Masks, Politics And Our Great Divide: Why We Need To Change Course

Brad Inman can’t recall a time when we all were so righteously indignant. Name calling, picking petty fights and silent judgement are the name of the game. It’s time to bridge the divide.

This fall while attending Inman Connect in Las Vegas, I was strolling through an outdoor courtyard and had forgotten to remove my mask. 

Out of nowhere, a nicely dressed woman at a table with a few empty red wine bottles jumped to her feet and shouted, “Sir, can I ask you a question?”

Then, she began hurling sarcastic insults, taunting me for wearing my mask outdoors.

My first Karen encounter.

I can’t recall a time when we all were so righteously indignant. Judging one another, name calling and picking petty fights, as we get easily offended by a minor transgression. Tightly wound, people feel free, like never before, to get into other peoples’ business.

We feel empowered to confront strangers and routinely react and shame one another. 

In Vegas, I shot back at the woman for being “stupid drunk.” What was I thinking? I wasn’t.

Getting all whipped up is part of this angry frenzy, reacting to reactions. 

Our divisive political discourse, egged on by biased loud-mouth media, sets the tone. And big tech arms us with social media to meddle, insult and gang up on others.

Is this behavior just grousing and grumbling? I don’t think so.

More than ever, we are getting under each other’s skin — with our colleagues, our neighbors and random strangers, anyone we disagree with or feel offended by.

Fighting over t-shirt slogans, parking spaces, grocery carts, ripe bananas and our place in line at Starbucks

The vaxxed squabble with the anti vaxxers, and the masked become unhinged with the unmasked. 

Road rage is routine these days — and can be dangerous. Cutting someone off can lead to a drive-by shooting. It feels like we are sitting on a powder keg.

In real estate, we don’t have conflicts leading to random killings. But fear-mongering and polarization is in the industry‘s DNA. Zillow is evil, Compass is a fundraising scam, KW is a cult, eXp is a pyramid scheme and the broker business model is dead.

I was a guest on a recent live video podcast, hosted by a leading real estate franchise executive. He asked, is tech innovation a lot of “noise”?  I said no. He then asked his listeners, using a contrived single-question poll, and 80+ percent said yes. I was set up.

I am fair game, but what underlies his impulse to thump the entire proptech industry? Maybe his meager stock valuation, a fraction of a tech company. Envy can turn combative.

Hungry for industry trash talk, read the comments on some of our Inman stories: AI is rubbish, blockchain is bunk, iBuying is a fading fad, bitcoin is a fraud, Redfin sucks, teams are overrated, real estate commissions are criminal, Realogy is dead, NAR is a conspiracy and power buyers are one-trick ponies.

How does this end? When we figure out we need each other.

In the last two years, some of the real estate industry tech angst has eased due to the shrinking of the digital divide, as new technologies became essential.

Realtors woke up to the value of digitalization.

Also helping: the tech crowd has been humbled. The Zillow meltdown, the lackluster Compass stock performance and new software companies flocking to the Realtor channel to peddle their new business models. 

Tech companies need agents.

Good and bad, we are all in this together.

When the personalities around these two worlds hang out, we make progress. That was the idea behind Inman Connect when we started it 25 years ago.

Like breaking bread, connecting face-to-face in a forward thinking setting is constructive.

See you at our next Connect conference, where I promise to make a lot of noise.

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