23 March 2011

Keep Calm and Carry On

Currently Pushing: Paris Review's Culture Diaries. I've been following this for a second, dating back to Maud Newton's week. I've also been following New York magazine's Sex Diaries, because of this article, but you know, I like the culture one better.

I like to know what people do every day -- not the actual quotidian stuff, more the what's on their mind and what they're thinking about bits. The Culture Diaries make references to things I know nothing about, and that's always exciting.

Oftentimes I wish I could sit around watching my friends browse the Internet. While this may seem absolutely boring to most people, I like to observe people's online habits. Do they save pages for later, do they type fast, do they read or skim, what sites do they open first in the day? There's a few startups focused on doing exactly this. But I can't begin to think how enough people would want to share their browsing habits. Then again, maybe there are people out in the world who do care about these things. I for one, would be fascinated to study people's interactions with the Internet.

Actually, recently I was reading an article about how Twitter has (positively) changed people's lives. Most of my real life friends do their best to avoid social media, treating it as both invasive and a bother. One great point someone made in the article was that discovering an outside world of prolific Tweeters, Tumblrs, and reposters has provided them interaction with people who are also hard wired to be networkers. See, I'm always trying to push stuff on people. "Try this, download that, click on here." I have this need to share things that I think are awesome. In my normal life, few people are like that, so I find that I'm usually the one throwing stuff at people, hoping something will stick.

However, my attitude recently has changed. Instead of trying to push things to the people with built in resistance, I'm just gonna throw it out there and if you want to explore it, you do. If you don't, I'm gonna call off the full court press. Probably for your benefit as well as mine. (This should probably be added to my list of 2011 declarations.) This clearly applies more to my real life experiences since my online existence is all about pushing things. Sorry Internet, I'm still gonna digital vomit all over you.

With that said, in a related conversation with someone the other day, we were categorizing our friends based on how well they listen to others. Not in general, but very specifically in the area of taking advice. We decided that some people approach us genuinely seeking answers and suggestions but some people approach us seeking an opinion that will not necessarily lead to change or actual consideration of our position. We've discovered that this is merely the advice askers performing their due diligence.

Short and hypothetical example. My friend is about to buy a laptop. H/she decides to consult me for whatever reason, probably knowing I sort of know about such things. They already know I'm a pro-Mac consumer; of course I'd suggest a Mac all other things being equal. In this case, after weeks of walking them through variations of "just get a Mac," it turned out that what they really wanted was the validation of having talked to a Mac person before heading out to buy a PC.

I'm not objecting to being consulted. I mean, I'm fully capable of giving someone advice with their viewpoint in mind and generally like to help. While I'd personally never recommend a Macbook Air, I could suggest one to you if you lay out the qualifications and proper reasoning. The part I'm giving up on is fighting for the sale. I'm through getting invested in a life decision when it's pretty clear you're just looking to be contrarian. In the future I'll submit my recommendation and then be done with it. We'll both go through the motions so that everyone feels better in the end. I'd rather turn my attention to the people who can be easily swayed to my side. I'd only like to evangelize to the weak minded and quickly influenced, that's my new qualification!

I mean, there's a very short list of things people call on me to consult for -- probably for good reason. But when I know something, I know it, and I'm assuming you came to me with some trust in hand. I shouldn't have to expend too much energy arguing over every point and then having my pros and cons being refuted by "but I read an article on it and it said...."

Congratulations, I've read thirty articles on the same topic. And another fifteen on articles about those articles. Maybe next time you just do your own research and stop asking me. I'm fired up with zealous fervor on this one, can you tell?

Another thing we realized, while talking about this issue, is how when giving/receiving relationship advice, it's pretty much clear that 95% of it will not be listened to. I mean, when was the last time your friend actually listened to you about breakup advice? Or actually did the thing he had agreed was in his best interest post-discussion?

Somehow though, this doesn't make either my friend or I offended. I mean, I guess I've stopped giving much friend advice anymore, as most people are just looking for reasons to continue doing what they're doing. I'm actually really good at that, so feel free to call on me for "yes's." I can be quite convincing on the positive aspects of adultery and/or why an on-and-off eight year relationship between two people on separate continents is a good idea.

To sum it all up, here's what everyone should do: Do what you want! Strip away the in-between consulting with people you aren't going to be listening to anyway. Just go straight to doing it your own way.

I mean, that's what I do.