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Alexandra Pelosi is Not Buying What Silicon Valley is Selling

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Pelosi’s Anti-Social Confession

Alexandra Pelosi falls within a prime professional demographic for social media use.

She makes documentary films on topical issues, dabbles in activism, and is a frequent TV commentator.

She lives in New York and grew up in San Francisco (which her mom, Nancy Pelosi, famously represents in Congress).

She wears ironic, black-framed nerd glasses.

But if you want to friend her on Facebook or browse her tweets you’re out of luck. Here’s Pelosi talking last Friday on the Overtime segment of Bill Maher’s HBO show (10:35 in the above clip):

“I’m not on Facebook, I’m not on Twitter, I’m not buying into the whole thing…”

Pelosi’s lack of interest in social media has seemingly done little to slow down her successful career as a filmmaker. This, I think, is important to point out because it underscores a reality worth repeating again and again: nothing bad happens if you don’t buy into every venture-backed attention snare that comes out of the San Francisco peninsula.

On the other hand, such skepticism probably does generate good outcomes, such as the time and space needed to create things that people really value.

19 thoughts on “Alexandra Pelosi is Not Buying What Silicon Valley is Selling”

  1. While it’s worthwhile to point out that she isn’t involved with social media and this hasn’t hindered her career, I can’t imagine her skepticism of social media helped her get her Emmy or Sundance nomination…

  2. True. But it’s fun. And all my friends are on it. In my eyes if you can handle it (e.g. turn off all notifs for some time and just work or work with notifs), it’s not a huge deal.

    • I don’t mean to imply that no one should use social media. My aim is much more modest: to let people know they don’t *have* to use it.

      I think social media should be like Game of Thrones: something that a lot of people really enjoy, but also, a lot of people don’t care about it, and this isn’t a problem for them.

      • I appreciate your articles about social media Cal. It makes me feel a lot less guilty about rarely checking Facebook.

        To be so good they can’t ignore you, we have to say “no” to a lot of things in life. For some people giving-up social media might be one of those things – especially if it doesn’t bring them joy (like me).

        • You should consider quitting Facebook altogether. I can tell you from experience: nothing bad will happen!

          (I know I get in trouble for saying things like this, but if you step back for a moment and consider it objectively, it’s kind of an absurd thing for grown ups to be investing time in.)

  3. I admire her ability to totally stay away from social media. But wonder how far she would have gone without the Pelosi name/ network access?

    A better example of this thesis (success in media driven field without social media) would be someone who has risen without the usual privileges that a family name provides.

  4. This post found me having to explain to a teacher that I don’t use Facebook. As always, your thoughts on this help me focus on things that matter.

  5. Can you actually write about more important things instead of that people should not use Facebook? Clearly you didn’t need Facebook for the type of work you do, but I have faced numerous information asymmetries in my life and in all those cases I’ve taken help from people via Facebook to learn more about fields I’m interested in. Aside from Academia, nobody does ‘only email’ these days and reachability is not orthogonal to achievement. Sam Altman is super active in twitter. But he leads Y-Combinator. You may think that taking an article at ‘Nature’ is the hall mark of a person who has achieved something, I may think that working directly on economic growth is more important. My ultimate point is that you have written more productive articles before, but right now you are just regurgitating your old ideas. Bring something new, please.

    • I must respectfully disagree. Most of us need to hear the same ideas repeatedly (written about in different ways). Important ideas must be repeated often because humans forget and lose focus very quickly.

      I go to church for three hours every Sunday (yes I’m Mormon:)) but I don’t expect to hear new ideas very often – just the old ideas explained in new and engaging ways.

      For some social media is awesome, for others it is an unnecessary time suck – it is an important message worth hearing often.

  6. Here’s a question, what is your advice to someone who has gotten to the “so good they can’t ignore you” part, but then faces the problem of getting sucked into prestige/status climbing/pressure to become a workaholic/materialist/narcissist/asshole. That is, I’m starting an academic career which I’ve done reasonably well in, but now I’m at a crossroads where I fear that any further success may have to come from sacrificing family time, or at the very least shifting mental priorities from family to work for work’s own sake (actually, it’s not quite as simple as plain careerism, as there’s some pride from doing elegant research, but either way, this is about working beyond what’s necessary for a very comfortable life). I admit I’m just as ego-driven as the next guy, so I have a nagging fear of not impressing people I know, though already I’ve successfully fought some of this by pursuing an academic career rather than a standard professional one. At the same time, the idea of spending life impressing people seems exhausting and miserable and ultimately futile.

    To summarize, I’m wondering if I’m right to be concerned about this, and if uber-successful academics seem to have balanced, happy family lives or not. Have you thought about this very much?

    Maybe I should do I thorough “time” audit and really examine if my productivity is optimized already…if it’s not then there’s free room for improvement.

  7. First it was radio that had us sitting passively while entertainment came to us wirelessly.

    Next we moved to television and lived even more of our leisure hours in a passive state.

    Now it’s the Internet as delivered to all our flat screens that consumes our time (when we’re not still enjoying radio and TV).

    All of the above can be good and a fun way to spend our days, but why do we get so sucked in for so long before we come up for air? What will it be next? An implanted entertainment device?

    I’m just not sure at all that evolutionary speaking we’re ready for, or good at adapting to, the changes that now come at us quicker than ever.

  8. So, yes, she’s not on Facebook or Twitter and it hasn’t hindered her career but I’m sure that it doesn’t hurt that her mother is Nancy Pelosi. She’s mentioned before that it has gotten her into doors that normally wouldn’t open. Especially during her documentary about the Republican voter base during Obama’s first bid. If anything, this only proves that who you know is still more important than anything. The value of social media for independent artists who don’t have ready access to some of the nation’s most powerful political leaders is still worth exploring.

  9. Cal, your logic is seriously flawed here and it has nothing to do with social media. It has everything to do with the last name of Peolsi and which has access to the Millionaires’ Club or otherwise known as U.S. Congress.

    I’m sure she doesn’t do social media, however she can pay a team to do it for her because she has access to power and money due to her social connections and last name.

    Why don’t you actually research a case of someone who is successful without social media who comes from modest means? That would really prove the point you are trying to make.


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