To each his own individuality 

 November 16, 2023

"When everyone throws out their personal opinion, someone is always pissed. We have to deal with that!"

Richard Seidl

Everything used to be much simpler. There was only zero or one. You voted red or black. Watched Roseanne or Lindenstraße on linear television. You were a fan of Star Wars or Star Trek. Was a woman or a man. Believed in science or the church. Used Microsoft Works or Microsoft Office. That was our lived truth.

Well, the world has changed quite a bit. The options have become unmanageable. Today, everyone can and is allowed to live out their own individuality. While the party landscape can still be differentiated by color, it is more difficult with the election programs. Hundreds of TV channels are trying to hold their own against streaming platforms, where I can now watch everything on demand. Hundreds, thousands of series are running in parallel. Our gender and choice of partner offers a wealth of options, as do beliefs, opinions and spirituality. The operating system and software market is a huge buffet and, as of today, Hugging Face offers access to 325,901 AI models.
We are now able to decide who we are and what we do with or to whom in every area of our lives in a very granular way.
This is a great achievement of our society, as everyone, loosely based on Frederick II, "must be happy in their own way".

But this also brings with it challenges that we need to be aware of time and again in our everyday lives.

Challenge 1: Presence

Thanks to social media, there are platforms where every opinion has a place and is heard. That wasn't the case in the past. What journalists and editors wrote was in the newspaper. The same went for radio and TV. And today, everyone can show off their opinions and individuality on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn and the like. But what we get flushed into our feeds and in what quantity does not correspond to the social distribution. There are too many filters hanging over it: content creators, platform algorithms with keywords and profiling,

Filter bubbles in which we move, confirmation bias, and so on.
There's also a self-fueling loop involved. If everyone can spout their opinion, someone is always pissed off and will defend themselves accordingly and argue against it. And unfortunately, this is where things often get messy, because our ability to engage in discourse and conflict is ... well ... modest ...

Challenge 2: Decision

Another point with all the possibilities and options is: which one do I actually want? Whereas the state, church and media used to think and decide for us what was good, today we have to think about it ourselves. This takes a lot of energy from our brains and stresses us out: what if I make the wrong choice? What does my environment think? Is this really "mine"? Yes, because of the many options, there is often no right and wrong, everything has its advantages and disadvantages, its good and bad consequences.

In agile projects, people often sing the praises of "self-responsibility" and "self-organization". However, we forget what a feat of strength this often is for us humans. It doesn't come naturally. It has to be learned and constantly energized.

And now?

Two final thoughts that I keep telling myself:

  • Being critical of what we hear, read and see. But not in bashing mode, but with tolerance and appreciation.
  • Deciding on something is usually not final. Consciously closing other doors releases a lot of energy.

Because one thing is clear: if you keep all doors open, you will always be standing in the hallway.