The Beginning of a Fruitful Dialogue
Things we’ve seen and learned 10 days into the formation of a new friendly and diverse space on the internet.
Fruitful.zone is a brand new community that’s attempting to build a friendly and diverse space for political (and other divisive) conversations to happen more productively. (Learn more and sign up for the waitlist here.)
It launched on Monday, January 7th, which means we’re officially into double-digit days of existence. It also means that we’re very much in the “forming” stage, trying to find our feet, our voices, our shared values, and to work through our first few bumps in the road.
Here’s a screenshot of top topics from the first 10 days:
The “Ask me anything” style topics have been a really useful way for us to introduce our differences without triggering defenses. Where else can you ask the same question to a Trump supporter, an Episcopal priest, and a non-resident American and not only get honest, thoughtful answers but also have these people in the threads asking each other questions too!
Some excerpts from the AMA with a Trump supporter:
Question: “Are there any issues you support that you think liberals should support too?”
Reply: “Off the top of my head, criminal justice reform. If there is anything that is in my wheelhouse from a philosophical perspective, it’s this. I’m talking about petty drug charges and such, not violent crime. I deleted 3 other ideas because I don’t know.”
A big topic has been about this fact that so much of the fighting is really about the fact that we don’t respect each other, and treat each other poorly. Which of course proves that we’re not worth getting along with.
Question: “What are the behaviors exhibited by others that result in you feeling respected?”
Reply: “On Youtube, there are 100’s of video of Trump supporters getting assaulted for wearing MAGA gear.”
He then linked to a sampling of a half dozen viral videos where the Trump supporters were acting pretty politely and the liberals were acting ridiculous. If this were shared in a thread on Facebook, it would instantly spark a round of “But what about this equally ridiculous thing that Trump supporters have done???” and nothing productive would come of it. But here, because we’re not just dive bombing into comment sections randomly, but collectively interested in building a community around this, it was met with interest and ultimately curiosity.
One person said, “I’m a librarian who talks to people of all ages about how to use the Internet, about implicit bias, about different media sources and about how we can sometimes live parallel and totally different lives online, and this still shocked me — that this is a whole world of viral content that completely doesn’t make its way to me, even though I do have at least a few Trump supporters on my Facebook Friends list.”
In the first 10 days there have already been really great discussions about what diversity means, how to protect ourselves from disinformation attacks that target our confirmation bias, the difference between expressive and restrained disagreement styles and how our tools and topic might bias one form over another, and a discussion that led to one member forming a ladies-only group to help balance out an ever-present tendency for male voices to dominate a conversation.
How will we make the community diverse?
We’re keeping this invite-only for now, and are actively inviting people who will help make sure that we’re able to build trust across as many different perspectives as possible. This means we’re looking for conservative-leaning people, people from underrepresented groups, quiet people, people who are apolitical, immigrants, women, elders, millennials, and basically any combination of identities that make you complicated and unique in the world.
We don’t require people to self-identify their political ideology, but of those that have so far, here’s the breakdown:
We obviously have work to do to bring the liberal/conservative into balance, but this is already better than it was after the first week.
Creating incentives to have a diverse community is also important. That’s why I’m committing to keeping this free and will not be taking any form of sponsorship or advertiser money… too many conflicts of interest pop up when powerful entities like banks and brands get involved.
How will we make the community friendly?
The easiest way to make a community friendly is to make it very niche and homogenous (aka not diverse). Since we’re doing the opposite, we’re going to pay extra attention to making sure we give clear guidelines (that evolve over time) about what it means to be friendly within a diverse community. It’s going to be a challenge, because we have so little practice speaking to people we don’t know very well that come from completely different backgrounds and perspectives as us. We’re working on guidelines, borrowed and adapted from many other inspirations that have come before us, and are working together to make sure it’s light, clear, and enforcible. If you want a part in helping us form this, please reach out!
Here’s the initial launch announcement: