Trust


Buzzwords, Part2

 Noun – firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

dictionary.com

Last week I set the stage for a discussion of the buzzwords that I have chosen to guide my thinking and actions for this next season of life.  In case you missed it, check that post out here.

I am a word guy.  When speaking or writing, I choose my words carefully. I recognize that words carry powerful meaning and misunderstandings easily arise when words are used carelessly.  To that end I have chosen four words to help focus my thoughts and actions over the next while.  Today I want to focus on the first of these words.  Trust.

In the age of COVID, Social Media, and Donald Trump trust has been increasingly tested, manipulated, and weaponized by unscrupulous actors promoting an agenda.  Social Media in particular, is designed to keep our attention so advertisers can sell their wares.  The Social Media companies do that by continually monitoring our behavior, learning our preferences, and feeding us information that fits with and confirms our biases.  The longer we stay engaged, the more they can sell our data to the highest bidder.

In the film, The Social Dilemma, one of the whistle blowers drives the point home by saying that, if something is free yet boasts massive profits ask what the product is.  The answer, you, or more importantly, your attention is what is being sold.   

In my previous career as a music industry executive, I would regularly have a similar conversation with recording artists about radio airplay.  The music industry does not pay to have their artists played on the radio, it is the other way around.  Radio stations pay the artists a royalty for the right to play their music and hold the listener’s attention between advertisements.  Just like on social media, the real product of traditional broadcast media has always been your attention. 

This is where things get sinister. In the new world of social media, to hold our attention, truth, nuance and ultimately trust are sacrificed on the altar of conformity.  When a radio station focusses their airplay on a particular genre of music, that’s innocent demographic targeting.  If you change your mind, your preferences evolve, or you are just in the mood for something different you can easily find it somewhere else on the dial.  But when a social media platform targets news feeds to focus on a particular bias it becomes more and more difficult to find information that does not conform.  New information and varied perspectives are filtered out, growth is stunted, and opinions calcified.

When I say that I am focusing my attention on trust, what I am trying to do is twofold.  First, I must remain conscious of where I am placing my trust, so as not to become fixed in my thinking and unable to learn new things.  Second, I must be mindful of who has placed their trust in me and continually strive to remain worthy.

Trust is a precious commodity.  Regardless of where you place your trust it will have a profound impact on your quality of life.  When you place your trust in someone, or something, you are giving that person or product incredible power to shape your life. 

My advice, (if you trust me) is to trust experts because they know more than you.

Consider the court system.  In a court of law, when an expert is called, they spend considerable time explaining their credentials before giving any testimony.  They do that to establish trust so that what they say is taken seriously.  It is the opposing counsel’s job to cross examine the expert and cast doubt on their ability to provide trustworthy information.  The system works, (most of the time) because experts are, by definition, trustworthy.

But what if you disagree?  Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply disagree with a bonified expert.  You also need compelling evidence to the contrary, something to discredit them, or proof they have ulterior motives.  It is best if you can do more than one of these at the same time.  Unless you yourself are an expert, this can be exceedingly difficult. 

Trust as a buzzword for me means, do due diligence, test credentials, and cross reference sources.  And once that is done, trust the experts and continually strive to be a trustworthy expert in your own right. 

Who do you trust?  And why?

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