Sunday, January 17, 2016

Progress Report – New Year, New Rules

To be honest, I should put the word “Progress” in quotes.  As in, not much, really.

Also to be honest, I wasn’t going to do this at all.  At least, not yet.  My first post of 2016 (New Year, New Rules) was about the changes I was going to make in my approach to social media.  The reasons were clear – I was getting frustrated and new that something had to change.  I decided that what would change would be me, and my technique, hoping that others would follow suit, and we could have rational, civilized discussions.

I was burned out by the first weekend.

I hit the “third rail” of topics on social media over those first few days of January.  No, not money, sex, and religion – guns, ACA (that’s ObamaCare to some of you), and football.  Honestly, football was the worst of the three, but the others were no picnic.  The reason for the burn out is simple:  I forgot that it takes two to tango, or to have a dialogue.  Some folks don’t want dialogue unless theirs is the only talking point.

Not everyone was like that.  Sure, the folks who agree with me were pleasant and charming, and, of course, correct.  Even MOST of those who took an opposing viewpoint were civil, forthright, and brought evidence to back up their point.

But not everyone, and that was my initial concern.  I thought that by making certain my posts and responses were respectful and well-thought-out, others would do likewise.  It didn’t always work, to the point where it was asked more than once if, we could ever find common ground.

On some issues, sure.
On all issues, no. 

We’re all a bit different.  We may think alike on some things, and differently on others.  Sometimes, very differently.  That’s OK.  I have spoken about being “weird” and a bit different from others, and the truth is we all have a little weirdness in us.  We’re ALL a bit different, and admitting this is the first step to making common ground.

My big lesson in “we’re all the same except where we differ” came nearly 25 years ago.  I was managing a new public radio station in Louisiana, and the format covered “the big three” – news, classical music, and jazz.  Public radio, by its very definition, aims for audiences that are not served by commercial stations, which was one reason we played both jazz and classical music.  This didn’t seem to bother the jazz fans too much (they’re used to it), but the classical fans were, to put it mildly, in an uproar.

I attended a local classical concert and after the show was cornered by many of our listeners.  The point they wanted to make was simple – it was “easy to see” that “everyone” (their word) enjoyed classical music, so why didn’t we play more of it? I argued that we had a variety of audiences to try to please, etc.  It went like this…

PATRON 1:  But everyone wants more classical music.  We ALL agree.
ME:  Well, it’s obvious you like classical.  We’re at a concert! 
PATRON 1: Yes, and it’s wonderful.  Add more classical.
ME:  We can’t.  There’s no room in the schedule to add more.
PATRON 1: Sure there is.  Get rid of that darned Car Talk program.  It’s awful.
PATRON 2: No it’s not.  I LOVE that show, it’s funny.  Get rid of the Metropolitan Opera.
PATRON 1: Not the opera. Everyone loves opera.
PATRON 2: I sure don’t.  It sucks.
PATRON 1: You suck.
PATRON 2: Fuck you.

OK, maybe it wasn’t quite like that, but you get the idea.  In fact, as I was finishing this post, there were two discussions online just like this that were being played out by individuals who I have either (a) agreed with in the past on most everything, and (b) disagreed on most everything.  Just to reaffirm that even those who agree on some things can disagree on others (and in one case it was almost worth getting some popcorn).

We can’t possibly agree on everything.  We can continue to be civil.  Therefore, I will continue with my plan, but with modifications.  I will discuss the changes I plan to make, and what changed in me, tomorrow.

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