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A Non-Status-Based Filter

Asking people if they want to have a serious conversation is a way of filtering, or gatekeeping, which isn’t based on social status. Regardless of one’s status, anyone can opt in. This does require making the offer to large groups, randomized people, or something else that avoids social status. If you just make the offer to people you like, then your choice of who to offer conversations to is probably status based.

This might sound like the most ineffective filter ever. People can just say “yes I want to pass your filter” and then they pass. But in practice, I find it effective – the majority of people decline (or don’t reply, or reply about something else) and are filtered out.

You might think it only filters out people who were not going to have a conversations with you anyway. However, people often converse because they’re baited into it, triggered, defensive, caught up in trying to correct someone they think is wrong, etc. Asking people to make a decision about whether they want to be in a conversation can help them realize that they don’t want to. That’s beneficial for both you and them. However, I’ve never had one of them thank me for it.

A reason people dislike this filter is they associate all filters with status and therefore interpret being filtered out as an attack on their status – a claim they are not good enough in some way. But that’s a pretty weird interpretation with this specific filter.

This filter is, in some sense, the nicest filter ever. No one is ever filtered out who doesn’t want to be filtered out. Only this filter and variants of it have that property. Filtering on anything else, besides whether the person wants to opt in or out, would filter out some people who prefer to opt in. However, no one has ever reacted to me like it’s a nice filter. Many reactions are neutral, and some negative, but no one has praised me for being nice.

Useful non-status-based filters are somewhat difficult to come by and really important/valuable. Most filters people use are some sort of proxy for social status. That’s one of the major sources of bias in the world. What people pay attention to – what gets to them through gatekeeping/filtering – is heavily biased towards status. So it’s hard for them to disagree with high status ideas or learn about low status ideas (such as outliers and innovation).

Elliot Temple on December 6, 2022


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