As we’re on the subject of things run by group mentality, it reminds me of this story, which I know you’ll have heard before if you followed me on Twitter. Apologies for that. You don’t have to read this though; you’ve got the whole internet available to you, to be fair.
So, now we’ve got that out the way, the story of the five monkeys…
Before we get into it, a quick credit to David Thorne, which is where I first ever heard this story. His website has been around a while, but if you haven’t come across him before you can do worse than spend some time reading his blog. It’s got nothing to do with politics or gender or science. It’s just funny. (See how I said you had a whole internet available to you?) Just a quick disclaimer though, David tells this story as though it really happened. It’s actually a fable, possibly based on a different experiment which is equally fascinating.
Anyway, the story goes like this…Once there was a scientist who put five monkeys in a room. Within the room was a set of stairs, with a banana placed on the top of the stairs. One of the monkeys goes to climb the stairs to get the banana and the entire group is sprayed with jets of cold water. A second monkey makes the same attempt and, again, the whole group is sprayed with the jets of cold water. No more monkeys try to climb the stairs.
One of the monkeys is replaced with a new monkey. The new monkey sees the banana and tries to climb the stairs. It’s attacked by the other monkeys. This monkey does not know why the attack happened, but it does not try to climb the stairs again. Another of the original monkeys is replaced with a new monkey. This monkey too sees the banana and goes to climb the stairs. It is, of course, attacked by the group, including the previous newbie. A third original monkey is replaced, and the same thing happens.
So, now over half of the group have no idea why they’re attacking monkeys for climbing the stairs, but all take part in the attacks, nonetheless. The fourth and fifth original monkeys are eventually replaced too. The behaviour is repeated until, even though none of the monkeys now in the room have ever experienced the water jets, they all stay away from the stairs.
Doing something because “that’s how the group does it” does not make you necessarily on the right side or well-informed, nor does existing in an echo chamber. It makes you the fifth monkey. Don’t be the fifth monkey.
This brings me onto the social network Spinster, which I’ve had a few people asking me if I’ll join. Here’s the thing…I’ve seen people talking about trans women and men not being welcome on the site. People have shown me screengrabs of tweets etc discussing this. What’s the point? I understand people’s frustrations with Twitter. They have a clear political bias and an agenda. Believe me, I get that. The answer is not to create a similar echo chamber for the other side. What do we want? To end up with Twitter for males and Spinster for females because “that’s how it’s always been”?
Twitter, for me, was about outreach. If I want to talk to people who just agree with me, that’s what WhatsApp groups are for. I’m not interested in sitting in a darkened room, talking about how badly one demographic is treated and no one else understands us. That’s collective narcissism at work, and I think I’ve been clear about how I feel about that. Create a better social network, where everyone is welcome and constructive discourse is promoted, and I’ll be all for it. Until then, I’ll reserve my judgement and I won’t be joining an echo chamber of spinster monkeys. Sorry.
Oh, by the way, I realise some people won’t like my comments here. That’s fine. I’ve spent a lot of time upsetting both sides in this debate. That’s probably never going to change, hence I don’t want or need the echo chamber. And you don’t have to read my blog, as I say, the whole internet is out there.