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I don't think having a following on the internet means you have to never engage or defend yourself. But I think that you have to behave differently than you would if you didn't have a following. And I know that thinking about this from the perspective of the person in the robot suit is like, "Oh, boo hoo, you're rich and famous I'm so sorry someone was mean to you once." But now that the internet exists, occasionally the once infathomable distance between a few people chatting in their social space and a super mainstream celebrity, occasionally collapses to literally no distance at all.

Celebrities don't feel like anything more than people...they look in the mirror and see their soft, squishy bodies. So when they walk in on a group of people saying terrible things, it's understandable that they would react. But those people are seeing the robot suit, not the person.

But I think we should realize that we're all wearing robot suits these days, and that we're all a lot more powerful than we think we are. It's very easy to go too hard these days, whether you've been building your suit for a decade or whether you're just a simple quiet person with a Twitter account.


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Good morning, John. I would like to tell you about my giant robot suit.

Credit where it's due, this analogy was brought to me by the remarkable Patrick Rothfuss, the author of The Name of the Wind, which is up there somewhere.

In his imagination, everyone on the internet is walking around in this place. They're hanging out in one neighbourhood or another, they're having conversations and discussions and arguments, and everyone is wearing a robot suit. And people's robot suits are different. They have different abilities, they're different sizes.

But the really weird thing is, you can't see your own robot suit. Like, if you look at a mirror, you just see skin. You can only learn about your robot suit by watching other people's reaction to it. You can't see it, but it's real. And if your robot suit is super big, but you're pretending it isn't real, you might be walking to the store one day and crush a building. Someone might be yelling up at you just hoping beyond hope that maybe you'll someday hear them, but to you, it feels like they're standing right in your face, with the spit hitting you in the skin. And if your robot suit's real big, maybe somebody throws a stone at you thinking it could never do anything but maybe chink(?~0:59) you're armour, and to you, it feels like you got hit with a rock. And then when you respond with a rock of your own, if you don't know the strength of your own robot suit, you might have accidentally thrown a boulder. And you do more harm than you wanted to, and maybe more harm than you ever even realize. You might signal bad behaviour to a lot of other people, you might ultimately become a destructive force in the world, and you might also hurt yourself.

But, having a giant robot suit is amazing. Maybe you can broadcast your message to millions of people, you can make money with it, you can change lives with it, you can change culture with it. But it also has bad parts. People are always watching you, and if you screw up, you do it in public. Lots of people think things about you. Somethimes they say things that aren't true, and then other people believe those things because you're there, for everyone to look at and think about. The responsibility of trying to do the right thing with your robot suit can be a big weight, and that can be annoying. People might see you as so big and powerful that they can do anything or say anything to you and it has no chance of hurting you. It might make people feel really good and powerful to have any impact on you at all, no matter what that impact is.

But you can't have the good parts without the bad parts. All of the influence and power and money comes from the same giant robot suit that makes it really easy for you to do more harm than you intend, and makes you look impervious to harm. If you're tempted to say that the giant robot suit is only perception, yeah, but so is everything on the internet. So while we can and should ask that people everywhere are thoughtful and kind, we also need to recognize that the powerful have power, and should be careful and thoughtful with it.

Is there a ten-step guide on how to do that? No, but there is a one step guide - look in the mirror of other people's eyes and see your power for what it is. Let it give you the confidence to handle criticism without feeling victimized, even if that criticism is not kindly meant or kindly delivered. And let it remind you to be more careful, not to stop moving, not to cease engagement, but to step lightly, take care, and be kind.

As fame has fractured and more and more people are being fitted for their own giant robot suits of various kinds, I think this is an important thing to talk about. Whether we're inside the robot suit or just witnessing one from street level, maybe this metaphor will give people a more accurate understanding of reality, and a tool with which to understand this very new world.

This is all stuff that I'm still thinking about, lessons that I'm still learning. Mistakes have been made in my life. I have to live with the harm that my mis-steps have caused, and the weight of the responsibility of my influence. I have to live with those things. But if that's the price for a very cool life, I'm happy to pay it.

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.