chapter3( World-Changers )
The Web, Conformity, and You

February 8, 2016

There are two kinds of people on this planet: Those who are changed by the world and those who change the world. Some people are happy to simply exist on this planet and seek stability. These are the people who prefer not to rock the boat and cling to the popular way of doing things. They conform, because it’s easier, and perhaps even smarter.

On the other hand, there are people like us.

“People like who? Who’s not smart? I want to be smart.”

Web developers and designers tend to fall into the second category of people. Many of us are creatives who didn’t enter this career just to make money. We want to help people or express ourselves or change the whole damn world. And that’s exactly how it should be.

Unfortunately, it’s just not in our nature to be subversive. And, no, we’re often not smart in our approach to making a difference.

“O…kay…so you’re calling me stupid.”

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Last week, two popular YouTubers called the Fine Brothers announced that they were creating a network called React World, whereby other YouTubers could work with them to create offshoots of Fine Brothers content. However, they didn’t explain it like this at all.

The Fine Brothers’ announcement video, which has since been removed (you can find re-uploads on YouTube pretty easily), focused on the exact wrong thing: Legality. The video is laced with legal terms and several outright uses of the word “legal”. That, combined with their over-the-moon tone was enough to send the internet into an uproar.

One major source of backlash was Reddit, a website infamous for it’s tendency to generate hive minds and incite witch hunts. In less than a day, the Fine Brothers went from regarded YouTubers to some of the most hated people on the internet.

Here is the most important part, though: Despite having little or no understanding of the situation, many people were outwardly angry at the Fine Brothers. Most people didn’t fully understand what the Brothers were trying to accomplish, or how they were trying to do it. No one could claim to know their true intentions, which I personally think were probably harmless. In fact, the Fine Brothers explicitly said they were trying to make the world a better place, but they presented their approach so poorly that no one was listening.

By the time they made a video further explaining React World in an attempt to patch things up, the mob was already in full effect. It just fueled the fire.

In true internet fashion, people made personal attacks on the Brothers. Unsubscribing from their channel became a celebrated act. A few popular YouTubers even hopped on board, berating the Fine Brothers because they knew it was the popular thing to do.

It’s blowing over now that React World has been canceled, but quite a few haters are still lingering.

“Nice story, but can you get to the point? Isn’t this a blog about web development?”

The significance here is that web developers exist on the same conformist internet as the Fine Brothers. When even a good-intentioned mistake can make you the focus of overwhelming hate, it can be scary, and even dangerous.

We want to change the world, not unlike the Fine Brothers. And, frankly, we want to make money from our hard work, not unlike the Fine Brothers. It’s not difficult to imagine that, if we move too far from the herd, we could get just as burned as the Brothers.

If we’re diligent, though, we can use that conformity to our advantage.

Mob mentality and herd behavior are just a part of human nature (for more info on this, watch Coders are herd animals). More than a few times, I’ve caught myself being swayed by popular opinion on Reddit or YouTube. It’s up to us, the world-changers, to combat that.

We shouldn’t just watch for trends, we should actively engage with them—analyze them, criticize them, and even create them. Influencers ganged up on the Fine Brothers because it was the hot thing to do, but wouldn’t it have been just as hot to play devil’s advocate?

“This is noble and everything, but you said yourself that I want to make money. How do I apply this to my professional practices?”

Today, attention is money. If you’re leading a herd, you’re controlling the market. The bigger the herd, the bigger the gains and the losses.

If you’re just following the popular trends and opinions, you shouldn’t expect to be the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk. If you want to be great, you have to make a serious effort to be different. You can’t just pay attention to where the market is, you have to know where it’s going. Then, you have to act on that knowledge.

That’s why you’re a world-changer.

Could you be a little more specific? Perhaps share your thoughts in a convenient list format?

  1. Never stop solving problems: Problems are the best source of innovation. Take note of things that bug you or piss you off, then fix them.

  2. Share your thoughts: If you want to lead a herd, you have to give people a reason to follow. Start a blog or YouTube channel. Tweet. Speak up.

  3. Promote open-minded content: The internet can really suck, but you can help make it better. Share content from world-changers who engage in conversation instead of regurgitating popular opinion.

  4. Don’t forget to cash in: You can’t survive on good intentions. Help people and share your knowledge, but don’t forget to sell something when the time is right. If you don’t understand this, you really need to read Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk.

  5. Tell stories: People think in stories. If you want to be heard, learn how to communicate in stories. I highly recommend The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall.

If you’ve made it this far you should recognize that you’re probably a world-changer by nature. Don’t let yourself be content with the status quo. The status quo sucks: Have you seen the state of the world? We can do better.

Make yourself heard.

Are you a world-changer? Don’t know how to shake conformity? Want more book recommendations? Leave a comment and we can talk!