The Unintended Consequences of Noise

In response to a fan’s rhetorical question to never release an album on iTunes that downloads automatically to people’s playlists again, Bono answered with a rather interesting statement:

Oops… I’m sorry about that. I had this beautiful idea. Might have gotten carried away with ourselves. Artists are prone to that thing. A drop of megalomania, a touch of generosity, a dash of self-promotion, and a deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years might not be heard. There’s a lot of noise out there. I guess, we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it.

There’s a lot of noise out there indeed. I do however think that noise is not really the bolded word here. Noise is around us all the time. Even right now as I’m writing this post from a coffee shop.

In the background I can hear Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song”, muffled under the sounds of a Barista preparing someone’s coffee, trolleys carrying vegetables in and out of a shop and a restroom door that swings open every so often.

The financial advisor at the opposite table looks uninterrupted while promoting his product to a prospective client. And so does the elderly couple two tables away. There’s just enough noise hanging in the air so that they, myself and everyone else, can carry on doing what we came here for.

An announcement over the intercom requesting Sam’s help at the teller, disturbed everyone enough to raise their voices a slight decimal higher, making the whole space a little bit noisier.

That’s how it’s online as well. Each of us is busy with our own conversations. I share my story to a handful of friends over twitter. Some acknowledge with a retweet or a favorite, creating just enough noise so that everyone else can carry on with what they came here for.

Sometimes we, like U2, fear that our stories will go unheard and, in this moment of desperateness, try to cut through the whirlwind of noise by shouting a bit louder, making it more difficult for everyone to hear each other.

The unintended consequences of noise are perhaps the biggest problem we have created for ourselves online. It’s hard one to crack, I know, but if there is one thing I’ve learned from the real world, it’s that trying to shout my story to someone who doesn’t care, ends up to be a disturbance to everyone in between.

Similarly, if there is one thing I have learned from U2, it’s that my story isn’t heard by shouting to the 1 million who don’t care about them but by telling a good enough story to the 30 who do…