“a series of steps, each building on the last, but without a predetermined plan. We did what was necessary and as we made progress or ran into problems it became obvious what needed doing next. It wasn’t a straight line. We made mistakes and not everything worked. But we realized we were learning by doing.”


“The devil isn’t just in the details. He’s in the definitions. And, most of all, he’s in the analytical distinctions: in the ability to tell one thing from another. To not mix things up.”

Hanzi Freinacht


Where does all our crappy behavior and crappy perceptions of the world come from?

Like most things, it’s mainly the product of learned behavior. That may sound horrible, but we humans are imitation machines. Our subconscious minds constantly take in signals from the environment and integrate them into our mindsets, attitudes and, yeah, even behaviors, all of which end up guiding our perceptions and our actions. And while we want to blame social media, and media in general, the most influential part of any environment is the people in it.

Which leads me to a Toffler, Future Shock, thought.

….. impact of Warehouse of Images (before Instagram existed) …..

Pre-internet we were exposed to a fairly finite, and fairly rigid, sample of the human population to ‘imitate’ or judge our perceptions and behaviors. The people in our neighborhood. In our schools and libraries and community gathering places. At the grocery store. In our office. On the street. On the bus. We lived in smaller community echo chambers, where signals were fewer, and meanings/cues were clearer or, at least, more well defined. The internet exponentially expanded our universes wherein the number of signals we receive has increased exponentially and meanings/cues became scrambled into a moshpit of signals. Our common, well, any commonality, and agreed upon sensemaking lost clarity and gained some fairly vague outlines. In other words, social coherence lost accepted boundaries. Our imitation muscles were overworked as we attempted to learn behavior from a seemingly limitless onslaught of cues of which it became almost impossible to discern the majority from the minority.

Which leads me to the danger and opportunity.

We simultaneously see more crappy behavior than ever before, which creates a perception that everyone is crappy, and, yet, we see more kind and moral behavior than ever before (maybe just not from what we would have easily accepted as an established traditional local influencer in the past) which creates a perception that not everyone is crappy. Generally speaking, it is confusing. Are people good or bad? What that means is because we see more information about other people than ever before we need to be very, very, careful what we normalize because while we may not exactly imitate – we may simply begin accepting some version of crappy behavior. We see videos of crappy behavior of kids in schools, crappy crazy drivers, crappy acting adults arguing in grocery stores, let alone the insane amount of insane self made crappy video rants. All of these things we already knew happened occasionally, but virality implies it isn’t confined to the occasional.  And, well, what a culture sees, is what a culture becomes. The more a person sees something, especially another person’s actions, the more they will either gravitate toward it or simply accept it as “how we are” as people (whether we like it or not). It creates the message that “this is how society is.” Even if it is really not.

Which leads me to what we see (and what we become).

In the wayback machine, we had more control over what we would see. Plus. A smaller community controlled what we saw (in some form or fashion). Simplistically, we had to work harder to see the less-than-normal shit. The problem in today’s world is what we are ‘shown’ doesn’t care about proportionality so the ‘less-than-normal shit’ takes on an oversized shitstorm feeling of everywhere all the time. All this to say we get caught in the wretched inbetween of knowing that access to all this information makes us smarter, can make us safer, and actually can create a more equitable (accountable) society AND knowing that a consistent onslaught, or drip-by-drip, of exposure to crappy behavior, well, suggests we begin imitating some of that behavior in order to be ‘competitive’ in today’s crappy society/world. It’s kind of like the tragedy of commons just with behavior. This all breeds a sense of what is called ‘learned helplessness’. This is where we become conditioned to believe that a bad situation is unchangeable, resulting in an unrealistically negative view of the world and a sense of permanent crisis. Ultimately this eliminates hope, or diminishes it (through crappy perceptions), and we either disengage or assume some crappy behavior aspects.

Which leads me to creating a culture which we want people to see so it can become a better culture.

I have written far too often about how algorithms shape what we see and, therefore, shape culture (at least by my measure). But humans are smarter than algorithms, humans create algorithms, and algorithms do not have culture, do not understand culture nor do they even care about culture – algorithms feed people what they ‘say’ they want. Period. So, we can choose to spread the good stories and starve the bad ones of attention. Period. End of story. The stories we tell and we share, becomes what a culture sees and, ultimately, what it becomes.

By assuming this responsibility, hopefully, we learn something new, good; and we change course.

In the end.

Everyone should think about this a bit because the basic premise I offer is the thought if we continuously see crappy behavior, we will start doing some crappy behavior. A lot of people will balk at that. They will believe they can recognize crappy behavior as unacceptable and will never do it. Uhm. I am not so sure about that. I think it becomes just a bit easier to do some crappy things, on occasion, if you have a crappy perception of the context and think everyone else is going to be crappy. Shit. Think about how business culture works (and doesn’t). That said. Ponder. It feels important.

Written by Bruce