Mohamed El-Erian is one of, if not the most, prominent
economic commentators in the world.
With his recent book “The
Only Game in Town,” El-Erian expertly captures the
conventional wisdom that permeates markets today: Central banks
are the only thing that matters.
But the thing about this book is that there isn’t a whole lot in
there that hadn’t been said before, either by El-Erian or others.
The success of the book, rather, is in re-using things we had
been hearing and digesting but hadn’t seen in one place, or
hadn’t been told enough times to fully internalize.
What does this have to do with Twitter? Well, a way of describing
El-Erian’s book is to say that it is one long self-quoted tweet.
A self-retweet. A thing that had already been said. A clear
collection of what we knew, reminding us that we already knew it.
Unfortunately, it took Twitter more than
a decade to make self-quoting, or self-retweeting, possible –
or rather, to make this easy. There were always ways to highlight
things you’d said or tweeted before, but this function should’ve
been an integral part of the user experience from the start.
The genius of Twitter was that it forced users to write
succinctly and it organized the world in rigidly linear time. In
the last decade, the service has made real a world of endless
information better than any other.
But by lacking the ability to easily self-quote, Twitter failed
to capture a timeless truth about human communication: It is,
really, all about me. There are few things people like more than
having their own priors confirmed, and a self-quoted tweet is
fulfilling this desire in a pure way.
Twitter understood we only wanted to hear from other people for a
finite amount of time.
But the company didn’t see that the other side of this is that we
wanted to hear from ourselves even more.
Book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under
the sun.” We, as communicators, as social animals, understand
that the best way to advance our arguments or narratives is to
draw from the past. And the most vividly recalled past is that
which we create ourselves.
There is of course no experience any one human has at which they
are not the absolute center. And it is the necessary
self-centeredness of the human experience that makes what we do
seem more important to ourselves than those things done or said
in the outside world.
The self-quoted tweet, then, is perhaps the purest and most
reliable form of communication.
It is you saying, “See, I was right.” Or you saying, “See, I was
wrong.” It is you saying, “See, this is the point I was trying to
make.” It is someone saying, most simply, that they exist.
The self-quoted tweet is communication distilled into our
simplest understanding of the world: this has all happened
before, it will all happen again, and I will live
On Monday morning, El-Erian was in the news. In an interview on
Bloomberg TV, he said the US bond market rally hasn’t reflected
US fundamentals, but instead was following trends in Europe. At a
breakfast attended by Business Insider later on Monday, El-Erian
reiterated that the bond market is reacting to Europe, not US
These were comments given to the media within two hours of each
other. They were materially the same.
But this is not a knock on El-Erian at all, merely an observation
of how we most effectively communicate with other people: say the
same thing again and again and again.
This proclivity for self-repeating is not particularly unique to
El-Erian. Many in the economic, political, sports, and other
commentary fields have long known that the best way to make your
point is to keep making that same point over and over.
Local examples in the economic analysis field include DoubleLine
Capital’s Jeff Gundlach – known in some circles as the “bond
king” – who, while always compelling in his rhetoric, tends
to make more or less the same case about the economy for months
at a time. Tom Lee, a noted stock market bull who now runs
almost always making arguments about why stocks should go up.
This is not to pick on either Gundlach or Lee as there are dozens
of economic commentators (see: Edwards,
Albert), who also make the same argument over and over.
Legendary financial journalist Jason
Zweig has said, “My job is to write the exact same thing
between 50 and 100 times a year in such a way that neither my
editors nor my readers will ever think I am repeating myself.”
But in this quote, I think Zweig is speaking to his ability to
write well rather than his ability to unearth some new piece of
knowledge that was as-yet-unknown to humanity. It is not that
Zweig doesn’t want to repeat himself, but that his profession as
a writer demands he repeat himself in interesting ways that don’t
seem repetitive. The information, it is understood, will be
something we already knew.
El-Erian, Gundlach, and Lee, while clear writers and speakers,
are not necessarily trying to get readers or listeners to think
they are saying anything different. They are instead quite
clearly saying the same thing, over and over.
These three esteemed commentators are trying to remind their
clients of their currently-held investing theme, and repeating
yourself is simply the most effective way to get your message
Repeating yourself is a way to make indelible in the minds of an
audience what your point really is. (“We’re
going to build a wall.”) And self-quoting your own tweet is
the easiest way to execute this strategy. I have tweeted,
therefore I have been.
If the core fear of human life is the fear of death, then the
biblically-enshrined belief that we are but part of an
ever-repeating history makes our self-repetition an integral part
of the eternal pursuit of immortality.
I have tweeted. I will tweet again. I will tweet forever.
from SAI http://ift.tt/28JcZU1