How The Plural of You Came Together

Logo for The Plural of You

The Plural of You originated in 2013 and launched as a podcast in 2014. This is the story of the factors that brought it to life.

I started The Plural of You because, even though I don’t see myself as anyone special, I was tired of indulging narratives about how flawed humanity is, how terrible we are to one another. I decided to promote the work of those working daily to protect or to serve others, my intent being to prove that people can be “good,” too.

I was a news junkie for many years. I would read news from around the world and worry idly about the state of things. I reached a point where most days I would read until I felt disgusted, then spend the rest of the day feeling like I needed a shower. I wasn’t aware at the time, but I was allowing horrible events to ruin my mood: corruption, disasters, criminal activity, the usual stuff I thought greased the news cycle.

In the fall of 2012, I began working as a research assistant at the Coastal Resource and Resiliency Center, a community health network established in response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010. One of my first projects there was to compile a directory of social services among states on the Gulf of Mexico affected by the spill. The plan was to host it online so anyone in the area could more easily find services like low cost health care, legal assistance, and so forth.

I realized while compiling this directory that I hadn’t heard of most service providers that I came across. Although local in scope, this changed my whole perspective. Instead of fretting over how intimidating many of our problems were as a species, I recognized that millions of people around the globe were chipping away at them, doing what they could where they could and keeping civilization together as a result. After that, the world suddenly felt less disgusting.

"I always wondered why somebody didn't do something about that, then I realized I am somebody." Source unknown.

I began to suspect that I, too, could make a difference, but I didn’t know how. One of my mentors in grad school sold me on the virtues of something called applied sociology, which produces social research toward real-world solutions. I liked this approach, and today I aspire to create practical content because of it.

I also coupled applied research with a suggestion from a friend: that I worked well as a foil for others. As unremarkable as I may be, there are plenty of remarkable people who work every day to make the world better. What if I play to my strengths and give these people a place to raise awareness about what they do? I filed the concept away until I finished grad school.

After grad school, I decided to study a topic that I thought was at the root of many problems in the United States: the decline of social trust. I wrote an article about the decline, showing how the loss of trust unfolded among different groups of Americans. While writing the article, I determined that there wasn’t one explanation or one solution for the decline, as each of us has our own influences for why we do or do not trust others. The problem won’t be solved with a quick, one-shot fix.

Americans, By Geographic Region, Who Said "Most People Can Be Trusted," 1972-2012

In my article, I argued that each group of Americans—each American, really—would need unique influences to restore their trust in other people, and it’s going to take time. Because humans are social beings and we look to leaders for guidance, I concluded that Americans would need role models to plant a culture of social optimism. Later, I chose podcasting as the medium to talk with these potential role models, particularly from the US, about what they do and why they do it. I chose the name The Plural of You, sketched a logo, and began learning the ropes from there.

As someone who started with only basic skills and no public presence, The Plural of You has allowed me to express in my own way why we should trust and care for one another, generally speaking. My goal isn’t to cast a wide net. It’s to boost the efforts of those who volunteer to speak with me, to build an archive of stories that might persuade someone to reconsider their beliefs about humanity, to inform and inspire folks like you and me to see others through empathetic eyes.

Life what we make of it. If we believe it can be better, then better outcomes will become more likely. To that end, I hope The Plural of You will contribute a few of the many seeds needed to grow a more trusting, compassionate, and humane world. I hope you’ll join me in spreading them.