One of my favorite aspects of the Staple Pigeon brand and the expansion of that brand into the metaverse with Stapleverse, is Jeff's mission for the brand, the project, and for us as individuals to act as positive social contagions in this world. A social contagion involves behaviors, emotions, and conditions spreading through a network and group. This can be seen in groupthink, mass hysteria, ground-breaking ideas in math and science being discovered seemingly simultaneously by individuals around the world, consumer buying trends, etc. While some of this can have negative impacts on our behavior and our ideologies, there is such a thing as a positive contagion in a social setting. This can be seen in research that indicates that happiness ripples through social groups, pay-it-forward scenes at the local coffeehouse, and in positive peer pressure scenarios. There is also research indicating that mothers are affective emotional contagions with their infant babies through touch, that parents are social contagions for their kids' learning patterns and achievement goals, and that parents affect their kids well being and stress via social contagion.
Another way to be a positive social contagion is to try and influence behavior and opinion through art and our actions. I think this can be an incredible lesson for the NFT space in the power for art to influence social behaviors, consumer buying patterns, and our relationship to economic models of freedom and control in this world. One of my favorite examples of this in action in the traditional art world that has relevance to this post is "Mother Pigeon." Mother Pigeon wants to use her art and location in New York to challenge the popular opinion that pigeons are dirty, thieving, messy creatures who are constantly in our way or pooping on our path to where we want to go! She does street art installations of acrylic and felt pigeons that attempt to show the beauty in the animal; simultaneously she exudes happiness as she walks around New York with a bag of bird feed, interacting with her pigeon cohorts. This reminds me of B Thom Stevenson's art in the Stapleverse project as he's attempted to get us to see the beautiful in the everyday items of New York, whether they be discarded food items, pigeons or even the messy parts like the poop.
However, on today, mother's day, this post is not about NFTs or art but the opportunity to recognize a constant positive social contagion in my life, my mother, and all the motherly figures who have been positive social contagions in my life and all our lives as we navigate this world. To borrow another analogy from the Stapleverse and their iconic pigeon brand, moms created our flocks and without them we would be helpless to confront the challenges of this world and learn to get out there and fly on our own! So cheers to you mom!
3 Ways In Which My Mom Was a Positive Social Contagion in My Life
- She taught me the importance of the flock and the sacrifice it takes for the flock to survive by showing me this through her own actions as a military spouse and mother. My dad was in the military for 27 years as we were growing up. At the beginning of his career and upon the decision to start the Smith family flock, my mom made the conscious decision to give up her career as an audiologist to take a career as a full-time mother, despite having a graduate degree in the field and being highly successful working with children who had speech pathologies and learning disabilities. She sacrificed some of her own personal goals and ambitions to make sure my brothers and I had a full-time support network, a full-time teacher, and full-time house manager and could grow into amazing pigeons who could fly out on their own. We moved around every 2-3 years to different states and sometimes different countries and some of those moves my mom made on her own, as my dad was deployed overseas. She taught me that while life may change, throw curveballs, and be unpredictable, it often takes personal sacrifice, compromise and setting aside our own immediate goals so our flock can flourish. Having 2 daughters of my own recently this has come into full focus, as their success in life and ability to live the life they choose is my ultimate legacy.
- She gave me the confidence to fly on my own, be an independent thinker, and overall survive in life. I have always been the odd one in the family - the liberal amongst conservatives, the debate nerd rather than the athlete, the person who'd rather read a book than watch a movie. Throughout my life, my mom showed love, understanding, and engagement with these unique elements of my life, rather than trying to mold me into the exact type of person that her and my dad were. She debated, engaged in constructive dialogues and conversations and was empathetic, if not always agreeable, to my points of view. This lesson has been foundational to how I approach my interactions with ideologies and viewpoints I disagree with; there is so much strife, conflict and antagonism in our world that polarization and not dialogue has become the norm. Our interactions on the internet and on social media have become terrifying examples of this polarization. Unless we learn how to communicate, compromise, and show empathy to those that express different opinions, then I fear our strife and conflict will only grow worse. We don't always have to agree in some non-achievable utopia but we do have to find ways to be able to sit at the same table as each other. This sense of empathy, constructive debate, and compromise towards action has been a constant signal in my life from my mom through her actions as she has dealt with my own differences and oddball characteristics!
- She instilled in me the ability to weather the shitty parts of life and to continue to fly with a straight compass despite how bumpy the weather gets. Close to 3 years ago now, my mom and our family got some devastating news that my mother had been diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). Also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS is an ultimately fatal and incurable disease. It breaks down nerve cells which reduces functionality in the muscles they supply, making you lose muscle control over critical functions. This news was the ultimate example of life pooping on my mother. However, since the diagnosis my mom has demonstrated an incredible will to continue living life on her own terms. She has continued to participate actively in being my brother and I's mother, a grandmother to our children, a supportive wife to my dad, and an active member of the ALS community attempting to push change in our legislation to allow those affected by the disease to get the research and help they need. The fact that she has stayed active, engaged, and maintained composure in the face of life's shittiest obstacle, is the ultimate signal to me to always find the positive in life, not squander any moment, and to appreciate what we have because you never know when that might change. Ultimately she taught me to say FUCK ALS (a life squandered). She was #SherryStrong and taught me to be strong in the face of shit!
These three lessons I learned through my mom occurred, not because my mom constantly preached good values and taught me these lessons with her words (even though she did that as well), but because positive social contagions spread through the demonstrations of these principles in acts and actions! When we see positive acts in our life that evoke affective emotional responses, we are more likely to adopt those practices in our own lives as we want to extend the affective responses, feelings and emotions associated with those practices in our own lives and to others. It is a cliché for a reason but: actions speak louder than words. And it is the people, places, and ideas in our lives that we encounter through others' actions that are the most powerful social contagions in our life, whether they end up being positive or negative ones.
So in conclusion, I would like to thank my mom for forming our flock, ensuring it had a strong foundation to survive, and always had a positive social contagion as the head of that flock showing and not just telling us how to interact in the world to create change, do good in the world, and have the most impact possible in everything we did. You were the ultimate social contagion in me and my brothers' lives and we would not have turned out to be half the people we are without you. Thank you for influencing myself, my brothers, and everyone who has had the pleasure to be your friend to do better in this world.
And to all the moms in the world, I'll end with this.... "You're all pretty COO!" groan, squawk......not a pigeon dad joke
Share the stories of your moms, motherly figures, and examples of positive social contagions in your life with me in the comments section, pop in the Stapleverse Discord and say hi (ryancsmith.eth#7772), share stories on Twitter or find me on OpenSea to continue the discussion.