Is it just me or have we seen a huge uptick in pithy sayings set top of beautifully photographed scenes? Like you, I read them and nod my head in agreement. In the past these visual soundbites (or do we call them site bites?) were quotes from famous people or people who had earned some level of accomplishment and notoriety. People who had earned Nobel awards, Pulitzer prizes, fourth-grade spelling bee runners-up. You get the idea.
But lately I’ve been seeing these short, pithy quotes from people quoting themselves (which is probably the height of hubris.) And I started really looking at the quotes and asking if they made any sense. Are these “quotes” helpful, intelligent, interesting. The answer in most cases is… no.
As an example, a recent quote, shared by more than a few “intelligent” people really made me stop and think. I won’t put the author’s name out there, but they are someone others think of as somewhat famous and somewhat influential in the marketing, social media sphere.
Here’s the quote that was a set top a beautifully Instagram-ed photograph…
May the bridges you burn light your way.
Read that again. One more time.
I don’t know about you, but when I first read that it actually sounds like it might make sense. It sounded impressive, and it sounded intelligent… almost.
But here’s the reality of that quote as you parse out what it says.
First, when you burn a bridge it’s typically behind you. Isn’t the whole point of the saying “don’t burn any bridges” to remind you that you might have to backtrack? Not burning the bridge allows you go backward if you need to. Therefore, the bridge in this saying should be behind you no? So the saying “may the bridges you burn light your way” sounds like you would be looking backward – towards the light of the burning bridges and moving in the wrong direction.
Now, if we assume you are moving “forward” instead of backward, then the bridge you just burned to light your way would have to be in front of you in order for it to light your way. But, since you burned it to see where you’re going, it is now gone so you cannot move forward toward the light of the burning bridge.
So…it makes absolutely ZERO sense.
Who’s Smarter the Quoter or the Quotee?
I bring this up because so often I see these pontificating quotes out there from “gurus” and “thought leaders” but when you really dig into them a lot of times they mean almost nothing. In fact, there was a study recently that showed those who found value in these types of saying had lower levels of intelligence.
From the study:
‘We focus on pseudo-profound bulls**t, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous.
‘Our results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bulls**t and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims.
‘Those more receptive to bulls**t are less reflective, lower in cognitive ability – numeracy, verbal and fluid intelligence), are more prone to ontological confusions and conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.’
Perhaps unusually for an academic paper, it is littered with swearwords – specifically one swearword, bulls**t.
Some of the BS they tested folks with included:
- “Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty.”
- “Imagination is inside exponential space time events.
- “A river cuts through a rock, not because of its power but its persistence.”
- “An anxious person is a prisoner to their anxiety.”
- “A wet person does not fear the rain.”
- “Thoughts become things, so be positive.”
- “You’re only as strong as your next move.”
So for all of you out there wondering and looking for that next piece of inspiration.
I leave you with this…
Hope you had a happy first week of 2016!