

Sometimes you fail. Sometimes you win. But if you keep pushing, you eventually win.

And ultimately, you lose.

That’s Life.

And in the end, every game has you playing by someone else’s rules – and you learn a lot about rules and how games are made simply by playing them beyond where others give up.

Just like Life.

Habits

aristotle quote blueWe are sometimes victims of our habits, and those around us. Sometimes we reap rewards because of them.

Alone, we navigate these – sometimes as wayfarers, picking our way through them with goals, and sometimes we bumble through like the lost at sea, unaware, with serendipity perhaps pushing us in the right direction now and then. As communities and societies, it’s done much the same way – with the added reinforcement that the individual gets for being amenable to what society wants.

revolutionary individualThe rebel, the would-be revolutionary, is the one who breaks habits, perhaps wayfaring, perhaps through simple carelessness, perhaps through a self-imposed role of contrarian.

The rebel believes that they are alone, the revolutionary believes that they are not.

Regardless, society’s habits do not change unless those of the individuals at a certain tipping point change, those of the individual do not change unless the individual sees value in it, and what the individual sees value in can be fickle.

Pigs in mud are content, dogs with fleas can be having never been without them.