Last night my awesome and inspiring yoga-teaching wife Gabs stumbled upon a comment on her favourite yoga podcast J.Brown Yoga Talks which she felt articulated pretty well what I’m trying to do here. Roughly 55mins into the episode, the host says that:
“We’ve moved away from the kinds of relationships that foster the kind of healing that everybody’s interested in and we’re just too afraid to do it differently because ‘this is the way you’re supposed to do it’”
Brown says he's interested in having direct relationships with people who follow his work. He wants the price to be reasonable so that the people who pay him feel genuinely good about it. He’s advocating for a move towards direct relationships.
"Direct relationships. Not facebook in between you, or instagram in between you, but direct relationships where people come to your website, are on your email list, and have video calls with you. There’s not this third party in between.”
He’s referring to the yoga world but this is something that I feel is true in general. The early cyber punks and internet evangelists were understandably optimistic and happy to see the breakthrough of a form of communication that would put anybody in the world directly in touch with each other. Something that would foster real relationships. But this is not really what has happened. Facebook doesn’t necessarily connect us to our friends but in fact puts us in separate bubbles. Instagram doesn’t give us a peak into how our friends actually feels, but rather incentivises vanity and filters from the kind of vulnerability that could connect us more deeply. By swooping into every industry there is, Amazon doesn’t bring our communities closer, but rather makes it so easy to shop that we forget about the lovely family owned shop around the corner.
For somebody like me who lives from my ideas and from helping others create change in their personal lives and organisations, playing the game the way it’s normally played would mean having a polished life on social media. Posting every day. Writing long self-agrandising instagram captions with dozens of hashtags and trying to get my new book ranking on Amazon so that I appear in the search rankings there. But I don’t want to. I have absolutely no passion for that.
What I’m promoting philosophically and trying to do in practice is have real human connections, relationships and a healthy and balanced attitude towards ‘growth’. I want to know the people who follow my writings and recordings. I want people who feel limited financially to still benefit from my work. I’d like the printing cost of my book to go to my friends printing company, not a big multi-national.
This is sometimes called a DIY ethos. Perhaps my greatest inspiration when it comes to this is my friend Jim Burke, otherwise known as Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer. He has described his ‘DIY nature’ as almost pathological. He writes, records, produces his own music and videos. He writes his own books. He even illustrates the cover himself. He knows the people who press his CDs. His following and the community that surround his work are the result of years of direct relationships and craft.
This is a movement that has long existed but it feels to me like it’s hopefully coming back strong again. This is one of the reasons why my new book Tech Monopolies: A short rant about addictive design, isn’t available on Amazon. At least for now. Instead I’m trying to opt for a more DIY, direct relationship philosophy. I will sell far fewer books. But I hope that those of you who read it, will feel like it’s really me you’re working with. That we’ll enter a genuine dialogue and share and learn from each other. This is why I wrote the book, my great pal and partner Jim edited it, my generous friend George helped with the cover, and I asked Jim’s cousin Anna to print the book. I’ve even offered my 8 year old son some pocket money to post each copy to people (perhaps it’ll be a good geography lesson for him!). II don’t want Amazon between me and the people who are investing their money and time in what I do and supporting me.
Whilst platforms like Twitter, YouTube…etc help us to reach more people, it’s important to remember the underlying principles and motivations behind why this was interesting in the first place. Principles like relationships, sharing and agency. The Pali word Dana refers to the principle of giving that the Buddha promoted. He put it above all other principles when it came to exemplifying the art of living. This is why I’m playing with this Pay-What-You-Want Monthly support. Let’s see how it goes. I’d love your feedback on that. What I know though, is that if for my book for example, if you feel you genuinely just can’t afford it but feel really compelled to read it, please send me a personal message.
All this to say that I think podcasters like J.Brown are right. We should look to re-humanise what we’re doing. I’ll try my best. I ask you to do the same at least when it concerns my work by contacting me for comments and questions. Whether it's a few words of support, some feedback, suggestions or a disagreement you want to share, I would love to foster real relationships and do what the internet can do best in the absence of tech monopolies and self-serving design, bring people closer together.
Take care and be happy.