Why Aren’t We Spreading Our “Ideas Worth Spreading”?

My TEDxLSU 2017 Talk

Everyone has a voice now….right? Just look at all of this sharing that is happening. Look at all of the cat photos and the food selfies…

Look at this guy’s description of his fantasy football woes…

or this lady’s idea for education reform…

Who cares what she thinks…right? She’s not an expert!

BUT, agree with her opinion or not, at least she put it out there.

While social media seems very noisy, it’s actually just a fraction of people who are making the noise

and a VERY small fraction who are providing any sort of original, even slightly daring thoughts or ideas.

It might feel like there are a lot more people contributing than this, but it’s just because the ones who are tend to be pretty loud.

Why are more people not sharing their real thoughts and ideas?

Because in spite of our advances in technology, there are still barriers.

I believe these barriers need to be broken down. The solution to bad thoughts and ideas is NOT to suppress them. It is more, honest, unfiltered thoughts and ideas. I believe that when we make space for all ideas, and they are vetted or scrutinized for their potential merits, by society collectively, then the best will rise to the top.

There are four major barriers causing idea suppression for the vast majority of people. The first is…

Fear of embarrassment, of judgment, of being shamed…even of harm.

“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear.” — Mahatma Gandhi

We say and do things that feel safe, every day. We take on the beliefs that allow for us to fit in with our friends, at our church, and in our professional lives.

In an online world, the solution to fear is…

The United States discovered the power of anonymity in the 1890’s when secret ballots were adopted. As a result, harassment and bribery were largely eliminated from the election process.

Anonymity levels the playing field. If it’s unknown whether an idea came from the janitor or the CEO, a student or the university president, an oppressed citizen or their dictator, then the idea stands on its own merits rather than the person who presented it.

The second barrier causing idea suppression is…

or bullying, which in this case is actually a negative consequence of anonymity, the solution to fear. When some people have the power of anonymity, they will abuse it. That’s the thing with any power, right?….some people will always try to abuse it.

The solution to harassment is…

You’re undoubtedly wondering…how can you possibly have anonymity and accountability? It doesn’t work that way. That is true…in the physical world, they really aren’t compatible. But in the technological world, they can coexist. The user can be held accountable while the person remains anonymous.

It must be a transparent check and balance, enforced and governed by the community itself rather than a centralized body.

The third barrier causing idea suppression is…

…or an inability to get your idea to your target audience.

Say that you have an idea to make your local community better. You know that it runs contrary to the mindset of your close friends and probably some of your co-workers, but you get over your fear of strange looks from them and you share it using social media. If you don’t have enough reach, enough “followers”, then your idea will not get any attention. If it reaches the wrong people, people who aren’t in the right places or circles, then you are just providing irrelevant information.

The ability to target your ideas to specific groups, cultures and geographic areas is the solution to information overload and limited personal reach.

The fourth barrier causing idea suppression is…

If you can somehow get past the other three barriers, then it is still almost impossible to get honest, productive feedback.

Today’s social media world and even segments of the real world offer praise as a solution to whatever ills.

The little league team that finishes last, but all of the players go home with shiny trophies just for participating.

The failing student who gets a C+ on the curve.

The DANGEROUS thought or idea that is only allowed to receive a thumbs up.

The solution to false praise is…

Too often we conflate disagreement with negativity and mean spiritedness.

We want to feel comfort, so we search for the like minded and we avoid dissenting opinions. But when it comes to ideas, we must embrace honest feedback.

These four approaches…anonymity, accountability, audience targeting and the ability to agree or dissent, when implemented together can significantly reduce the suppression of ideas and enable the really good stuff to surface. But none of the current social media have done this…why?

Because they were not made for ideas


was made to connect with friends and to share experiences with them.


was made to allow you to broadcast short thoughts and to build a personal following.


was made to take picture sharing to the next level.

There is nothing wrong with these goals or the tools created to accomplish them, but ideas require different tools. Sharing ideas on existing social media is like trying to drive a nail with a screwdriver. We’re just not using the right tool.

After coming to this realization, I teamed up with my good friends, the best developers and designers that I know, to create Freebird….a mobile and web application that brings together anonymity, accountability, audience targeting, and the ability to agree or dissent, all in one place. It is our attempt to help you to share your constructive thoughts and ideas with…

Now you can share an idea without fear. You can get it to the right people and receive honest feedback that can help to drive the idea forward.

We all have ideas. Some are certainly better than others, but we have to get them all out there…all of them….so that together, we can discover the good.

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