Peer Ethos: Safety and Doubt

I’ve had some GREAT feedback, online and off, about my Peer Ethos post. Thank you to everyone for the emails, tweets and comments.

Several new epiphanies resulted. The first is that the Peer Ethos is not just a single clique, or even the set of cliques you belong to. It is a universal ecosystem; it has tight niches and broad climes. James Britt rightly pointed out that there are differences between the Peer Ethos of your close friends and everyone on the internet. This triggered the epiphany that I was seeing BOTH close family and everybody on the internet as part of a universal ecosystem, and that practical meaning—the environmental conditions—change as you move around the landscape.

James says that some things that shouldn’t be shared with the Twitterverse can be shared with close family. I agree totally. There are some things that you can share with everybody, other things you should never share, and still more things that you should share only if the conditions in the peer ethos  are favorable.

I see two new dimensions of the peer ethos here: safety and doubt. The safety dimension is how supportive or antagonistic the peer ethos is at this point (“this point” meaning “your current audience”). Family and friends are very supportive because they want you to succeed; trolls and antagonists are destructive because want you to fail. The doubt dimension has nothing to do with the peer ethos and everything to do with yourself: it is simply an internal measure of your confidence that you will complete the task.

Here’s the interplay:

  • If you have high doubt, DO share your hopes and dreams with your family. Their nurturing support and love can encourage you to take that first risk.
  • Do NOT share your dreams with the internet until you’ve made them real: Trolls have a much harder time saying something is not possible when it’s just been done.
  • If you have low doubt, your goals are likely to be quite specific. Keep them to yourself, especially if telling your family won’t help you reach them!
  • You may, however, want to tell the world at large. Throwing your hat in the ring can be a huge motivator to drive you to live up to your word. Trolls may attack, but if you are confident in yourself these attacks do not discourage but rather come off sounding like “Oh yeah? Well, I dare you!

It’s a tradeoff. Family will be forgiving if you fail; this can provide the safety to take the first step, but can also smother your urgency. For this reason I say that some ideas should never be shared until they are reality. If sharing them won’t help you but can definitely hurt you, why would you take the risk? On the other side, trolls will heap scorn upon you if you fall short, but can also stiffen your resolve to be true to your word.

Before talking about your goals, consider your audience and means of delivery. If your intention is a mere ember of hope, protect it. Share it only with those who will blow on it gently to help it grow. But if your intention is already burning fiercely, hold it up for the world to see! All the huffing of your detractors will do is fan the flames brighter. Perhaps spicy food is a better metaphor: you know when you want exciting, racy food and you know when you want filling, hearty fare; you also know what level of spice will ruin your meal and what level of blandness will suck out all the joy. So it is with sharing your intentions with your peer ethos: know when you need to be challenged by your peers and when you need to be supported by them.

The trick, ultimately, is not so much to be aware of the landscape of the peer ethos, but to be aware that the landscape even exists, and to choose to interact with it appropriately. Move around in it, find the appropriate audience, and share when it can help you move forward.

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