I attended a conference last week, a vast sprawling area brimming with people having an analytical bent of mind, or at least that is what they do for a living.
It was wonderful, for many reasons: It not only provided a good change of pace for me, but it also helped me cope with the post election disbelief by observing vast numbers of people from different parts of the country.
Before one of our trainings, our instructor put up a hashtag on the screen and requested everybody to tweet with that hash tag, so we could analyze the data coming in for that hashtag for the exercise.
For our convenience, he was also streaming the tweets as his code picked them up. For a hall containing at least 200 people, the tweets were trickling in. 5 and then 10 and then a plateau. After some time, another few.
The instructor then showed us how he was going to analyze this data and when he tried to pull up the dashboard he had created for the purpose of the training, the server went down. As it turns out, the instructor was embarrassed, obviously, that his carefully prepared presentation ran into a glitch in this uncharacteristic manner, but he had a Plan B, and going by the way he conducted his training, probably had Plan C, and D. Competence and Determination. He took a derogatory stab at himself, got a laugh, and moved on. He chose instead to recreate the dashboard from scratch, so we all get to see how it is done, instead of showing us the finished product.
The person right next to me, pulled out his phone though, and tweeted the hashtag almost instantly saying “#Hashtag Demo not working. Not Cool.” I was sitting right next to him , so I could see his tweet. I also remembered that he had not tweeted when the instructor asked us all to tweet so that he could get a dataset, but when it came to calling someone’s failures out, he was more than willing to do so.
That is human nature. We all suffer from it. So, I am not blaming this person by any chance, but rather hoping to use this as a call to introspection. Are we so quick to judge that we are losing our ability to empathize just because we now have the power to quickly voice our opinions? That could have been us fumbling when the server went down unexpectedly, couldn’t it?
I was reading an article in which President Obama warned us in a similar manner about snap judgments that social media enables us to make:
Obama, without directly naming Trump, appeared critical of the political discourse in the United States, saying social media has made it easier “to make negative attacks and simplistic slogans than it is to communicate complex policies.”
Every tool has its place, but if we attempt to mow the lawn with a kitchen knife, it will not work. I cannot help thinking of our gardeners, who in my mind have magical abilities, get things done quickly and efficiently, while I blubber and fly rudderless because I do not use the right tools for the job. (Divine Intervention of the Gardening Gods)
Now is the time for all of us to tap the critical thinkers in us, to read extensively, to seek the truth and take up the job of providing a voice of reason. All of us know how distorted our consumption of information can be. Sites like Snopes.com have their work cut out for them in the age of social media.
P.S: I loved Angela Merkel’s measured response to Trump’s victory:
Angela Merkel in her note to Trump offered cooperation reiterating that cooperation should be based on “a common platform of democracy, freedom, advocacy for human rights all over the world and championing the open and liberal world order.”
After all, we all may have to pack up and go to different planet soon (in which case we are all in the same boat regardless of race, creed or gender.)
Stephen Hawking’s prediction that humans have at best 1000 years in which to find another planet to inhibit