In grad school, I had the opportunity to hear a former US ambassador speak. It was a very enlightening experience, and a fascinating insight into how our diplomatic processes work (especially as it related to the post-Cold War world).
I have a question that I like to ask when I meet someone new, and I posed it to the ambassador: "What's the most important thing you learned?"
After a few seconds of thoughtful hesitation, he grinned and said, "I learned to talk less."
"We are for the most part a highly introverted industry, and yet we tend to give in to a terrible vice: Twitter, and the need to make noise"
Today, I'm going to talk about something I'm very passionate about: Quiet.
We have an odd juxtaposition in our industry. We are for the most part a highly introverted industry, and yet we tend to give in to a terrible vice: Twitter, talking too much, and the need to make noise. People are naturally uncomfortable with silence, so there's an impulse to be noticed. After all, humans are social creatures.
This is not to apprise those who tweet and put themselves out there - I'm just as bad as anyone else. I check Twitter too much, I absorb information that probably doesn't make my day any more productive, and I complain to friends that the world is too noisy. Twitter is probably bad for introverts, but I still do it (so maybe you should ignore this article entirely).
Maybe this article is for my fellow Millennials. Maybe it is geared toward industry vets who have huge followings. Maybe it is geared towards just you.
Let's talk less, and do more.
There's a specific string of numbers I'd like to invoke, and I apologize in advance: 2016.
The amount of my peers that I witnessed spewing vitriol was astounding (inside and outside of this industry). You can support or protest anyone or anything without cursing up a storm, which may come as a surprise to many. I don't care if you're liberal or conservative, Catholic or atheist, Pastafarian or from the church of Steve Gaynor - I do care if you're being nice to people, productively adding to conversation, and trying to create things.
"What have you done lately to help someone else? When was the last time you put some optimism into the world?"
This happened just a few days ago: I was at a checkout screen for a game from a developer whose work intrigued me. I was stoked to support a peer and see what I could learn from their art. Before I purchased, I went back to Twitter to find something specific they had mentioned for new players... and I was greeted with them hurling some very colorful insults at a politician.
I didn't buy the game.
Here's another: We were hiring for a quick contract job, and I was scanning through portfolios. I found someone through Twitter after seeing their work retweeted. I was excited to see more, so I clicked on their profile. What was I greeted with? Just like above, someone being nasty to a figure they didn't particularly like. People seemed to really like this person and talked about how talented they were, but the lack of professionalism was immediately apparent to me.
I didn't pick them.
How many opportunities are you costing yourself by (publicly) giving into those 'hot takes', how much you despise politicians, the status quo, or something else entirely?
What have you done lately to help someone else?
When was the last time you put some optimism into the world?
"All of this stemming from 140 characters so frequently disguised as 'just being myself'. Is it really?"
There's a worldwide service organization that you may have heard of called Rotary International, and its guiding principle is something called the Four Way Test, which is:
- Is it the TRUTH?
- Is it FAIR to all concerned?
- Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
- Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
I argue that we should embrace a similar philosophy in our conversations. This isn't just for Millennials (God knows we hear enough on that topic), but for everyone in this industry.
All of this is just relating to ordinary conversation and everyday discussions, of course. I need not delve into the horrific and depressing ways that social media is used as a vessel of hate towards women, minorities, and the LGBT communities, an occurrence far too common in our industry.
This goes beyond complaining about politics; in the worst of cases, people are fearing for their lives because others have decided to harass them on social media (and, terrifyingly, to bring it into the real world) over something they have said. This is unacceptable, and it should not be normal.
It becomes a paradox. Our goal should be to speak openly, learn from each other, and positively and constructively critique one another while engaging with our peers and our customers; but unfortunately, this more often than not results in bouts of organized hatred and harassment against those with good intentions. For those with bad intentions, it simply sours our industry.
All of this stemming from 140 characters so frequently disguised as "just being myself."
Is it really?
"Don't aim for kindness. Practice it. Make our industry a better place by your actions, and sparingly, by your words."
Life lessons one day come back to help you in odd ways, so here's my final anecdote: My mother taught me a lot about how to carry myself. One particular lesson is a universal self-assessment tool that can be applied to any situation.
Each time that I wanted to make a 'big' purchase, I would be filled with dread that the question was coming: "Do you want it, or do you need it?"
I pose a challenge: Before hitting "Post" on your next ideological tangent, ask yourself, "Do I want to say this, or do I need to say this?"
Odds are, it's the former.
Counter the tendency to put everything out there by actually putting things out there. Help someone with a project for no other reason than to be of service to someone. Mentor a new developer and let your actions speak louder than words. Put some happy things into your feed so other people smile.
Perhaps this article was a grand treatise stemming from this tweet.
me these days when I'm like "maybe i'll just take al ook at what's goin on in the ol' twitter timeline" pic.twitter.com/B3OhZKVcbg— Steve Gaynor (@SteveGaynorPDX) December 4, 2016
You may think this piece was related to a certain E3 reveal and its creator's past tweets, but I wrote this article a month before E3 and only recently decided to revisit it after seeing the cycle repeat. Who even knows?
What I do know is this: The people in this world that I respect the most are those who are calculated, selfless, and don't complain. They also aren't very active on social media, but correlation does not equal causation.
Don't aim for kindness. Practice it. Make our industry a better place by your actions, and sparingly, by your words. If I could recommend a perfect example of this, Brie Code is full of wisdom and positivity - she lives this mantra, and I believe we all should too.
It was once said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Let's endeavor to put as much good into the world as possible, and not make our public conversations the window looking into the wrong representation of ourselves.