Everybody I know

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brian_clareyby Brian Clarey

Everybody I know has been talking incessantly about the National Folk Fest that’s hitting downtown Greensboro this weekend for the first installment of a three-year stretch.

Everybody I know has got people coming to town, made parking arrangements, perused the schedule and, some of them, already taken days off work.

Everybody I know is pretty pumped about it.

Or so I thought. Turns out I know a lot of people, and they’re not all on the same page.

In the course of my ordinary life, I became a member in a local chapter of a benevolent and protective civic organization, which offers benefits like a barroom I can smoke in, a gym (that I think I can also smoke in) and a wonderful pool where my family and I spent much of the summer.

It was over last weekend at that very pool where I started asking people about their plans for the folk festival. And none of them knew what I was talking about.

How, I wondered, is that even possible?

Stories and photos have been running in the papers for months — ever since the big announcement last year. Signs have gone up all over downtown. The NFF Twitter feed is so active it’s almost obnoxious. Under what sort of rock would one have to exist in order to avoid being informed about this thing?

And yet there I was, surrounded by more than a hundred people — business owners, corporate types, parents and voters — who had not heard of the biggest event of the season in the city of Greensboro.

After I finished sputtering (“It’s actually a pretty big deal…”), it came to me just how big the Triad is, and just how small our personal circles of influence.

Think about it: There are almost 1 million people in Guilford and Forsyth counties. According to research out of Columbia University in 2013, the average American knows about 600 people. You think you know everybody? Trust me: You don’t.

Most of us live in silos, surrounded by people similar to us. We reinforce these walls with curated news feeds, monotonous behavioral patterns and aversion to things of which we aren’t already aware. It’s why people go to the Olive Garden.

Everyone I know has Everyone I Know Disease, which is what it means to take a very small and specific sample and apply it to the larger world. When I was 12 years old, everyone I knew had a bicycle and a baseball mitt. Everyone my mother knows went to college. TV pundit Bill Maher likes to say, “Everyone I know got high last night.”

Me, I know a lot of people. And after this week’s issue, I hope I can say all of them are at least aware of the National Folk Festival.