The Oprah Effect

Brene Brown has risen to the surface of noticeability in recent times. She is known for her entertaining talks on TED. One is about ‘shame‘ and the other is on ‘vulnerability‘. She is a researcher by trade and provides context around these topics with charming self-depreciation. Her catch-cry is “dare greatly“. She has several books on these topics.

Her theory that all of us suffer from a deeply rooted sense of shame, stirs the soul and makes one consider the source. I have taken my torch on the dark journey of introspection only to find the cobwebs of life’s complexities.

So having experienced the Brene Brown effect, enjoyed some new perspectives, liked her viewpoints, and her apparent lack of need for fame, the next thing I notice she is standing alongside Oprah. And I experience ‘the Oprah Effect’. Not the way that it is commonly known with 1000% increase in sales, but the same feeling that I would get if I saw Brene Brown standing beside Ronald MacDonald. That impression! It immediately robs Brene of all credibility, in my mind. Oprah grabs on like a needy parasite, jumping on to the latest cause and sucking the life and goodness out of a really good idea.

When trying to examine why I get that immediate impression, I realise it is the commercialisation of the process of which Oprah is Queen. I acknowledge the good work Oprah achieves. But it is her cheap pop-culture, and dumbing-down for the masses, that diminishes the message and makes the messenger look like a money-grabbing opportunist, starting to believe their own self-importance. Brene willingly grabs Oprah’s hands as she hoists her up to onto the wobbly pedestal.

In my opinion people like Brene Brown only do themselves a disservice when they willingly jump on to the Oprah bandwagon. I know the dollars speak volumes. But is it worth it? How much is your professional integrity and credibility worth? Brene? I can’t watch or listen any further. I might read another of her books but that allows me space for proper consideration minus the bright shiny distractions that come with show business, and without the simplification and cheese you get dished up with the fake Oprah teenage tears.

Sorry Brene Brown but you are now officially ‘unliked’ on all my social media channels, and all it took was one image of you with Oprah. I wonder if other people experience The Oprah Effect similarly to me? Or is it just me?

After thinking about this today, I found this blog post by Brandon PearceLiving Beyond Labels. It seemed to synchronistically answer my train of thought. “It’s just putting on a show of intellectualism and causes separation between us and others.” He tells us to look beyond the labels we assign to feelings. He says to feel and appreciate the emotion (such as shame), notice how the emotion makes our body feel, then “when we move beyond words we experience the world in a whole new way.” Our life experience becomes more authentic. Thanks @brandags

Kevin Bacon versus the Lone Cowboy

I recently watched a program on TV called How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer. It was a really interesting documentary that followed some scientists and mathematicians as they tried to discover the mathematical theory and structure that supports networks. Kevin Bacon was of course the person who was the example used in the popular theory known as Six Degrees of Separation.

These networks apply to brain functions, cells, computer systems, viruses, the spread of disease, air traffic flight paths, and social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and many other systems or networks.

The concept of “hubs” enabled them to provide a richer and more comprehensive structure to the mathematical theory. Kevin Bacon would be the original celebrity “hub”. Heathrow Airport is a major hub in the air traffic systems. What makes a “hub” I wonder? When you think about people in social networks it can be due to popularity. In Facebook the number of “friends” you have is an indicator of this. But how many are manufactured and how many are genuine? Barrack Obama on Twitter would be a major hub in that system and a genuine one at that.

At the other extreme of this is what I have called “the lone cowboy”: the loner; the person who doesn’t want or need lots of people to validate your own identity in this world. It is someone who wants to opt-out of society and doesn’t want to be a part of the social network. This link in the network might be like a little regional airport, the less-used brain cells, or the person who lives a solitary existence.

I hope the mathematical theory does not conclude that the points with a small number of links are not any less needed or significant than the popular hubs in the network. My own tendencies move toward the less busy parts of the network.