Killing the Yes Men

Do you see your friends as fellow conspirators?

It’s weird to think that your friends might be hiding something from you, or that you might be doing the same from them. But you do, and they are.

You and your network are a system. You keep the good stuff and let it be spread through you, but you get rid of the bullshit and keep it from being heard, the same way your body weeds out and kills viruses. For example, studies have shown that political bloggers mostly link to each other, not to opposing viewpoints, leading to an audience with more polarized viewpoints on both sides over time.

Everybody is always acting as everyone else’s gatekeeper. I’m ok to introduce X person to Y, because I feel that X offers value, but I won’t introduce Z, who seems like he’s just in it for himself.

Your colleagues may not seem like filters to you, but they are. We naturally weed out what we dislike and grasp what we agree with, holding onto the stuff that strengthens our own internal arguments. In fact, we do the same with our friends, liking those that agree with us most, buffering us from those who may not agree with our worldview.

But here’s what’s interesting.

You used to hang out with your neighbours– hell, you used to know their names. But more and more, you’re hanging out with people you met online, who you met due to common interest rather than shared geography.

Friends that know through shared interest are pre-filtered, of course– they’ll agree with you because they are like you. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t have met them. But those that meet through shared geography are not, since you met them randomly, and they could be anyone. What does this mean for you and your frame of mind?

If resistance is what makes your body and mind strong, your brain is weakened by the lack of opposing forces. The same way that a body that isn’t used to the flu is more likely to get hurt by it (think 16th century Native Americans being wiped out by disease), your brain is becoming more and more out of balance, leading to over-development in one sense and frailty in another. Never mind lack of adaptability when encountering new circumstances.

You need to challenge yourself in a very serious way. Wipe out your RSS feeds and kill your Twitter followers– they are chosen by an old version of you that wanted yes-men instead of trusted advisors. If this is your kingdom, you need people that will challenge your views and, as such, keep you safe. How many people do you have like that now?

Some of the same friends I had when I was 17, I still have now. They’re very good at cutting me down to size, and I respect them for it. Do you have friends like this?

Maybe it’s time to find some.





9 responses to “Killing the Yes Men”

  1. Jordan Chénard Avatar

    Actually, at this very moment, I don’t have anything very interesting to say about your post but I know I won’t have anytime soon to come back and participate to this idea.

    Instead of confronting any of your point, just for fun, I just can take the time to say that you are fucking right dude! 😛

    The best persons I’ve met in my life who has helped me the most to become a better man is people who has confronted my ideas the more often.

    Thanks for this post. It reminds me some little things I forgot with the time!

    P.S. Désolé pour mon anglais écrit… Je fais des efforts, je te jure! 😛

  2. Steve Avatar

    I’ve also always found that a good indicator of a true friend is how much grief you get from them. When someone stops slapping me in the face, it’s probably because they have stopped caring or never did.

    P.S.: I also refuse to let you turn into a social media douchetard. 😉

  3. Richard Laskey (@rlaskey) Avatar

    Got a bit scared at the capitalization of Yes Men; I had thought you were starting to wage war on these guys: who certainly need to live long and healthy lives.

    Very good call, though. Aside from yes men, people change direction a lot these days, too. Especially when what we see online is a distilled version, only the text and not their physical presence, it’s easier to forget the personality/humanity from what it is they’re into as of late. If the friendship can continue offline or outside the network that you both share, then all the better. At the end of the day, I’d rather have actual friends than followers (an apt term in this discussion, too).

  4. Amber Whitener Avatar

    Julien, It is so difficult to step out of our comfort zone. However, you are so right. If we don’t, then we won’t be able to grow. Thank you for this post.

  5. Michelle Gillies Avatar

    Brilliant post, Julien. I am more comfortable with those who challenge me, and less trustfull of those who don’t. There was a time in my life when I was quite ill. Everyone was pussyfooting around me and saying what they thought I wanted to hear. At one point a friend I will always cherish, started yelling at me and told me to “F*#K!OFF!” over something. That was the first true indication to me that I wasn’t going to die. I love her for it.

  6. Marko Avatar

    Totally agree; we need ‘No-men’ even more than ‘Yes-men’. It’s harder to be a ‘No-man’ which is why odds are that people that know you the longest are the ‘No-people’.

    That said…..I think even virtual friends need to suck it up and just be more honest. It’s harder to do on the Net but can still be done through tact and diplomacy. In the long term, even virtual relationships get much stronger this way.

  7. Connie Crosby Avatar

    I dunno, man, should I dump my friends who are positive and encourage me, and find a few new ones who will tempt me into an unhealthy direction? It took effort to get rid of the people who made me feel angry, mad, frustrated…

    I think it depends on the individual’s personality and needs.

  8. Roxy Avatar

    Half my family (uncles, aunts, cousins) is conservative and the other half is liberal. We are doing this thing for 3 months that we liberal half must listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio and the conservative half must listen to only NPR, just to understand the other side’s point of view. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  9. CT Moore Avatar

    What about the folks who you know talk behind your back? Are they good for anything?

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