Richard Florida, the Atlantic editor recently wrote: “Cities are our greatest invention, not because of the scale of their infrastructure or their placement along key trade routes, but because they enable human beings to combine and recombine their talents and ideas in new ways. With their breadth of skills, dense social networks, and physical spaces for interactions, great cities and metro areas push people together and increase the kinetic energy between them.
And while I agree with him, I’m thinking this is industrial era thinking. It says that where we live is the only important part.
The analog of cities for the social era might very well be online communities – perhaps embodied in Twitter for me, Google+ for others, and perhaps Facebook for others – the place where we put ideas along key routes and enable humans to combine and recombine talents and ideas in new ways.
Human beings are naturally creators, and we want to express ourselves, and connect with people, and engage the world. From when we first draw to sing or dance, we express. And then at some point, we end up, as I wrote recently, as a Dilbert character in a world of PowerPoint. (And bad PowerPoint at that…) We end up not creating and not owning our uniqueness. It seems to me that the challenge comes when we have a conflict between who we are, and what we see around us – from where we work and/or live, our friends, and so on. When we see no one else thinking or acting like us, we are left in a deep conflict between fitting in and being ourselves.
That’s why this online or social network world is so important to many of us. In his latest book, We Are All Weird, Seth Godin pointed out why. It used to be that we weirdoes used to feel alone when we were weird because the odds of having other people around us who were like us were incredibly low. Online makes being weird less isolated than it once was. In essence, the online world has made it easier to find one’s tribe of whatever-weirdness we are into. This lets each of us other people with similar passions, or people with similar purpose and that has changed the permanent landscape of all of us – we can each be uniquely ourselves (in his words: weird) and still not feel lonely. Thus the conflict is reduced. And passion is released.
Maybe we can all use this explanation with our loved ones who put up with us spending so much time online. “I’m traveling on the routeway of Twitter to meet my tribe of weirdos”, you can say. Yeah, they’ll think about you, weirdo is right. But that’s okay, cause we all are.