Microcosmographia by William Van Hecke

Incantation 1 — What if you just didn’t?

Microcosmographia lxii: Incantation 1 — What if you just didn’t?

Microcosmographia is a newsletter thing about honestly trying to understand design and humanity.

There are a few commonsense exhortations that I have found that function like magic incantations, cutting through unhelpful thought patterns and wresting me back into a reasonable state of mind. I’d like to write about three of them in turn:

The first comes from the article “How To Talk To Girls On Twitter Without Coming Off Like A Creepy Rando”, now a venerable six and a half years old. For whatever reason, this line immediately embedded itself in my mind like an ancient proverb. What if you just didn’t? Would you die?

I don’t think I was quite the target audience for that article, as someone not really in the habit of approaching strangers of any gender in any context, even on Twitter. But the words are electric with what seems like a generalizable potency. How seriously do we consider the option of just… not doing something? Especially if it’s so easy to do, and has no obvious, immediate downside?

Not only “What if you didn’t @ strangers on Twitter”, but what if you didn’t say anything on Twitter at all? What if you didn’t look at Twitter either? What if you didn’t jump in to add your opinion to a conversation where it’s not strictly needed? What if you didn’t even feel the need to have an opinion, on things you’re not an expert about? What if you didn’t bring up the anecdote that makes you look cool, even when it’s tangentially relevant to the conversation? What if you didn’t honk your car horn at the inconsiderate BMW? What if you didn’t even try to bring justice to the neighbor who threw dog waste in someone else’s recycling bin? What if you were generally quieter, waited a little longer to consider whether your voice is truly needed, spent more of your time and attention cultivating your thoughts rather than announcing them?

Perhaps it’s funny that I’m writing this in an email that I had the presumption to put into your inbox. I think I’ve gone from:

Everyday thoughts still need somewhere to go! But consider this newfangled outlet for them: private conversations with trusted friends! I certainly got into the seemingly common brane-mode of assuming that of course all conversations should be had in the open, with all strangers invited. Or at least that the purpose of private conversations was to generate fodder for tweets. The weirdly simple app Marco Polo has unlocked several friendships that were stuck in the “occasional texts and rare coffees” mode, pushing them into deeper and more meaningful territory than they ever reached even when I saw those people face-to-face regularly. Now nearly everything I would have been tempted to tweet about in 2015 becomes a personal video message to a specific friend who I know will appreciate it.

Next time: “So what are you going to do about it?”!

P.S. After about 20 years of metal bat dot com, I have a new personal site: 1651.org