Nostalgia And Old School Thinking Compromise Today

Several weeks ago, a person commented on another blog that I had an obscure blog.

What exactly did she mean? I wasn’t really sure, so I turned to a web dictionary.

Obscure: indistinct; indistinctly heard; faint; far from centers of human population; out of sight; hidden; not readily noticed or seen; inconspicuous

This woman is an association executive, leader and owns an association management company. We are both members of the same association and she serves in a leadership role there.

She felt that my opinions and perspectives were hidden, out of sight and far from anyone being able to find me. Odd, since my blog and opinions were on the web for anyone to read and view. My point of view was out in the open.

She further felt that I should bring my concerns behind the association’s membership walls and follow a chain of hierarchy to voice my matters privately. She was upset that I had aired dirty laundry. As I said to her, if the association washed their laundry, there would not be any dirty laundry to air. I also said to her that the conversation could not be controlled by anyone, never was controlled, and to think that it was, was old guard, old school typical boomer thinking. (That comment pushed her buttons and she let me know so.)

She felt that I was not a valid blogger or legitimate member with an authoritative voice. I’ve heard this argument many times before concerning blogging and social media. Some people say social media and blogs are only for illiterati, the uneducated, amateurish, immoral unprofessional.

Here are the comments I left on another blog about a very similar issue where educated journalists were crying foul about so many bloggers and that internet publishing was for hacks and idiots. My comments on that post apply to this situation as well.

Those who decry, disparage and denounce social media and digital publishing are protectionists living in a world of nostalgia, yearning for yesteryear. The tougher times get, the more nostalgia seems the clever play.

Nostalgia, old guard, traditional thinking

Nostalgia, old guard, traditional thinking

The smart money, of course, is moving on. New technologies, new markets, new opportunities, new hope, new conversations, new writings, new communities — time and commerce never go backward. Nostalgia is just a way to convince the frightened that someone else is to blame. Erudite writers [and old guard association leaders] refuse to embrace that the world is changing and that people don’t want “talked at” or even “talked to,” they want “talked with.” People want an open, honest, transparent, two-way conversation.

We are tempted to pine for former days, to imagine that life was better in some “golden age,” and to believe that some evil power forced modernity on us. That all we need for restoring sanity to our lives is to go back to a bygone era’s certainties, when top down control was embraced and those who marched to a different drum were pronounced heretics. [That association members are to keep their opinions to themselves, get in line and be quiet.] That only an exclusive few have the ability to communicate and write with any panache and the rest of us are to consume those thoughts and litanies without causing any provocation.

We play with fire when we cast longing looks backward and refuse to embrace change. We risk losing today and compromising tomorrow. We lapse into delusion, as if rekindling a high school romance wipes all slates clean. Today’s problems don’t get solved by imagining better times, especially when those times weren’t any better. How can we make a useful contribution to today’s society if we are fighting over yesterday, freezing time in an ancient place and treating writing and publishing as a profession that stopped with the invention of the Internet? We must not emulate these pedantic writers [or association leaders].

Freedom is hard duty. To paraphrase a great quote, “Off with their pens!”

So what do you think? Should nonprofit associations welcome and encourage divergent thought and opinions? How should organizations deal with a variety of ways people voice their concerns and issues today?


  1. says

    Well you post contains a panoply of interesting points of comment departure, here is one for your amusement:

    When we speak of “dirty laundry,” we are of course talking of things of which we are ashamed. So I think it is important to focus on the sense of personal shame that figures into the discussion.

    For many people, their sense of shame/ worthlessness is countered by their belief in the sanctity of the greater organization to which they fervently belong.

    So when you criticize an organization, since part of the organization’s raison d’etre is to counterbalance individual sense of inadequacy, fear, etc., you will of course have to deal with the backlash of someone feeling that you have exposed and attacked their own shame state– which in this case was manifested in their telling you that YOU were a bad person . . . for just being yourself and telling the truth. (For further reading, see Galileo.)

    Ultimately, if you want to bring about real change, it’s not enough to do just one side of it. You will also have to deal with the underlying fear that draws so many people the supposed safety of the old castle walls. They may hate the king, but as they say, he’s “the devil you know.”

    Organizations will always exist due to our need for them, but part of why they exist is to counter our individual fears and vulnerabilities. For anyone in a management role, understanding and coping with that darker realm of human nature is a cost of doing business. Most use it to maintain the status quo, so if you want make changes, you need to know the techniques as well. It’s annoying and complicated, but necessary.

    For further reading on managing such things, may I be so bold as to recommend my “Principles of Applied Stupidity.” -jl

  2. says

    Hi Jeff,

    I find it rather ironic that any person would find your blog “obscure” as it is anything but that.

    I have been reading your blog posts for quite some time now and I say unhesitatingly they are thought provoking and refreshing. As Betsy Myers stated in the WEC opening General Session we are in the “new now” …. life is just not the same as it was 6 months ago and it never will be … your blog embodies that spirit!

    The traditional “top down” approach to communication and “controlled” approach to interactivity just does not cut it. We can’t afford to sweep our problems and challenges under a rug and just hope they will go away. We need to talk openly about them and collaborate with our colleagues to figure out where to go next in this life journey.

    The only way associations are going to remain relevant and sustain or grow their memberships is by embracing change, encouraging free collaboration amongst their members and synthesize the ideas presented into a workable action plan to catapult their organizations to a newer, higher level.

    Running from new ideas, technologies and business models is not only foolish, but a race an organization can’t win.

    Mike McCurry

  3. says

    Jeff, clearly this person really does not get it. Your blog, far from being obscure is not the voice of their authority but yours. The name clearly states that it is a view from the trenches, social media in its purest form is exactly that. We no longer need to be anointed with authority, we claim it by owning our voice, opinions and insights. Keep up the fantastic work!

    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Karen Swim
      Thanks for the comment and kind reply. I really like what you said about claiming our own voice. Appreciate it.

      @Michael McCurry
      Thanks for the great feedback. I agree with you that learning to embrace change is important for all organizations. Change happens!

      @Justin Locke
      Very well stated. Thoughtful and insightful. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  4. says

    jeff, you always give such great responses to comment posts, you should give a workshop.

    anyway, also wanted to quote norman mailer, who once said, “writing a book is like prizefighting. win or lose, you’re going to take a beating.” if you do truly “engage” with your audience, there wil be times when that engagement will expose negativity. historically speaking, cutting edge artists, scientists and philosophers have generally been arrested at least once. you’re in good company. – jl

  5. says

    Jeff, you are a fab blogger with interesting POV, wicked humor – and the bravery to call out the elephant in the room.

    I do worry about those being left behind the SM train. It’s hard to lose face in being so adamantly wrong – and have to step forward later perhaps in shame.

    I think there need to be more mid-wives in the process making it feel safe to explore. Many who “get it” project energy of looking down on those who don’t. Who will serve as a gentle translator and build the bridge for those left behind?

    For those not fond of change and exciting new things, this can be a very scary time. (Not that they would admit it of course.)

    Just honoring your position – and perhaps walking a few steps in her shoes too.


    • Jeff Hurt says


      Wise, wise words!

      I love your idea of a mid-wife helping others embrace Web 2.0. What an awesome way to be the link between the past and the present and we need more people with your ability to do that. However, one has to identify that he or she needs a social media midwife first and that is the challenge. We cannot help people who do not want help. I think fear is the biggest reason why people do not embrace change. Fear of losing control, fear of the unknown, fear of making a mistake.

      I am seeing some smart organization executives step forward and say, “We need to learn about this Web 2.0 world and new media.” They form unique partnerships with young savvy Web 2.0 people. They mentor these techies and teach them the business side of the organization and the techies help the executives learn the Web 2.0 world. Again, identifying that one needs to do things differently is the first step.

      @Maggie McGary
      Thanks for the kinds words. Yes, I agree that her words sounded dated and showed an attitude that does not sit well with most people in today’s society. I also heard a lot of fear in those words and one who was trying to hold back the tide of change.

  6. says

    I second what Cynthia said–you are an awesome blogger with a unique style and a ton of passion about associations.

    And I’m sorry but I’m lmao at “bring my concerns behind the association’s membership walls and follow a chain of hierarchy to voice my matters privately.” Sounds to me a lot like “women should do what their husbands tell them to do” or “children should be seen and not heard.”

  7. says

    Jeff – I particularly appreciated this: “She further felt that I should bring my concerns behind the association’s membership walls and follow a chain of hierarchy to voice my matters privately”. Wow. Your comment on washing dirty laundry made me grin. When people ask you not to air their dirty laundry and deal with it privately, is really them asking you to play by old rules that allow them to deal with you in a way that benefits them, not you. Problems get muffled and deflected, not resolved. As you say, if you clean your laundry, everything will look and smell great in public. ;-). The situation you’re describing is a perfect illustration of why so many people on the web support the transparency movement in government, on corporate blogs, with community management etc – at it’s core, it’s about embracing accountability. Awesome post. Really enjoyed this.


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