10 Dec Is Your Baha’i Website Secretly a Hipster?
No, your local Baha’i website probably doesn’t wear flannel or have a ridiculous mustache. But it could be unintentionally alienating some of the very people it is supposed to serve: people from outside the Baha’i Community who feel their hearts being attracted to Baha’u’llah.
Hipsters are a fascinating subculture of young people centered in a few neighborhoods in New York City, but their influence is widespread among the younger generation of North Americans and Europeans, and spreading. Popularity, of course, never comes without controversy. Hipsters are best known for their aversion to anything considered “mainstream”. Crudely put, the definition from Urban Dictionary is “Someone who listens to bands you’ve never heard of, wears ironic tee-shirts, and believes they are better than you.” Some people even think I’m a hipster. Not that there’s anything wrong with indie bands or funny t-shirts, but hipster culture is not exactly known for being warm and inviting to people outside their circle. Whatever you think about hipsters, the culture reflected on our local Baha’i websites needs to be warm, accepting, and relevant to the people in our cities.
If you’ve ever heard someone impersonate a hipster (often on the internet), it usually goes like this: “Oh, this is my favorite band. But you’ve probably never heard of them”.
How would this make you feel? I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel like I’m not cool enough to be part of your group. Obviously, you don’t feel comfortable connecting with me, and maybe you think you’re better or smarter than me.
The Connection to our Communities
What do seekers think when they show up at a local Baha’i website, and all they see is a picture of a temple in a the Middle East and a list of principles? They feel like we’re not trying to relate to them, and they feel frustrated or turned off. They can feel like we’re trying to keep our distance, which is the absolute opposite of what we are trying to do. As our Lord says: “Open, O people, the city of the human heart with the key of your utterance”. How our websites are designed is part of that key to open hearts.
We often forget that “People don’t just want information. They need a loving community to belong to and something powerful that’s worth believing in.”
I’m in a glass case of EMOTION!
What is the worst fear of hipster culture? They’re scared not only of deeply connecting with others, they’re scared of emotions.
In order to avoid reacting like Ariel here, it means we need to begin to confront one of our biggest fears as a community: We need to stop being scared of emotion. The truth is, whenever you say something truly meaningful, the power in those words can’t help but touch the heart of the listener. If we only try to appeal to the über-rational minds among us these days, we often don’t do a great job of satisfying them, and in the process we totally alienate the majority of seekers who are looking for something life changing. “Life changing” isn’t rational. “World changing” isn’t rational. A “New Civilization” isn’t rational (well, not at first, anyway). These concepts are truly powerful, and therefore inescapably emotional.
The Purpose of your Website is to Connect
Make sure the copy and images you choose for your local Baha’i website reflect the people and stories of your community. Choose to design your site in a way that shows seekers the vision of the world we are helping to build. Invite seekers to find their place in the story and make it easy for them to get involved.
Well, that’s it for this week. I’m going to set my Spotify radio on this awesome band… that you’ve probably never heard of.