Culture of Immediacy

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.

You Were Already Angry Before the Internet Came Along

When people talked with each other across the fences in the backyard, they knew (with some certainty, though certainly not ontological certainty) which of their neighbors were angry and which were pleasant.

The bowling league, the local bar, the country club, and even the grocery store served as locations that allowed people to bump into each other in ways both random and purposeful, and to take each other’s’ temperature about the news of the day.

There were opportunities for thought leaders, opinion makers, and public intellectuals to educate the public about what they believed, and because first the Church, and then the government, and then the corporations acted as gatekeepers, democracy of thought and passion was tamped down successfully enough.

If you were an individual looking to step out from the shadow of conformity and the comfort of the crowd, there were few venues that existed for you to walk out those minority viewpoints, and the gatekeepers of the majority existed primarily to ensure that the minority was never heard from.

Or at least, rarely heard from.

Fighting for a minority belief against a seemingly overwhelming power structure became sauce for the cooking of the goose of ideas, and passions, and sometimes, those ideas broke through the dominant culture, leaped over the gatekeepers and struck a chord with millions of people.

In the 4th great human revolution, the one being driven by a global communication channel known as the Internet, the gatekeepers have little power to police, minority voices and viewpoints can connect with each other and influence like never before, and you know how angry your neighbor is, because she tweeted out a passionate comment last week and it popped up in your feed.

Here’s the thing that we forget, in light of the technological show being put on by the Internet now:

Your neighbor was always angry and disgruntled about the way that the world fundamentally worked.

There were always minority viewpoints in the culture, looking for connection, engagement, and searching for meaning against a dominant culture that was perceived as arrogant, conformist and overbearing.

The bowling league, the local bar, the country club, and even the grocery store have been replaced first by chat rooms, and now by the “impermanent” web, and will be replaced further by whatever comes next.

Since the magnification of a problem is not the same as the problem’s ‘root cause,’ it should come as no surprise to us that people are at the root of our angry, passionate, loud discourse, on an open, democratic and connecting tool.

We all can now say, due to the overwhelming evidence and with almost ontological certainty, that if we fix the people the tool will magically change.

HIT Piece 9.13.2016: Facebook-as-the-Internet

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, 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.

[Advice] Burl Ives Was Wrong…

It’s the eve before Christmas in the Western world, and if you adhere to the Christian faith (or you just like getting and giving) then you’re trying to prepare for a holly, jolly…well, you know…

Personally, I’m annoyed by Burl Ives’s voice, but the fact the matter is, that the holiday season has changed for many people in the United States and throughout the West.

Call it the backlash against consumerism, the wreck of the post-Industrial Revolution age in which we all now live or the backwash from the events of 2001 and 2008, but there is the image of the holiday season, pushed and promoted through advertising, marketing and media, and then there is the lived reality.

When the legend becomes reality (or fact) the old admonition used to be to “print the legend.” And while that admonition still holds in too many public spheres, the fact is that much of the Western public, privately has moved on, forging new meaning and new definitions for this time of the year. And the fact that those definitions and meanings don’t show up in a Youtube video, or in a television advertisement, doesn’t make them less valid.

Things have changed in three areas:

Family experiences seem to matter more than gifts: Much is regularly made about how the “definition of family is changing” or has shifted in the last 40 years, but quite honestly, people still travel and communicate with people than they know, like and love over the holiday season now, more than ever before.

Public political proclamations don’t matter much at private holiday get together’s: Yes, Uncle Don came out last year after 15 years of being in the closet and is bringing his husband to dinner. Yes, Niece Sharon is 34 and had a child without a “man” in her life and is bringing the new child to dinner. Yes, Cousin Matt is a political conservative and a business man who just married an African-American woman who is a vegetarian and won’t eat the turkey.

A lot is made of these surface divisions in the media, political writing, and even in marketing, but the fact is, family and friends either get over it, or they fake it like they have until the person (or persons) have left, in order to preserve the peace, aiming at the higher goal of “family togetherness.” This is not wrong, this is not right. This just is. And for all of the family strife that is typically marketed (or displayed) in individuals’ Facebook feeds, the vast majority still gather around a table with people they disagree with.

The gadgets are not anymore the separators than the newspaper and television were 40 years ago: Are people on the screens more often? Yes, because there are more options and more screens than ever before. But while screen time may have increased, the sharing of that screen time with others cannot be accurately measured. The gadgets may separate, but they also draw together, and at the furthest end, are disconnected from when it comes time to engage with meaningful, face-to-face communication.

So, maybe Burl Ives was right, and maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know. But while our tools have changed and transformed, the internal stuff that makes us people hasn’t shifted dramatically in a few thousand years.

I think someone else pointed this fact out to stunned crowds without the benefit of high technology around 2000 years ago as well.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Advice]The 3-Fold Path to Self-Awareness

The more work we do through training others to get in touch with themselves, the more and more surprised we are by how few people in organizations are in touch with themselves.

Emotional Illiteracy

There are three pieces to self-awareness:

  • The ability to be vulnerable—which is typically translated as “the ability to be wrong,” but that’s a misnomer and faulty definition. Being vulnerable means knowing when to show your heart…and when to keep it hidden.
  • The ability to be authentic—which is usually confused with being vulnerable, but that’s a surface understanding. Being authentic means being able to let down your emotional guards enough to “make a fool of” yourself, and to be able to accept the consequences of what that means.
  • The ability to be transparent—which is usually transposed into the question asked most often in our trainings: “Do I really have to tell my [insert name of group I’d rather not be transparent with here] everything that I do?” No. But in order to become self-aware, the first step toward being emotionally literate, a person has to be comfortable with honesty and beyond the crippling effects of shame.

Without attaining those three pieces of self-awareness–vulnerability, authenticity, and transparency–getting to emotional literacy will be impossible for any individual.

And in the organization of today—and the future—emotional literacy, spearheaded with self-awareness, will be the trait of leadership that separates organizations which thrive from those that merely survive.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: