How Ideas Spread w/ Rachel LeWitt

Updated: Jul 11, 2021

In 2020, COVID-19 wasn't the only thing spreading around the world. Ideas, symbols, information, and misinformation about the virus were also spreading like wildfire, and causing massive division among populations. Today's guest, Rachel LeWitt (@w3tbl4nk3t), is here to unpack the ways we decide which ideas to accept, which to reject, and which to pass along to others.

Highlight Reel: 1:30 - The ever-morphing symbol of the mask 9:00 - How ideas spread 12:30 - The role of personal experience 16:30 - Social trust & empathy 19:25 - Tracking trust 20:40 - How mistrust spreads 27:50 - Faith & hope: kissing cousins 32:30 - Good & evil 34:00 - Intuition & taboo beliefs 41:00 - Critical thinking & finding reliable sources 50:00 - Ideas can change the world

Adrienne MacIain 0:01

Hi, everyone, welcome to the That's Aloud podcast. I'm your hostess Adrienne MacIain. And today we have Rachel LeWitt. Please, darling, Introduce yourself.

Rachel LeWitt 0:11

Oh my goodness. Well, I am super happy to be here with you, Adrienne, and all of your listeners. My name is Rachel LeWitt. I am a born-and-raised Philadelphian living here in West Philly. It is an absolutely gorgeous day outside right now. I'm feeling very hopeful about all of that and what it brings. Saw lots of flowers on my walk home. I am a communicator by profession, and I suppose by nature as well, and I'm really excited for the conversation that we're going to have today around how ideas spread. And I'm sure that it will go in lots of different directions, but looking forward to the conversation.

Adrienne MacIain 1:01

Absolutely. So just to contextualize a little bit for folks, we had this wonderful conversation when we were first introduced, and we talked a little bit about Rachel's experience in 2020. And that sparked for me this idea of talking about how ideas spread, thinking about the pandemic, and, you know, that spreading, but also how ideas have been spreading during the pandemic. So let's just dive right into that. I think that's kind of the story that people are not getting, right? So can you tell us a little bit more about that for you?

Rachel LeWitt 1:35

Absolutely. So I think that one of the things that I paid attention to early on in the pandemic, just because of who I am and the types of things that I think about, was that there were messages around the contagion, which is to say, the actual virus of COVID-19, or SARS COVID, Cov19, whatever the actual virus is, COVID-19 is the disease, the one that we've been living and breathing with, unfortunately, for over a year now. And I was paying attention to the fact that there were, at the same time that there was information about the virus, the virus itself was spreading, and the information was spreading, too. And one of the things that I pay attention to in my line of work is symbolism, right. And so if you recall, before, maybe around this time last year, the symbol of wearing a mask had a totally different meaning than what it means now, now that it's been blessed by the CDC, now that it's been adopted in a widespread way. People who wear masks today, depending on what political persuasion you have, tend to be people who believe that the virus is real. And so they've taken the same advice as social distancing, and not touching surfaces when that was a thing. And so mask wearers are this symbol of people who believe in the virus. But at the beginning of the pandemic, that was not the case. And people who were wearing masks were thought to be sick, they were people who are preventing themselves from spreading disease. And so I was paying attention to something even as, as symbolic but, like, minute as that, as a way to understand how ideas themselves around the mask wearing and other types of things related to the pandemic were spreading. And so it's to me like the mask is kind of the symbol, in and of itself, of how ideas about the virus were spreading over time.

Adrienne MacIain 3:51

That is so interesting. I have definitely noticed trends and changes in when people wear masks, why people wear masks, how people with masks are treated. That's another thing I've noticed. Yeah, there was a little, you know, little anecdote here, a friend of mine was walking around in her neighborhood and she was wearing a mask, and pushing her baby in a stroller. And this woman came up to her with no mask on and said to her, "You know, you don't have to wear a mask outside. You just don't." And, you know, she didn't know how to respond in that moment. She felt very sort of like, attacked by that. And she just said, "I'm good. Thanks." She thought about it later and was like, "Yeah, I don't... like, there's so many other things I could have said in that moment, but I just wanted her to know it wasn't bothering me to wear a mask. To me, it was saying to her, 'I care about you, I don't want you to get sick'." And that's what the the symbol of the mask was to her, it was just, "Hey, I care."

Rachel LeWitt 4:56

Totally. And I think that that's also a good... when did that story happen?

Adrienne MacIain 5:00

That actually happened... that's a good question. I think it was in December, I want to say, of 2020. So it was kind of, you know, after the first big wave had happened and already kind of died down, but then was starting to ramp up again. And here in Seattle, in particular, I think we've had a different experience than a lot of people have, because this was kind of Ground Zero. This is where it kind of started. And so we started wearing masks earlier around here than other areas. And so I think because of that there was a stronger kind of backlash of like, "We're sick of wearing masks. We don't want to wear masks anymore. When can we stop wearing masks?" And so we got that really strong polarization of mask-wearers and non-mask-wearers here.

Rachel LeWitt 5:51

Yeah, I think that makes complete sense. And the reason I had even asked about what time, you know, when in the timeline that happened is because part of the change in how people view mask wearing, aside from being contextual by culture, and geographic location, is also that recommendation by the CDC of okay, mask wearing is not just to protect another person, which it was at a certain point in time during the pandemic, I think, maybe around May-June to September, but then at some point, it changed. And it was also about protecting yourself. So it's interesting hearing that, the anecdote that you shared, because it's also reflective of two different messages that both parties have. One party believes that you don't need to wear a mask outside, which I think in most cases is, I mean, I'm not, I'm by no means a scientist, but I think a lot of people have adopted that perspective. And there are also lots of people who are just like, you know, do-or-die with masks. And this is, it's important to wear all the time if you're outside, for both protecting yourself and protecting other people. So yeah, I mean, I think it's fascinating, kind of thinking about that one kernel of an idea, and the way that it manifests, which is in this mask wearing, but two totally different sets of beliefs that both people in that conversation have.

Adrienne MacIain 7:23

Yeah, like, she felt like she was doing something kind. And this woman felt like she was attacking her by wearing a mask, saying, you need to be wearing a mask, too. That was what the mask said to her, that it was an oppression, that like, you know, "I'm wearing a mask, and so therefore you should too, and you're a jerk because you're not wearing a mask," which again, was a complete projection on her part. But it's very interesting, these little conversations we have, in our minds. I know when I'm out walking, for the most part, you know, I'll not be wearing a mask, because I'm just out walking by myself. But if I see somebody else, I will put a mask on, again, as just sort of a politeness gesture of like, "Look, I see you I care, don't worry. If I'm sick, I don't want you to get sick, too." But it is interesting, those weird little interactions that you have with people, especially outside where the rules are a little bit fluid.

Rachel LeWitt 8:14

Yeah. And I'm sure we'll move on at some point from talking about mask wearing, but the symbol will change again, right? Like, earlier today, it was with a colleague, and she was vaccinated, I'm not yet vaccinated, but I should get my first shot on Monday.

Adrienne MacIain 8:30


Rachel LeWitt 8:31

Thank you. And so it felt safer to be maskless, you know, still maintaining some distance with her, but, you know, on the same picnic blanket. And, so, two people not wearing masks together in public six months ago, that would have meant that we were part of the same household, or maybe a year ago. But now it means something different, because different parts of the population are at different status levels. And so that status level has ramifications on how they can be perceived and operate in society.

Adrienne MacIain 9:07

Absolutely. So tell us more about where this got you thinking in terms of just the spread of information around the virus?

Rachel LeWitt 9:17

Yeah, I mean, I think it, the idea of how ideas spread really comes from the diffusion research. If you've ever heard of diffusion of innovation, there's a, I believe a professor named Everett Rogers, who in the 80s created a set of frameworks around the idea of diffusion. And if you've ever heard the language of, like, early-adopters, laggards, that's really his work, along with some other folks. And so that's something, that's an idea that I've been aware of for a little while. And if you really want to nerd out about the concept of how ideas spread, I would definitely start there. But I think it's also an interesting moment, this is sort of what I was alluding to at the beginning, of, so, we have these epidemiological models of how contagion is spread. And that, I mean, I'm not, I didn't study epidemiology, I didn't have a good sense of, you know, contact tracing, or social distancing, or not distancing, and how that creates vectors and foments, you know, viruses in the population. But I think that's all really helpful language. And those concepts can be exported into thinking about things that are helpful contagions, like experience, like knowledge, like ideas. And so I think about something like a podcast also, which is a way of spreading ideas, right? Like this all started because you are interested in spreading the idea of stories that were untold. And, you know, I guess, you know, separate from the pandemic, I just, it's fascinating thinking about how an idea takes root, to use a different metaphor, like around, you know, nature and germination, how it blossoms, and how it spreads, and and seeds itself. And I think what also happened in 2020 was a real, especially for lots of white people, like a real reckoning and spread of racial justice or injustice, and the knowledge around how that has shaped America. And so I think, you know, that's an interesting way to look at the spread of ideas, because in certain communities, those those ideas, you know, separate from the real world feelings and trauma that people have around them, have been taking root and growing for a long time. And then there are other communities where those ideas, just, like, there has been no plot of land where they those ideas could grow. So I think it's also interesting, just thinking about those models and those metaphors for talking about the spread of ideas just in lots of different contexts, in terms of how we evolve as a species, how we evolve as people, how we evolve as citizens, because it's always going to be, like, ideas are spreading all the time.

Adrienne MacIain 12:34

I think the sort of missing ingredient often is personal experience with something. You know, these ideas of racial injustice had taken root in those communities, because, of course, they were experiencing this day in and day out. And I think finally seeing that video, for a lot of white people who had not been personally aware of this, really brought it into their personal experience. To say, "Oh, my gosh, I just saw that, I witnessed that," you know, and so then realizing, "Wow, this is real, this happens," brings it into a new perspective. I think that's often the case, too, in situations where, you know, in the abstract you might think one thing, but then when you have personal experience with it you realize it's a completely different thing. Like, let's say, you know, you had no experience with homosexuality, and then suddenly, you realized, "Oh, my daughter's gay. Hmm." Totally different experience now. And I've seen this happen in families where they suddenly go, you know, completely do a 180 on their feelings around things. Because when you have that personal experience with something, it gives you not just a whole new perspective, but a whole new, I don't know, way to take root in it. Does that make sense?

Rachel LeWitt 13:53

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's like you're looking at the garden or you're living there. Right?

Adrienne MacIain 13:59

Right. Exactly.

Rachel LeWitt 14:00

And I think that's true of so many things. Like, it's like, going to another country for the first time, right? You can only understand what it's like to, if you're at least an English-speaking person, English-speaking American, go to another country and be immersed in a language that's not yours and be immediately uncomfortable recognizing that you can't get away with your English because not everyone speaks English. Or that you might not know what different foods are, or that you might not read recognize songs on the radio.

Adrienne MacIain 14:40

Or you might make a terrible cultural faux pas and not even realize it.

Rachel LeWitt 14:46

And there's just no describing what it's like to be in the front seat of that experience. And you can, you know, you can read books, you can read, you can watch movies, but there's nothing like, yeah, personal, lived experience to understand what it's like to be uncomfortable in this case or, or anything else.

Adrienne MacIain 15:10

Yeah, to create that kind of humility. I think a lot of people had that same reckoning as well with COVID, that at the very beginning, there was a lot of sort of questioning of like, is this really real? Is this really happening? What really is this? And then people started having personal experiences with it. People they knew were getting it. People that they looked up to were getting it. Personally, they were getting it and going, "Whoa, this is not what I had heard at all."

Rachel LeWitt 15:42

Yeah, and it's interesting thinking about the personal experience aspect, because I think that there are, there probably three buckets of people, when it comes to COVID. There are people who lived and breathed it and had it or were exposed to it, and so it became very real in that first person way that you're describing. There are people who had that kind of second-person experience where they saw someone have it actively, and you know, maybe were part of that person's healing, or part of that person's caretaking or whatever. Then there are people who never really experienced it firsthand, but believed in it. And maybe there's a fourth group who...

Adrienne MacIain 16:30

Still don't believe it.

Rachel LeWitt 16:31

...still don't believe in it. But the third group is people who never experienced it firsthand, but believed in what people were saying about it. And that's such an interesting phenomena, I guess, because what that requires is social trust. Right? Like I didn't personally, I was very fortunate. None of my family members were, like, had COVID. And I didn't see anyone personally who was experiencing it, at least not that I knew of. But I did read accounts of it and was, you know, horrified. And that really, like, instilled the fear of, literally the fear of COVID into me. But I believed it before I even read those accounts, because I trusted the systems and the individuals who were talking about it. So, like, Fauci. I didn't really know who he was, like most people before the pandemic, but, I mean, I was listening to what he said. Right? Like, I trust scientists, I trust the systems also that provide information that keep people safe. And I think that as the sort of counterpoint to that, there are lots of systems that are designed to not keep people safe, then we could talk about those two things kind of in concert with one another. But because I believed in these things already, and like those beliefs have been deeply ingrained in me for many years, if not, like, since I was a kid, it was easy for me to just say, "Oh, like, if the people I trust say that there's a pandemic, there's a pandemic." Like, you know, there's nothing more to it than that. But I think they're what the anti-vaxxers, and the anti-maskers, and the people who are like "COVID is a flu." I mean, they're not just drinking the Fox News Kool-Aid, there's a larger, it represents a larger mistrust in society, but also in institutions that I think this is just like a symptom of. But that the mistrust is really where the larger problems lie.

Adrienne MacIain 18:55

Especially medical institutions, and that again, you know, when you look back at, we were just talking about racial injustice, these are the systems that are designed to keep us safe. Medical systems, the justice system, these are things, like policing, this is stuff that's intended to keep us safe. And so if we can't believe in those things, and we can't trust those things to keep us safe, it really causes deep problems. And that's exactly what we're looking at.

Rachel LeWitt 19:24

Yeah. And I mean, I think that there are certain systems that are designed to probably not keep people safe or keep some people safe. And that's definitely what this country is reckoning with in a lot of ways. But when it comes to the medical establishment, or like, the health care industry/institution, or like the NIH in particular, like, I think that there's a lot of reason to trust that institution. But I can also understand people who mistrust the government in general on both sides of the aisle. Right? You hear extreme right wing people and extreme left wing people, and they often sound very similar in some ways. And yeah, the trust has been degraded over time. And they're interesting, you know, like, barometers. They're people who track trust in government, trust in industry, trust in business, etc., over time. I think Edelman is one of the groups that has a trust barometer. And so you can even see how that does change over time. If if it's like something that you're really fascinated by.

Adrienne MacIain 20:39

Yeah. How does mistrust spread? That's another interesting question. How do we build trust, and then how does mistrust spread?

Rachel LeWitt 20:49

Yeah, that's a great question. Well, I think that... so I just got a new puppy, new to me. She is three and a half months old. And I've definitely learned a lot about trust with this dog. And I don't think that people are that dissimilar, as much as we like to think of ourselves as complicated creatures. There's definitely some foundational, you know, elements of trust that I think are true, probably for all mammals, if not all creatures of higher or moderately high intelligence. But I think trust is really about consistency, right, and reliability. Like: do what you say, say what you do. And make sure that people see that, right? It's like, if you say that you're going to do something, do it. Like if you say that you're going to pick someone up at five o'clock, be there at five o'clock. Be there at 4:55, even better. If you say that you're going to follow up, do it. I think there are also things that are kind of more interpersonal that can contribute to trust. I think that when it comes to how trust spreads, that's an interesting question that I'm going to circle back on. But I think mistrust can spread by, it's kind of like a mirror image, right? Inconsistency, lack of clarity, lack of words matching action, I think that's a really big one. Especially, we were talking a little bit earlier about the idea of what you can see right in front of you, and what's part of your personal experience. And I'm reminded of this talk that I saw a long time ago between Bill Nye, aka Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Ken Ham, who's a creationist. And they were each trying to prove, I believe, their own perspective, evolution versus creationism. And it was really fascinating conversation, because here you have these two people who believe very strongly in their own systems of thought, and I'm not sure that Bill Nye won. You know, "won." That's in air quotes for everyone listening at home. And the thing that I took from that conversation was Ken Ham's idea about observable reality. And when it comes to, when it comes to things that we can observe, it's easy to relate to them in a personal way. Right? I know that there's the sky outside because I can see it with my own eyes. But can I see the fact that there's a galaxy beyond the one that we live in with my naked eye? No. Right? Like, I need a telescope, and I need probably an advanced telescope, and an understanding of the meaning of what I'm seeing, the context behind it. Same thing with a microscope. Like I understand because I trust in science that germs exist. Have I ever seen germs? No. Like, I trust in the models. Right? I try, I haven't proven these things outright, time after time, in my own life. I'm exporting a lot of my trust in other people, because I just don't have time or effort or energy or frankly desire to tackle all those things by myself. But but if you don't, and if you believe in, you know, if you don't believe in science and you believe something else, then what your naked eye and what your personal experience shows is all you have. Right? So I think there's also that interesting kind of element of this where it's like, trust is created by what you know, and what you see. And that's why the consistency is really important. And this trust, I think, is sometimes like the absence of what you know and what you see. And the way that you can try to make sense of that chaos or that emptiness. And I think that's-- and not having the consistency over time is when those rumors, and that, like, fear-mongering, and your own interpretation of the data can really also blossom. And so that's where conspiracy theories and and people who, yeah, just conspiracy theories in general, that's where that really lives, is just like already-eroded social trust, and then a vacuum of information or communication or narrative around what's actually happening.

Adrienne MacIain 25:57

Yeah, it's very compelling to have, you know, doubt those moments. Like it's so, when we... I think you really put it in perspective there. When there's a vacuum, I think what we do is we fill it with the most interesting story or the most... the story that fits best with our belief system. Right? You got into some really interesting territory there of talking about, you know, I still trust, even if I haven't seen all the evidence, or I don't have specific evidence for this. And that kind of gets into faith, doesn't it? That you kind of start to have faith in something if you have enough trust in it over time, which has been demonstrated.

Rachel LeWitt 26:47

Yeah, that's an interesting word to call out in the context of a conversation that, theoretically was about science, but really science and faith, or science and art, you know, whatever duality you want to draw with science. I think it's really about just trying to interpret the world. Right? And like, with science, there's a method to it. With faith, there's also a method to it, it's a different method. With art, who knows if there's a method. It seems like, yes, yes, probably lots of creators would say there's a method. Perhaps you included?

Adrienne MacIain 27:26

Creativity, I mean, I think it's beautiful in it's messiness. And that's part of why we love that process is because it is so open to, you know, idiosyncratic interpretation. But yes, I do think there's a method, and I think that part of that method is faith and is trust. It's trusting that inspiration will come if you keep doing the work and you keep showing up.

Rachel LeWitt 27:49

Yeah, I mean, I think the the way that you're describing faith, at least right there, is also hope. Right? I think that those two are, you know, they're kissing cousins in lots of ways. But I think that faith is, it's different, right? It's the belief that something will happen. Hope is the belief that something good will happen, or maybe a particular outcome. But faith is your exporting your trust onto something else. And I think that for lots of people who are, you know, people of faith, that can be very comforting, in the way that it's comforting for a child to have a parent, for a dog to have a master? I think it's comforting to export some of your decision making, export some of the logic, export some of the energy into living life to something else. And I think that's why we have faith, that's why we have models, that's why we have frameworks, it's all a way of concentrating what is an enormous amount of decisions that the average human has to make every day into, you know, like, I know if I follow these rules, that that something good will happen, as you said. I know that if I brush my teeth every day, that it's going to help prevent dental issues down the line. Gum disease. And I think there's, but like, it goes back to the "but how" question, and it's like, "because the people said so." Right? The smart people who spent their time and all their all their effort when they were young learning how to prevent bad outcomes on behalf of a lot of people. They are the people who said "do this," and they're smarter than me. Like, I don't know shit about dental care besides brush your teeth, floss them occasionally, probably every day is what my dental hygienist would say, and you know, don't eat a lot of sugar. And like, that's, these people have so much more expertise and so much more knowledge. And I think part of this is just trusting other people's knowledge. And I think about people who are in my life who don't trust other people in that way. And I just think like, oh, you must have a lot of time on your hands. Because like, it really saves me a lot of time by trusting people, and not having to do all the work myself. There's like a trust market. And I'm subscribed to the trust market.

Adrienne MacIain 30:42

Yeah, I mean, belief is a very interesting thing. I think it's very powerful to decide to believe in something. And I've sort of come to the conclusion over time that like, well, if my belief is powerful, then why not just believe in the thing that feels good in my soul? But then, you know, you have that question of like, if I, if there's evidence that seems to be supporting both sides, right, how do you make that decision? Do you say, "Well, this is what I want to be true, and therefore I'm going to choose to believe this," or, "Well, this is what everyone around me believes, and so this is probably what's more likely." It's a difficult decision to make, right? And I think it's very tempting to, like I said, come up with the most salacious or incredible or sort of magical, mystical story that we can and project it onto things, rather than just look at, "Well, it's probably this very pedestrian explanation."

Rachel LeWitt 31:46

Yeah. And I think that we're we're also kind of conditioned to have these fantastical explanations for things because of like... I feel like a little bit of a Debbie-Downer saying this, but just because of TV and the media, right? Like, everything is super-sensationalized. But like, science, you know, tells us that parsimony, right, like the simplest explanation is often the the right one. But I think that, I think that people create rumors, and people create stories for themselves out of all sorts of things. And I think almost all beliefs probably come from, like, just because of the nature of what they are, they come from things are not proven, not evidence-based. Right? Like, I believe that people are good, but there's lots of evidence to the contrary, there are lots of horrible people in the world. Unfortunately.

Adrienne MacIain 32:43

Well personally, I think that to think of people as good or bad is kind of a misunderstanding of, you know, humanity and the concepts of good and bad. I think everyone's capable of great good and great evil, and really, our perspective on what is good and what is evil is very based on our circumstances, and the filters that we're looking through as well. But that's a whole other conversation.

Rachel LeWitt 33:08

No, I think you're right, and I think there's a lot of nuance there. And, you know, not everything should be or can be broken down into good or bad, or right or wrong, or jester and jest. So maybe I'll turn it to you, then. I'm curious, like, what are... how do you think about belief? And how do you think about... maybe also, you were sort of hinting at this before, but like, beliefs that you hold that other people around you don't hold, the contrarian beliefs, or maybe even taboo beliefs, if you want to get there?

Adrienne MacIain 33:45

Yeah, so I've really, more and more like, as I get older, I really believe that focus determines reality, that you know, where everything is out there, right, like, all possibilities are kind of real and probably true, but it's really what we are choosing through our little lens to focus on that then is sort of reflected back to us. I also think that we create that reality, in a sense through agreement, but also through our filters, right? That when we-- it's sort of like that quantum experiment, you know, you have the little slits, right? And if you're observing it, it's different than if you're not observing it. And so our observation is obviously very powerful; our perspective on things can literally change the outcome of things. And so I think when you are surrounded by people who are saying, 'No, no, no, no, this is reality. This is what's true. This is what's real.' It can be really hard sometimes to say, but that's not what I'm choosing to focus on. And making that choice can be really disruptive, actually. For example, I'll get out of the clouds here and get into the concrete, it was a really big leap of faith on my part, when I decided not to go back to a nine to five job and to create, you know, a business for myself. And a lot of the people around me in my life were like, what are you doing? Like, this is completely irresponsible, this is insane. You're putting your family at risk, you're putting yourself at risk, like this is... the consequences of this are just too big for you to handle. And so the decision to say, I don't think that's true, I actually think that anything's possible, and I actually think that I'm capable of much more than you probably think. And that, yes, it's going to be difficult, and there is going to be a transition period, but that this is gonna, you know, this is going to balance out and I'm going to create something here that I'm excited about. That lost me some relationships, you know, that that have not fully recovered, I will say. And over time, yes, I have sort of proven that I can do this, and it's okay, I'm not gonna die in the street. You know, I'm finding ways to support myself. And it's supporting me now on so many different levels, not just that financial level, but also in finding meaning for myself and creating something that I actually, I think would not be there in the world if I weren't creating it, you know? And so I guess the bottom line is, I think there are times to listen to, the social contract and to agree and say, 'Yes, okay, everybody agrees that this thing is dangerous, and we need to kind of band together and keep ourselves safe from this very real danger.' I think there are other times when people will tell you, 'This thing's really dangerous. It's really scary. You need to be afraid of it,' when you have to just check in with yourself and say, I'm not sure that's true. I think I actually need to go toward my fear, not away from it, to get the lesson from this thing. And it can be very difficult to sort through which is which.

Rachel LeWitt 37:30

And there's a third category, which is things that no one tells you are dangerous.

Adrienne MacIain 37:38

Right? Right. In fact, people will tell you, it's very important.

Rachel LeWitt 37:43

Yeah. You've got to do it!

Adrienne MacIain 37:44

This is good. Everyone does it.

Rachel LeWitt

Everyone does it. I did it, therefore you must.

Adrienne MacIain

Right. Right.

Rachel LeWitt 37:51

Yeah. Why, I love hearing a little bit about your story. And I feel like for all the haters out there, you know, like, you'll have the last laugh.

Adrienne MacIain 38:05

Yeah. And I think, you know, when I think about the haters, too, it's like, well, you know, I get to create what I want to create, and they get to create what they want to create. So if I'm a bad guy in their reality, okay, you know, that's what they need, they need me to play a villain in their story. So, okay, I can do that, you know, it doesn't actually change fundamentally, who I am or what I'm worth. So like, cool. I think the the more I have played different roles in other people's like perspectives, the more I realized that it doesn't actually change me. And the less afraid I am of other people being mad at me, or seeing me as making a bad choice, or seeing me as you know, harming them. When I look at my own actions, and I go, I'm actually very proud of how I handled myself in this situation. So if they walked away from it feeling victimized, I feel like that's more about them than it is about me. And that can be a very difficult perspective to come to. It's actually a lot of what I write about in my book, enough, which is all about breaking abusive patterns. Because emotional abuse a lot of the time is just somebody saying to you, you know, you are the perpetrator. Now I am the victim, and that person who has felt victimized over and over then suddenly going, Oh, I don't want to be seen as a perpetrator. So now I have to do the you know, the dance of Please forgive me for whatever it is that you think I did wrong, and it keeps them stuck in that cycle. Rather than saying, oh, okay, well, I guess this is my time to exit then. You know, good luck with that. Yeah.

Rachel LeWitt 39:49

Yeah, it's, it's interesting thinking about and I don't know if you you want to go here, but the idea of, you know, ideas spreading also interpersonal Relationships not just across distant connections, but also how they can manifest or germinating like in, you know, in conflict in resolution of that conflict in growth, etc.

Adrienne MacIain 40:17

Absolutely. So let's transition a little bit here to, you know, solutions thinking, thinking forward. How can people like the people listening right now... How can they recognize when they are seeing false information being spread? And how and what can they do about that? Because I think false information--in fact, not I think, I know that false information, unfortunately, spreads much faster than real information. They've done a lot of studies on this, and especially on the internet, false information travels very, very quickly. So how can you recognize false information? And what can you do when you see it out there?

Rachel LeWitt 40:59

Yeah, I think that's a great question. I'm probably not the right person to answer it. I know that a lot of false information is often in like a kind of a journalistic context or about public health issues. And so I don't want to weigh in too much, because I am, I'm really not well versed in combating misinformation. But I think I think a good critical thinker is probably the person who avoids falling victim to misinformation. And what a good critical thinker does is make sure that they understand the origin of the information. So do things have a source is the source reliable? It all goes back to trust, right? Like, if the sources, The New York Times, for example, that's a very reliable publication, because they have a lot of journalistic integrity, which means that they backtrack, they make sure that their sources are the people that they say they are, I mean, they've had a couple of slip ups recently, that if they keep doing that, that'll definitely degrade their credibility as a as a source of journalism. But they're doing their research...

Adrienne MacIain 42:21

That said, but then they did come out and say, this was a mistake, we apologize. They owned up to it.

Rachel LeWitt 42:27

And that's an important aspect of it. So I'm glad you mentioned that. But you know, they're doing their research, too. So it's kind of like, is this if the sources reliable, and so I guess the easiest thing to me is, like, just read reliable sources of information, like your aunt Linda, or Uncle Bob, like, what they read on Facebook, from their friend, is maybe not the most reliable piece of information, unless, of course, can account and even then, if it's like, completely ludicrous, like maybe take it with a grain of salt. But I mean, science, like journalism, is all about tracing the origin, and all about reporting the truth. And so I think that a good consumer or critical thinker, or a good consumer of information is, is going to be pursuing the truth. And sometimes the truth isn't what to get what what gets reported. And sometimes the narrative becomes more important than the truth that underlies it. But, you know, that happens, I think, in life as well. And so yeah, if there's any takeaway, it's like, just have reliable sources of information. Question, question and doubt, you used the word doubt earlier.

Adrienne MacIain 43:46

Yeah. And do research.

Rachel LeWitt 43:50

Doing research, it's kind of like to kind of wrap up some of the themes of of our conversation earlier. Like, if you can, if you trust, trust the people to have done their job, that saves you time. And it saves you effort and energy. And if you trust the sources, then you don't have to do all the background research yourself. I mean, a really good critical thinker would be doing the background research plus trusting the sources. But if you don't have if you're like a lazy critical thinker, go with the reliable stuff, and then think about it, and then it's like, what do I need to take away from this? And I think that's, that's the big thing that maybe like some of the conversation around misinformation misses the point on is like, okay, well, like now what right like what do I do with this information about pizza gate? Like nothing. Don't do anything. Like this is clearly misinformation. But if it's reliable information, that question of like, now what like, how does this actually change my life? How does this change the conversations I have with the way that I think about people? in my community or my my world? Like, maybe those are the questions we should be asking.

Adrienne MacIain 45:11

Yeah, I do think that you know, what you resist persists, and so the more energy you give to things that you don't want, the more you know, the stronger those things become. And so often what happens is we see something false. And then we, you know, repeat it to say, hey, look, this is false. But we're still repeating it. That's a really good point that, you know, if you find this information, probably the best thing to do is just don't do anything. Just leave it alone.

Rachel LeWitt 45:37

Yeah, I mean, there's also the element of like, you know, Nixon saying, like, I'm not a crook, right? Right, like, no one was saying, you, you were a crook before. You called yourself a crook by saying you're not a crook. Exactly. Or when, when Hillary like said, I'm not a puppet, like, Alright, but like, if you're engaging in that, and you're negating it, like, you're also a little bit saying it. And one of the things that I really liked about how Obama handled the whole white birth certificate thing is like, he didn't acknowledge it. It was like, so far out of like, the realm of like, reality that like, right, deserve to be engaged with. And so the conversation about Obama's birth certificate was just kind of like, it only happened in the fringe. And it never got really pulled into a real mainstream conversation, which is to say, like, does this, is this actually something that needs to be validated or checked or whatever? And so it was, like, you know, there's always just relegated to the side. And I think there's a lot of power in that. In choosing to engage in which conversations will ultimately, like, if you choose to engage, it's going to the person that you're speaking with, is gonna, it's going to give them power, or it's going to give the idea power, if you're, if it's a new person. And so that's also how like, ideas spread across networks. And we could talk more about that as well. But, but yeah.

Adrienne MacIain 47:14

Yeah. What would you like people to really walk away from this conversation with? What do you really want them to know? Or Understand?

Rachel LeWitt 47:30

We often think about how... the role of media, for example, in how ideas spread, whether they're negative ones or misinformation-full ones, or positive ones, either stories, or knowledge or innovations. And we don't, I think we discount the role that interpersonal communication and conversation and dialogue can have in changing people's hearts and minds. One of the things that I have thought a lot about over the last, I guess, 10 months is, how do I gauge in different difficult conversations, or conversations that where I have a really different viewpoint than the person that I'm speaking with, and I guess, you know, for the listeners, like, there, there are ways you can do it, right, like, ideas take time to spread, they take time to to root and to germinate and to seed and grow and blossom and then spread on their own. But I think it's always if like you really believe in something. And you find that other people do to that you like, go for it, right? Like, I mean, this all happened, even me being on this podcast is, is because you a long time ago had the idea to have a podcast. And then you had the idea to join a social network that we just happened to meet on. And I had that same idea a while back. But it was also based on the fact that we both probably believe deeply in the power of connection. And like, that's an idea that's been reinforced time and time again in my life. And I imagine the same is true for you. And so I think if your beliefs and if your faith has, has merit and has hope is creating positive positivity in the world, then like spread that-- evangelize! that message and don't discount the consistency and reliability also aspect of it like over time, because you're not going to change someone's mind on something that they've held for their entire life in one conversation, but you might change their mind in eight conversations held over a period of six to eight months. If you engage them in the right way, which which should be no. advocacy, less inquiry base leading with curiosity. And so I guess, yeah, if there's anything that I want the the listeners to take away, it's that change happens because of one conversation at a time, one where ideas get shared. And that, you know, ideas can change the world.

Adrienne MacIain 50:41

Absolutely. I love it. I would say, I have found that you don't actually change people's minds. What you do is you change their hearts, and they change their own minds.

Rachel LeWitt 50:54

Yeah. I think that's absolutely right. I love that.

Adrienne MacIain 50:58

I want to do a quick little exercise with you, which I always do with my guests. Okay, so I'm going to have you close your eyes for a moment. And take a nice deep breath in and out. And as you breathe in this time, I want you to see colored light come into your body. What color was the light?

Rachel LeWitt

It's white, yellow, almost like a Christmas light.

Adrienne MacIain

Nice feel that again, feel that again. That's nice. It feels warm. I like that.

Rachel LeWitt 51:44

Yeah, sunshiny.

Adrienne MacIain 51:46

Yes, sunshine. Let's breathe it in one more time. I love it. Sunshine breath. Okay, now I'm going to wave a magic wand over here. And everything that you deeply desire has just come to pass. It is all now real. And so I want you to look around your life without opening your eyes. just visualize what is now around you now that your life is absolutely ideal. And exactly as you want it. What do you see?

Rachel LeWitt 52:31

I see a lot more green. I think that I'm definitely in nature.

Adrienne MacIain 52:45

Yeah. Okay, I want you to feel again that sunshine is on your skin can feel that. Want you to feel the the nice soft grass under your feet. It's warm and just a little bit dewy and wet.

Rachel LeWitt 53:01

I'm there.

Adrienne MacIain 53:02

Perfect. Now I want you to breathe in and just tell me what you smell

Rachel LeWitt 53:05

A little bit of dirt. And flowers, flower smells. It smells floral.

Adrienne MacIain 53:27

And this is such a great time to smell those floral smells. So I bet those are fresh in your memory. So I want you to take a little walk and you're going to come down to a place where you just feel like oh, this is beautiful. And I just want to stop and enjoy this for a moment and tell me where you've come to.

Rachel LeWitt 53:51

I'm in a meadow. There's wheat, or a wheat-like plant. Tufty head that's kind of glowing in the sunshine. And there's a narrow path that loops its way through the wheat, or wheat-like plant.

Adrienne MacIain 54:19

Yeah, so I want you to grab a little grain of you know, the wheat berries there and put it in your mouth and chew on it, and taste that kind of hearty, nourishing flavor of it for a moment. And just really feel that it is giving your body absolutely everything it needs. That you don't need anything more than what you have here in this moment. That is enough for you. And how does that feel?

Rachel LeWitt 54:58


Adrienne MacIain 55:04

I want you to continue on, and something just unexpectedly delightful occurs. What is it?

Rachel LeWitt 55:17

A butterfly appears to me, talking with some of the other butterflies. And I'm describing a child's fairytale.

Adrienne MacIain 55:30

It's beautiful. It's beautiful. Please don't judge your ideal world as it as it's being built. It is exactly what it needs to be. So you see these beautiful butterflies. What colors are they?

Rachel LeWitt 55:45

White and yellow.

Adrienne MacIain 55:47

Very nice, and one of them lands on you. And as it does, you realize that you've gained a new ability. And what is that ability?

Rachel LeWitt 56:02

I suppose it's that I can talk to animals. I can convene with nature in a more communicative way.

Adrienne MacIain 56:14

So what does the butterfly say to you in that moment?

Rachel LeWitt 56:22

It's not saying anything.

Adrienne MacIain 56:24

Do you want to say anything to the butterfly?

Rachel LeWitt 56:33

I want to say keep up the great work.

Adrienne MacIain 56:38

I love it. I love it. All right, you can open your eyes. Thank you for coming on that little journey with me. I always love that exercise, because it's so interesting what people see. And it's often not what they expect to see at all. So that's something that it's just a little gift that I leave you with that you can anytime access to that space within yourself. That perfect world is always in there waiting for you. Anytime you need it.

Rachel LeWitt 57:14

Thank you.

Adrienne MacIain 57:15

You're welcome. All right. Where can the people at home find you?

Rachel LeWitt 57:26

Pine Street. If they want to come to my house. Or they can find me on Instagram, and LinkedIn. And maybe I'll give you just the details there.

Adrienne MacIain 57:44

Yeah. What's your handle on Instagram?

Rachel LeWitt 57:46

It's @w3tb4nk3t.

Adrienne MacIain 57:54

Wow. You're gonna have to write that for me.

Rachel LeWitt 57:59

It's wet blanket in leet speak.

Adrienne MacIain 58:07

Fantastic. All right. Well, thank you so much for being here. Rachel, this was a really wonderful conversation.

Rachel LeWitt 58:13

Thank you so much for having me. This was very delightful and such a fun way to just have like a really meaningful conversation. And I'm so glad that everyone who listens to the podcast is able to take part.

Adrienne MacIain 58:29

Me too, and I'm so glad that we connected.

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