Saturday, January 31, 2015

Does the Social Universe Bend Toward Informality?

Continuing from my last posting - where I noted that all it takes is one person to break the spell of self-seriousness and make anyone else affecting that pose come off like a complete buffoon...

One of the things I did right with Chowhound (I did plenty wrong, too) was cracking that nut early and often. When I launched the site, I was a reasonably well-known food writer and author. I wasn't stuck up about it; I never imagined (as a well-known colleague once confessed to me) that no one's food is truly eaten until I'd eaten it. I knew I had reliable taste, knowledge and experience, but I also knew lots of other people did, too. In fact, that's exactly why I opened Chowhound; to give them a podium.

And since I - the established expert guy who ran the operation - never pulled rank, neither could anyone else! This, more than anything, helped the site grow into a non-heirarchical community. It's impossible to act like a regal know-it-all when the regal know-it-all in charge opts out of all that. Like I said, it's a magic trick!
If just one person knighted by the Queen makes light of being called "Sir", something magical happens; anyone who doesn't is instantly transformed into a prig. It's a wonderful trick (and one Pope Francis has mastered....the papacy will never be the same).
Perhaps this is why we seem to be becoming, over time, a less formal, lower-gravitas world. As people keep breaking that spell, a ripple effect discourages others from affecting the pose. In the long run, this process may eventually wipe out self-seriousness and arrogance (or at least public displays of those things).

But while we're a much lower gravitas culture than we once were, we're still not all that far along in the progression. My goofy informality has never really worked out for me.

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