Back in the mid 1990s I was working for a small company. The younger son of the owner of the company had just joined the workforce and during a lunch break mentioned that he was happy our Kmart was open, since it was the only Kmart left in the nation.
Never mind there was a Kmart having a grand re-opening about 15 miles away because it had been dubbed a “Big K” during that phase of idiocy the Kmart Corporation engaged in during that era.
Since the son didn’t really travel outside of the small city, he was operating on limited information, but because of his overwhelming confidence, we spoke with such authority that he’d probably try to sell a surf board to an Eskimo.
It comes as little surprise that I recently ran across one of his comments to a post from a mutual acquaintance on Facebook back in the early days of the pandemic and he was using that confidence to push the whole “this is a plot from China” dialog. I made sure to sever ties with anyone that was part of that conversation.
I got to thinking about this today because there’s so. many. experts. now on the internet that are experts about everything. Twitter is especially notorious for this; tech guru Xeni Jardin often tweets things like, “hello to our newly minted experts on FBI masters” or “hello to our newly minted experts on solar panels in the dark” and she’s absolutely right. Everyone gets a little Google going and they think they know it all.
By the way, there’s a handful of Kmart stores still open across the country, and it’s been well over 20 years since this conversation about our local store back in the mid 1990s.
There seems to be a trend of taboo vulnerability if you begin an Internet conversation with “I think…” or “Maybe,…”. Everyone speaks with such authority when they don’t really know what they think they know. Look, when I was young, I might have done this on hundreds of situations, but by my early 20s I had figured out I was not an authority on everything and quite frankly I was humbled by the experience. It’s helped me keep my perspective on the chaos that we call the 21st century.
I have a few Twitter accounts over there in the land of chaotic dialog. I’ve pretty much abandoned the account I consider my “generic account” where I’ll talk about anything and everything, because I don’t really have much to contribute and all the screaming and shouting and use of the caps lock key and the exclamation points and the pearl clutching quite frankly gives me gas and a migraine. I am venturing into my “professional account” again, which focuses on my aviation and day job topics. If I want to shout into the ether about the idiocy of politics or whatever, BevMo! is just down the street and I can drink a beer or something to calm down.
No one is an expert in everything. Not everyone is an expert in something. As I mention in my active Twitter profile, “tweet gently”.
Speak gently. Be humble. Listen. You might live to be an old guy like me.