Let’s say you are passionate about something and want to change the world.
Q: How do you fix significant problems by using the internet?
A: You don’t. Stop yourself before you start.
– Laurie Ruettimann
The internet is but one tool to affect social change, and it’s an imperfect one at best. You need an omnichannel approach that includes academic research, pressure-testing ideas at conferences, running focus groups to identify your blind spots, phone calls to drum up interest, email campaigns to raise awareness, staged grassroots meetings to get people connected, and, underneath it all, eye contact.
TL;DR You cannot change the world without a physical connection to other people.
But let’s say you don’t believe me and want to use the internet to affect change. What should you do?
Dammit, aren’t you paying attention? You should get off the internet.
What else can you do? Well, man, if you press me, here are my thoughts:
- Have a short version of the long story. We know you’re mad about an issue, which is why we’re paying attention. Not every backstory deserves its own VH1 special, though. People are here for conversation, but not for a chronicle of your life.
- Begin with the end in mind. Nobody can fight forever, and, while compromise seems unappetizing, sometimes it’s the only way to move forward. I’m heartened by something Barack Obama said throughout his presidency — if two people on opposite sides are both unhappy, we’ve probably done something right. So, come up with three endings to your story and define success, failure, and compromise before you start.
- Seek third-party validation. We live in a society where trust and value are derived through social validation. If your ideas are so great, who else will join you on the record? Which one of your colleagues has your back? How many key opinion leaders are listening to you and changing their tune? Who stands with you in real life and not behind an avatar?
Great, I’m with you! But it’s important to use your time and energy wisely. Be concise, be clear on what success looks like, and understand when it’s time to compromise. Find other people who can join your cause in real life. And finally, get offline and pressure-test your ideas in the real world.
Eye contact, not an Instagram account, is the key to winning hearts and minds in 2019.