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How can I get more people interested in important issues?

I say "Fukushima" and get blank stares! I post an article on Facebook about GMOs and no one responds, yet a picture of that grumpy cat gets comments and likes. How can I get people to discuss or at least care about what's going on in the world?

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    Mar 8 2014: Jesus Christ says, "My sheep hear my voice and follow me. They will not follow a stranger".

    This generation is the most entertained generation; far more interested in Anne Hathaway's privates and Lupita Nyongo's clothing and Justin Bieber's hair than in burning issues like the war in Syria, Fukushima disaster, oil spills and global environmental degradation.

    Entertainment is good; I'm a filmmaker and God knows I love all the attention. But we are becoming like fools who keep dancing as a house burns down and its parts gradually crash. Great scene for a move, yet, this is not a movie; this is life.
    I also think that what is 'important' to you might not be such to another; and human primary interests are as varied as humanity is.

    I'd advise that you find online communities that share your concerns. It's of no use talking about Rhino poaching in South Africa in a online community of those obsessed with pouty pictures or the recent revenge porn.

    Let your voice be heard in the 'right' online community; your sheep will hear your voice.
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    Mar 8 2014: You might start by talking with the many people who *do* share your concerns and priorities.

    There are times and places better suited to serious discussion than others. For example, I don't know whether Facebook is the best place to discuss issues. I had the impression that Facebook is many people's favorite spot for light socializing.

    But there are many places on the web for discussing the sorts of topics that you want to discuss. You have to get the feel of different sites to see what interests the people you find there.
    • K B

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      Mar 8 2014: I'm looking for people who are like-minded, I can't seem to find any in my area but I'm still looking. I posted this on TED to see if there was something I hadn't thought of to use with my own family/friends. But I agree Facebook isn't the place for heavy stuff, I'm not really using the site much anymore.
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        Mar 8 2014: If you live in an urban area, you will find people who share your interests. There are some people who like to chat about an array of current events, others who are interested in a particular policy area, and others who actually work on a problem.

        If your interest extends to working on an issue, you might look for organizations that work on or advocate in your area and start attending their meetings.

        It is difficult to turn particular friends or family to your interests, as they have their own. Even among those interested in matters of policy, some people tend to specialize in order not to spread themselves too thin. As an example, I work in specific policy areas and not others that are also important. Or there are doctors who work on health but this doesn't mean they do not care about environmental issues. They just don't keep as up-to-date on them because they are not able to do everything at once.

        Let me also suggest that what you interpret as lack of interest may rather be that they know your point of view in a particular area, like GM foods, don't agree with your analysis, and don't want to spend their time arguing with you about it.

        While there are many thoughtful people participating in TED Conversations, many will not participate in a conversation on specific topics.
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        Mar 8 2014: Ok K B,
        So, you are spending time and energy here in this conversation complaining about not finding people to connect with. How about spending the time in conversations about topics you feel are important.

        Go to the left of this page, and you will see "popular topics"....."see all topics"......you will find hundreds of topics, and surely you will find something there that interests you. Stop complaining, and take some appropriate action that might change what you want to change in your life!
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          Mar 9 2014: I think the problem with that is that there are too many uninteresting topics for most people. I remember I did a lot of scrolling before I found one that really interested me. Perhaps that's the lazy side of me speaking, but I think the fact that K B starting this conversation means that she has had trouble finding like-minded individuals in these other conversations. I don't think it's just complaining, I think it's searching, relieving self-doubt by making sure there are other people interested in the same thing. Perhaps it's a bit unnecessary, this is a rather large website after all, and it's next to impossible to not find like-minded individuals, but this is quite self-affirming. Perhaps she will start conversations that matter to her after this.
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      Mar 9 2014: There are indeed topics that some folks perceive to be uninteresting Adrian. There are topics people do not know anything about, so they do not participate in those conversations, there are all kinds of scenarios.

      I agree that there seems to be a genuine need to connect with like minded people, which has not been met. I also agree that this is a large website, and it seems that a person could connect with like minded people with a little searching and relief of self-doubt, as you insightfully recognize.

      You seem to be much more than just a little kid Adrian (I read your profile). You seem to be a very insightful young man......welcome to TED conversations:>)
  • Mar 10 2014: "Important" has within it, some level of subjectivity.

    An issue that is important to you may be of little importance to others.

    For example, I am aware of "the GMO issue". I just could not care less. I have seen the data and studies and found it to be somewhere between hokum and inconclusive.

    Same goes for Fukishima. Horrid design for a power plant, in a horrid location, without a tsunami immune pumping system? Disaster waiting to happen. But, the level of radioactivity being released, and the dilution that occurs when the radioactive water is dumped into the ocean is not a real concern.

    On the flip side, I am VERY concerned about the widening wealth disparity and unsustainable debt growth that is occurring in most of the word, triggered by too flat of an income tax code allowing too much money to pool into too few hands.... And the people that are freaked out by Fukishima and GMOs just shrug their shoulders or offer blank stares.
  • Mar 8 2014: As a local government profesional I struggle with your question quite frequently. I would encourage you to consider two things. First, most communities have a comprehensive plan. It is updated every few years. It creates a forum for people to identify important issues and talk about local action to creat a positve impact. Talk to your planning department.
    Second, community foundations have programs and field of interest funds around important issues. Call your local community foundation.
    Not many people would expect Dubuque, Iowa to be an international leader around the principles of sustainability, but it is. Why? An engaged citizenry that has communcated with the political leaders making it the #1 priority. Dubuque has been named an All-America city 3 times in the last 6 years by the National Civic League. This is the academy award of community engagement. Check out www.sustainabledubuque.org, www.dbqfoundation.org and www.cityofdubuque.org. Then consider getting involved in your local government.
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      Mar 9 2014: There seems to be a bug right now that hinders "thumbs up" because the site thinks many people are using the same internet connection. I appreciated your suggestion to look at the forums local governments so often provide for issues that can practically be addressed locally.
  • Mar 8 2014: It takes two parts. You need to explain to people why it is important. The other part is showing different ways they can do something. Many people don't show interest in something if they don't feel that they can do anything about it.
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    Mar 7 2014: Hi K B
    The truth is that different people consider different things important. A lot consider sport, tv, etc important, but less are interested in the subjects that really matter. Many also are afraid to address the difficult ones; it's a scary world, & folks just hide.
    Funerals are a good place for a reality check.
    Try focussing on a narrower subject like 'Slavery' or whatever, that folks can get their teeth into.

  • Gord G 50+

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    Mar 12 2014: You can't change people. You can only present them with an opportunity to change. Your frustration is rooted in your unrealized expectations. Your expectations are egocentric. If you're truly being altruistic, it doesn't matter whether they develop an interest. The important aspect is…you provided an opportunity for change.

    [in terms of your approach…that's a skill that develops the more you apply it]
  • Mar 10 2014: KB,
    You can't force someone to open their eyes unless they actually want to open their eyes.

    You say that you live in a rural environment, and there are no groups in your area that are addressing your concerns.

    You also say that you buy organic food, sign petitions, and attend rallies.
    I would say that the people you encounter when you are doing those things, THEY are the like-minded people that you need to talk to.

    Best of luck!
  • Mar 9 2014: Importance of issues vary from person to person. Even like minded people differ.First make your close circle to think what you have in mind is worth considering.
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    Mar 9 2014: KB, I. too, am surprised that your question provoked so much spanking. I didn't find any complaining in your post, nor any ignorance that justified loads of grumpy advice. Perhaps you caught many responders on a bad day. TED is usually constructive and sympathetic but you, my friend, became a target in the stocks for stale vegetables and rotten eggs.
    Of course, you didn't just say 'Fukushima'. You must have tried to engage people on the subject of nuclear waste spillage. That shouldn't have been too hard or irrelevant for listeners to show their interest.
    Some reactions here were right that Facebook is hardly an appropriate forum for intelligent opinions, and others correctly assumed a large sector of society is too introverted to discuss anything.
    Don't despair, old mate. Probably, for many TEDdies your statement was too brief, and they rather understandably wandered over to their own gripes. We are all genetically modified organisms.
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    Mar 8 2014: K B,
    I find that one of the most successful ways to connect with people is to be genuinely interested in, and curious about what they are interested in. When we are interested in each other, there is a possibility to honestly connect.

    Your introduction is all about you.....I do this and I do that and THEY don't respond. It sounds like you have made your own judgments about what is important and what is not? Genuinely connecting usually involves a sharing of information without judgment.

    I saw this when I was a teenager, and being a curious person, it makes perfect sense to me.....
    Interested = interesting
    Interesting = interested

    Finding the balance with what you want to discuss, and what other people want to discuss may be interesting:>)

    Welcome to TED conversations....perhaps you might find something interesting here, if you are truly interested:>)
    • Mar 8 2014: Thank u Mam,
      I really learn lot of things from this.
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        Mar 8 2014: Thank you for the feedback Hitendra....it is very kind of you:>)
  • Mar 8 2014: Kinda funny but true! ...another question pops up in the mind of most individuals: to what extent? ppl who get involved in these stuff usually end up not doing much anyway..why dont they relax instead...and as someone said earlier ppl consider different things important....if it doesnt hurt me nor does it help....why should they....ppl will only become reactive if it affects them in a great deal or probably there is a reward they cant pass by...so in that state something as trivial as the picture of the grumpy cat which brings fun and laughter is considered more important
  • Mar 13 2014: Try twitter, find like-minded and smart people, and keep at it
  • Mar 12 2014: I have the same problem.
    No one seems to care in America about our own government.
    I point out terrible things that are occurring, and no one cares.
    It is most disheartening.
    Yesterday was a prime example. A terrible thing has happened. People should be
    shouting and demanding this type of behavior to not only be stopped, but the criminals
    doing this be apprehended and carted off to the hoosegow.
    Yesterday March 11, 2014
    Senator Dianne Feinstein Accused the C.I.A. of Spying on the Senate, by searching
    the computers of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which she chairs.

    In a speech on the Senate floor, this feisty 80 year old Senator accused the C.I.A.
    of sabotaging the oversight efforts of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,
    which she chairs, and thus the separation of powers; by engaging in “a potential effort
    to intimidate this staff,” by accusing them of “hacking”; breaking its word; and maybe
    breaking the law. “Besides the constitutional implications, the C.I.A. search may also
    have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as
    Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the C.I.A. from conducting domestic searches
    or surveillance,” she said. The C.I.A. spied on the Senate, and the senator is angry.
    This is not Political "business as usual".
    This "if proven to be true" violates the separation of powers of our government.
    And a serious crime against our United States Bill of Rights and Constitution.
    K B -- What do you think? Is this just a Political Hot Potato, to be ignored
    because it must be just Washington DC rhetoric?
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    Mar 12 2014: Find a topic the person you're conversing with can connect with, something somewhat personal. A shocker is usually the best way to grip their attention and hold onto it. Once you've proven knowledgable on a topic that they actually relate to they will trust and look to you for more information on other topics...hopefully. That's the strategy I attempt to follow in my own social circle of anti-intellectuals. :)
  • Mar 11 2014: Try saying, "Fuckushima!" Maybe they'll ask, "What are you talking about?"
    Maybe that will help.
    Keep trying. It's hard especially when people only want to talk rather than do anything
    because ted.com is mostly talk. Though powerful, it is not action.
    Those who take action have to be watched carefully as well, however.
    Take Stuart Hameroff. He is is an anesthesiologist and professor at the University of Arizona.
    He had a talk on TEDx Brussels. At the very beginning he comes out and says,
    "Hello everybody. It's great to be here. Thank you very much. I am going to talk about how quantum biology can save the world and the threats to the world, at least in the immediate future, not worrying about the Omega point like Frank (previous speaker), but in the next 100 -1,000 years; over-crowding, hatred, wars, terrorism, all basically due to over-population...... this in the first 25 seconds.
    And it is an outright lie!! They are not due to over-population but me thinks he is being paid off to say that because of his influence. That is setting into the psyche of humans the seed for de-population by some sort of mandate as well as creating an atmosphere of fear and justified loathing towards others who will be identified along this path by the State. It is cementing it as FACT in people's minds. The problems are caused by too many of us! The truth is that our problems are caused by the few of us who only want to control us and eventually thin us.
    It's every where. Take the NFL. They put together a physician from the NHL (the ice sport hockey) and have them meet with a doctor or medic from the military and connect them in the psyche by asking the question, "what do these sports healers have in common?" WHAT? War is not a sport but now in the mind of the viewer they have been married together, visually and verbally and that means accepted without even knowing it.
    Keep bugging people. Upset them, irritate them, challenge them. They don't like that because they don't like truth.
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    Mar 11 2014: By making your important issue important and relevant to others as well.
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    Mar 11 2014: Fukushima won't destroy the pacific or irradiate the beaches. There's a beach in Brazil that is naturally irradiated and it's readings would make you back off the sand very fast except the locals don't seem to mind nor does it seem to affect them

    It's the type of reactor that is in question and it's strange adoption as the preferred type to use. The Americans were developing the IFR type which when tested with exact same conditions that brought about Chernoybel 6years before the melt down it shut itself down. The Americans shut the IFR program down, big oil doesn't like clean energy and so the environmentalists were playing to big oils games all along.
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    Mar 9 2014: You could try relating to them using those memes and those jokes. I'm sort of spit-balling here, but I learned recently that humor and laughter are relating mechanisms in the human mind. Don't make light of the situation, but try to connect with people on a human level first, then spiritual level, then try to inspire change in them. That's what I think, anyway.
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    Mar 9 2014: for some people, getting their kid's tooth fixed is important. for others, it's feeding the neighbourhood stray cats. what you believe to be important is really only relevant to you, regardless of how strongly you feel about it.

    entertainment is far more palatable than hard-hitting political issues. unfortunate but true.

    it's up to you to find a way to communicate it in a way that encourages and inspires others. not easy.

    music is the best way, I think
  • Mar 9 2014: It is boring at the top of the food chain. People do different things when they are bored. Some want to talk about things that effect everybody. Some don't until they become bored with the things that don't matter. So, trying to talk to people about things that matter when they don't want to only distracts them from getting on with things that don't matter which delays the time that they become bored with the things that don't matter and become interested in the things that do. Thus, you can get more people interested in important issues by letting them engage you in uninteresting and unimportant issues while pretending you are not bored until they become bored with themselves.
  • Mar 8 2014: It seems to me that public media is too diffused and distracted. It seems ultra-difficult for ordinary folks to focus on the most important issues. If only there was a national discussion featuring ordinary people willing to research and discuss those issues they believe to be MOST important. The fact that we do not have a national consensus on climate change boggles the mind! I believe that if we had a healthier democracy, an issue so important would be the main topic of a national discussion. As for me, the first concern is supporting those who are trying to carve out a place for real democracy to happen.
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    Mar 8 2014: This is a hard subject, K B. An excellent conversation you have started. Perhaps you should click "edit" and add more time to it?

    It does seem worth saying that even when very serious, learned people get together and make conversation, their conversation usually goes from subject to subject, they rarely spend more than five minutes on one subject. So if you find your family and friends can't discuss a serious subject for more than five minutes, I wouldn't worry, I think it's true with most people.

    I would generally think that people respond better to a conversation where they can see a distinct, practical purpose. For example, if you were to say to someone "What do you think about Fukushima?," a lot of people might not be so interested. But if you were to say "I'm very concerned about what happened at Fukushima and I'm thinking about getting involved in the anti-nuclear movement, can you help me decide if I should get involved?," people might respond to that much more powerfully?

    In general, I would like to know your purpose in wanting people to, as you said, "discuss or at least care about what's going on in the world."
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    Mar 8 2014: well, what exactly is the "discussion" you want to have? For example, with Fukushima, do you want to discuss whether it was a bad thing? Or whether nuclear power is a bad thing?
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    Mar 8 2014: We've various ideas on how to make this intractable vision come to life.
    An internet platform to answer exactly this question:
    "How do we have engaging conversations about important issues"
    "Where do I go to avoid the Youtube Trolls and engage in conversation?"
    The development page has just begun but I couldn't resist answering KB's call. We'd love your support on the project folks, check out:


    The world's first conversation platform on the web.
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    Mar 8 2014: KB, At least part of this problem may be that what is important to you and I may be of little importance to others. As a Independent I attempt to ask questions about the economy, national debit, globalization, the Fed, all of the QE's, generational welfare, and many other things I see and the only response I get is that Bush screwed it up.

    I don't know who screwed what up first .... but that certainly does not justify the continuing of the process or multiplying the debit / impact / problem.

    When I was young politics was discussed in terms of issues ... among listening and caring adults. During the last election debates the issues took a back seat ... Budgets were made fun of ... spending was encouraged .... stimulus would solve everything ... and employment figures were a joke to even the most casual observer ... and operating outside of the Constitution was applauded.

    In short KB, the values we were raised with and the love of country are no longer in vogue.

    People under 40 think that the atrocities of WWII were made up, that history of financial collapse is exaggerated, all because they have never known hard time of any nature.

    I am mocked even on TED for warnings of history repeating ....

    I understand ... I wish you well. Bob.
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    Mar 8 2014: I am glad you took my reply with the grain of salt that was intended. Sorry to say though, that I am falling deeper all the time, into a belief that there is little hope for the human race. Mom Nature is sure to put things right in due time and will gladly divest herself of this pestilence called humans. The issues which truly matter take more than education and interest, unfortunately, it has to hit the G.P. smack in the middle of their "ME-NOW" face to get their attention. Ban them from the Mall, Micky D's, and NASCAR and you might get some interest, otherwise, not so much.

    You might like my 5-90-5 rule. Five percent of the people are smart, clever, manipulative and greedy and they pretty much run the world as their play toy (actually closer to 1%) and at the other end of the spectrum there are (I made this all up) about five percent who are equally smart, knowledgeable, traveled, aware and concerned. Pretty much the people you will find on TED. In the middle, the 90%, in my supposed mix of humanity, are something which can only be defined as ..... SHEEP!

    Enjoy my 5-90-5 rule if you can!
  • Mar 8 2014: It does also help to know your audience. Discussing here on TED is probably better than Facebook. It is also good to discretely find out how much the person knows about the subject such as "Did you hear about what recently happened in______."
  • K B

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    Mar 8 2014: I've gotten some helpful replies, and then there are people calling me "shrill", "ignorant" and saying I have "faux outrage". I don't understand the nature of these aggressive remarks or how those words, which have never in life been associated with me before, were gleaned from my original question. I'm not outraged, I'm frustrated. Yes, I listen to what others are interested in, even when I do not share those interests. I never said I was the only person who knew things, that my opinions were right, or that the entire world is disengaging. I posted what I did because it was relevant to my situation, and yet I have people judging and accusing me, a total stranger, when they have no idea what that situation IS. I'm looking in my area for organizations and people that care about the things I do, but my posted question applied to the people in my life who don't want to even believe anything else is going on, who truly have their heads in the sand, not to the entire general population of the world. I don't know why people would assume I meant anything other than what I wrote when no one knows me. Thanks to those who answered, and to those who judged, I hope you read the other TED questions without imposing your assumptions on the poster.
    • Mar 9 2014: K. B. I'm sorry the about those responders who are trying to appear intelligent by belittling your clearly innocently-worded, sincere question about something that bothers you. I'm amazed that so many people are oblivious to the fact that there is a disturbing lack of interest in serious issues by the majority of people in this country. I don't live under a rock but I suspect many of those people do if they don't get the logic of your question.

      You don't need to defend yourself from these self-important, righteous individuals who are full of suggestions that are irrelevant to the question and based on their own narrow-minded prejudices. They thrive on your reactions to their pontification but they're hardly worth a reaction.

      In response to your original question: I count myself as guilty of not being as involved as I would like in many important issues today. Honestly, I'm a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that should concern us. However, like you, I don't cease to be amazed at the number of people who just don't seem to want to talk about anything that causes them even the slightest discomfort. Maybe that's just 'human nature'... but it seems to be a malady that is prevalent in this country.

      One person made an appropriate suggestion-- that the best way to get others interested in what you have to say is to ask what interests them first. It offers no guarantee that subjects you feel are important will ultimately grab their attention but its probably the only hope.

      I perceive that you are a much stronger (and probably much younger) person than I so its possible that your fervor is frustrated by those of us who aren't as passionate as you about important issues. Nothing wrong with that-- I was there once myself. Just be patient with those around you and seek out people who share your passion, if not your politics, because the passion is more important.