3 minutes / 585 words
Something has happened to me. I’ve become that annoying person who’s just a little too sensitive about being appropriate in my writing and creative. Yes, the guy who liked challenging conventional thinking is now the one you want to grab and say, “What happened to you?”
As a former television marketer, I learned to be cautious about what I wrote in a script or copy lest I hurt a station, anchor, or network’s reputation – but I could still push the envelope. The thing is, in an age of social media, which has democratized who can get a message out, cultural norms can change so fast it’s easy to be behind the curve. It’s like watching an old sitcom and cringing at a joke that wouldn’t fly today.
She was hungry. Heck yeah, she was. I would have been, too.
Doing employee comms at Salesforce, I was responsible for nearly 500 digital screens in our offices worldwide. When the 49ers were Super Bowl-bound, I planned “go team” screens to excite our San Francisco employees. I’d done this at Turner just a few years before when the Falcons were in the Super Bowl, and employees loved it.
I mentioned it to a friend on the Equality team, who warned me it would be a microaggression. A what? I wasn’t clear what that meant then, and she explained that sports discussions in the male-dominated tech business caused women to feel excluded. Think: the old days of men closing deals on the golf course. The idea was great in one company in a different city not long before. A little later, another town, another industry, and the bar had moved. Who knew?
As I’ve built these listening muscles and adjusted to what’s considered appropriate today, I’ve noticed things that make me scratch my head.
My daughter’s Gen-Z generation has no problem adjusting when someone changes their pronouns. When a Gen-X finds out, there’s usually a debate about singular and plural pronouns.
For example, a few weeks ago, a self-described “D-list star” posted an Instagram video from her daughter’s oversized, overstuffed closet, lamenting how much was barely worn. Her daughter was finally going through it, and the star later posted a video of the shoes and clothes for donation. I thought, “What a bunch of rich white girl problems.” Her intentions were pure; her fans probably loved seeing her home. To me, she knew not what she was inadvertently saying. I wondered if her brand was hurt.
Today — and the inspiration for this post — an exercise instructor talked about her weekend and hitting a bar at 10 p.m. She hadn’t eaten dinner, but the kitchen was closed when she arrived. She was hungry. Heck yeah, she was. I would have been, too. She asked for anything, martini olives, whatever, but no deal. The bouncer overheard the discussion, had a loaf of bread in his backpack, and shared it with her. In an act of genuine gratitude, she thanked him during the class. Talk about public props! One problem: she said, “Thank you for feeding the hungry.” <sigh> First-world problems, her hunger.
As each generation raises the bar and cultural norms change ever faster, it’s easy to fall behind. My daughter’s Gen-Z generation has no problem adjusting when someone changes their pronouns. When a Gen-X finds out, there’s usually a debate about singular and plural pronouns.
Whether you’re a regular person making a post or a content creator doing a job, building sensitivity muscles won’t make you a progressive, bleeding heart or royal blue. It just means you have some neural plasticity to be taught a new trick, and your work will attract more than it offends. Better to be “that person” than the one with creepy Goodwill donation videos.