How to be less boring

Scott Simpson tells us something I think we all desperately need to hear in his article in Issue 4 of The Magazine:

You are boring. So, so boring.

Don’t take it too hard. We’re all boring. At best, we’re recovering bores. Each day offers a hundred ways for us to bore the crap out of the folks with whom we live, work, and drink. And on the Internet, you’re able to bore thousands of people at once. […]

The Big Bore lurks inside us all. It’s dying to be set loose to lecture on Quentin Tarantino or what makes good ice cream. Fight it! Fight the urge to speak without listening, to tell a bad story, to stay inside your comfortable nest of back-patting pals. As you move away from boring, you will never be bored.

This relates really well to a recent post by Able Parris called Focus Means Ignoring:

We need to spend less time looking to others for interesting things, and start spending more time doing the things that make us interesting. […]

Similarly, and I am saying this more for myself, it’s easy to give time and attention to the things you enjoy or are easy, but true character comes when you give focus to the things that are difficult but must be done. This means you have to ignore everything else, and know that you will be better because of it.

Just imagine the virtuous cycle this could set off… As people post fewer boring things like Foursquare checkins and retweets of how awesome they are, and we all take the conscious decision to read fewer boring things and instead spend that time listening, learning, and doing new things, we could slowly and collectively pull the current state of the social web out of that cesspool of boringness. Well, that’s a pipe dream, of course. And to be fair — there’s nothing wrong with clicking on a good animated gif every once in a while.

Anyway, back to Scott’s article. One of his recommendations for fighting the descent into becoming boring is what he calls “Expanding your circles”:

When you expand your social and intellectual range, you become more interesting. You’re able to make connections that others don’t see. You’re like a hunter, bringing a fresh supply of ideas and stories back to share with your friends.

This is very much related to Mark Granovetter’s 1973 theory of weak ties1. The theory states that because a person with strong ties in a network more or less knows what the other people in the network know, the effective spread of information relies on the weak ties between people in separate networks.

In other words, to get more interesting information out of Twitter or any other social network, you need to follow people who give you access to additional knowledge clusters. If you see too many tweets about the same thing in your timeline, or if your RSS reader shows 5 consecutive links to the same tech article, you may have too many strong ties.2

Go and and find those weak ties at the edges of your interests, and strengthen them. Otherwise we’ll just continue to talk about the same stuff over and over and over again. And that’s boring.

  1. “The Strength of Weak Ties”, Mark Granovetter, 1973. PDF link

  2. I wrote about this extensively in How to get more out of Twitter