The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

King, Diddy, Twitter, JIF, Smucker's, and Wonder Bread.

Last night I watched a bit of Larry King (not a normal thing). Ashton Kutcher was on talking about how he beat CNN to the 1M mark on Twitter. Yep, 1M followers.

What most interested me was when Kutcher then made a concerted effort to say (sitting next to Diddy) that Twitter is not about celebrity, but about the democratic opportunity for everyone to have a voice. He was since about that, and I appreciated it. Twitter is a great equalizer, in his mind. Diddy agreed. "Whether you have 1 million follower or 10, you have the same power." Mathematically, of course, he's wrong. But I guess there might be another way to measure it.

But of course, leaders measure themselves by the number of followers they have. Size of audience is supposedly increased influence. It's hard to argue with equations like that. I think something of what Diddy was getting at was the way relationships defy pure economics.

I think part of why relationships transcend economics is the trust factor.

But for the bigger the group, the harder it is the cultivate trust. Leaders of larger groups are no longer really trusting individuals, but managing crowds. They're no longer known faces, but group dynamics. Leaders are no longer engaging with people but engaging with stereotypes and averages. You don't develop trust in statistics. They may be reliable, but there's no relationship there.

This creates a strange challenge for a leader. It creates an unreal scenario. Trust doesn't multiply as group size increases, at least not after a certain number. At some point the crowd is so large that trust begins to be depleted.

Think about it this way. You have one jar of JIF (is there another kind?) peanut butter--that's the amount of trust you as the leader have to spread around. In you have one PBJ to make, no problem. 2, 3, no problem. A whole loaf, you're probably okay. 2 loaves, your JIF is starting to get thin. 4 loaves, you're in trouble.

Okay, trust isn't quite like JIF, but you get the idea. In personal relationships, the sandwich has a good peanut butter-to-bread ratio. But it's increasingly skimpy as the number of loaves increases. But in a large group, the leader really isn't required to spread it thick.

But conversely, neither is the follower. If the leader has 1000 sandwiches to put JIF on, a follower will match the amount of JIF with her own amount of Smucker's Grape Jelly (it better be Smucker's!). Thus, the sandwich will be thin on JIF and thin on Smucker's. Maybe there's plenty of bread (and loafing!), but let's be honest, the sandwich won't be very good, even if it is Wonder Bread. No one will really want to eat it.

No, a good sandwich comes from a thick spread of JIF and an equally generous portion of Smucker's. But if a leader is leading a large group, the sandwich is basically two slices of white bread.

I guess that's my polemic against the thinking that large groups are to be pursued for broader influence: Bad sandwiches are my argument. I think a few good sandwiches is better than a bunch of what are essentially loaves of Wonder Bread standing around. We can "expand our territory" and build bigger structures and have tons of loaves hanging out together. But real sandwiches will always be more attractive, more desirable, than a week's worth of Wonder Bread.

Even Jesus said, "Man cannot live on bread alone." And he was resisting temptation.

But if there had been some JIF and Smucker's, well . . .