The Parrot Culture

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This has probably always been the case to some degree, but I think it gets even more apparent with the Internet and the rise of social media. What exactly? The culture where everyone is a parrot, merely repeating what some idol said in a post / interview / talk without really thinking things through and asking questions.

Who said that?

I was asked this in a meeting when I presented an idea of how to structure web applications in a way which gave focus on the end user’s and not the technology. “Who else says this? ” and my response was: “I don’t know, probably no one as we just made this up”. This exchange bothered me for a while. Why was this the first question? How come the origin of the idea was the first question and not something about the idea? Had I said the name of some well known authority, there’d be less questions.

Later on I presented the same stuff for a different audience. I got asked the same question by several people: ” Have you heard Mr XYZ? This sounds a lot like what he said”. I had indeed not heard about the person or his ideas. What I wondered was if the person was thought the idea was good because it reflected that of some idol or because it made sense?

All debates whether it’s about technology, methodology, starting a business or whatever all circle around the current trends being put forward by thought leaders, Web sites or people in social media. Gone are the original thoughts and the ability to figure out what to do on your own.


Do not get me wrong. I am as guilty as the next person of being a parrot. There’s naturally nothing wrong with seeking inspiration from amazing people. Gathering knowledge and insights from others is essential to learning. What we forget now that the stream of knowledge is continuous and we have access to the ideas of amazing people in seconds, is to take 5 seconds and try to critique the thing we are reading. Why is this person saying this? What does this person benefit from saying this? Is the context which the person applied the ideas relevant? Etc etc.

Critical thinking is replaced by sharing and saying +1 in an effort to build up a image of our selfes. And yes, I realize I sound like an old man getting out of touch with how the world is changing ;)

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