Big ideas, images, and distorted facts

We are writing this column because we care. The Bob Dylan song from which this column takes its name includes the line: “Their heads are full of big ideas, images and distorted facts.” We’re writing this column because we feel very strongly that these words are relevant today. When Dylan sang those words, what we heard was this: we all have a desire to connect with each other but we feel like we’re not doing it the right way. Today, when discussing this topic, both of us came to the realization that we have the habit of creating “images and distorted facts” rather than paying attention to what we genuinely hope and care about.

Communication needs to be talked about in a new way. First of all, we’re not writing this because the issue is fashionable. The topic is too often discussed because its immediate, more superficial effects are the only ones felt, like the strange feeling of stepping into a new set of clothes. The issue at hand has been so dolled up, passed around, and cross-examined that all you can really hear at the moment is a thousand babbling voices. Everyone is talking at once, trying to make a connection in the wrong way.

Connection and communication have always been at the heart of the impetus driving human progress in literature, music, visual art, and technology (not to mention silly things like procreation). Writers like Dante and Shakespeare shaped language by coining hundreds of new words. Picasso revolutionized the way we perceive reality by painting multiple perspectives simultaneously. Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone in the 19th century forever changed the way we communicate. But the use of artistic and technological tools to shape communication can never be fully predicted before the changes actually happen.

After you have finished reading this, open Facebook and look at the last five items you have posted. Does anyone, other than perhaps a small handful of your friends, actually care about them? Does your status about the fresh snowfall actually achieve anything, or are you just trying to be clever? Let’s face it—the content you generate online probably falls into one of three categories: (a) mental masturbation, (b) self-aggrandizement, or (c) clowning around. You are not a celebrity.

When you are browsing through profiles, the worst are always the ones people have tried to make realistic. Just a lot of cyberspace being unnecessarily filled. Good profiles are entertaining, presenting a caricature that is colorful or quirky. These profiles are saying: you don’t know me. Sometimes ridiculous but never fearful.

Communication can make a lot of people afraid: afraid of being rejected, afraid of being misunderstood, afraid of looking like an idiot. Many of these are the same things you feared in kindergarten … stupid, childish things. But the Idiot Wind is not here to tell you that you’re an idiot. The Idiot Wind is that feeling inside you that pushes you to create, connect, and care. The wind that makes your heart beat, the wind that makes us sing and cry instead of talking.

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