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Social. Life. How to Communicate Better in Both

By July 7, 2016 2 Comments

Social media. The phrase. The concept.

Salutes to whoever generated the blanket name – social media – for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, YouTube, flickr, Vimeo, LinkedIn, Google+, and on and on and on.

My resistance to calling these “social” co-exists with an understanding of how they are considered to be social.

First, my understanding: the broad definition of the word “social” includes relating to and noting others in society, activities, theories. Liking and loving a statement, link, image, or video that someone shared on any of these channels can today be considered being social. I get it.

My resistance: it’s static. It’s reactive. It’s in no way personally connecting with someone or something.

Or so I believed when I was in recovery. I know better – and differently – now.

Social media. The experience.

Our world has changed so much that for many people, their communication with others exists almost exclusively on the channels. No point in asking if this is wrong or right; it’s how things operate today.

In 2009, when I was off the grid and ashamed of and embarrassed by pretty much everything about me, I was fairly quiet. If you know me, you know that quiet and me are Snickers Bars and olives (I was trying to think of two snacks that are good on their own and never paired, which is how I am with being silent). From time to time, I’d look at Facebook and see all kinds of things happening in people’s lives. (So we have a context, this was 2009 when social was still in its nascent stages.)

Marriages, moving, pregnancies, engagements, promotions, degrees, accomplishments, tragedies, celebrations, important and serious news, and funny experiences. All of these things were what we used to share over the phone, in person, and (before texting) via email. I didn’t hear or see any of these things in person. And I perceived that as being left out of the dialogue, of the experience.

Why would someone take time to tell me their awesome news? They haven’t seen me in weeks. I don’t publish a weekly update or FYI. Hell, I don’t really publish anything.

I didn’t use the social channels in any ways that could have served me. If I had been present, I could have given people reasons to be in touch.

The real. The now.

Once I returned to New York City and slowly but surely got back in my groove, I saw how the channels (Facebook in particular) had become replacements for the person-to-person communication to which I was accustomed and that I absolutely preferred.

And, boy, did people post as though they were talking: things were (and still are) loud, angry, passionate, hysterical (both funny and psychologically so), hilarious, frightened, and direct.

The thing is, no one can hear how we’re sharing and no one can see our faces when we’re expressing. There needs to be a context.

After I emailed a friend and was sarcastic in the comms, thinking nothing of it, I learned about six months later that she’d perceived me as being angry and mean. While that was far from the truth, it didn’t matter. I had provided an example of where intention and perception don’t align and thus, they don’t play well.

Most of all, I will be grateful forever to the mutual friend who told me of my error. And that prompted me to put together for myself a healthier, more accurate way of communicating in life and particularly on social. I call it…

The New Etiquette.

There is a time for our news, there is a place (a program, experience, channel) for what we want to say. Our communication style needs to allow for the sought audience and our purpose must be clear to us and absolutely to our community.

We have to know when is the right time to share, to publish. Example: when  I first published this – July 7th 2016 – I really wanted to ask on Facebook why Bobby Flay had been identified as the chef. Not only was that not important, there were far more important things on everyone’s minds and hearts that day.

We must identify where the correct place is to share whatever we think and feel. Is it on social? Is something private, really personal, possibly critical or harsh?

Choosing how we will communicate our opinion is extremely important.I know now that I have time; I am the one who generated that feeling of immediacy.

There was no need to rush, push, and get in someone’s face right then and there.

Most importantly, I forgot, rather, I didn’t appreciate that I was going to be around for a while.

Everyone has their own why and it’s not for anyone else to judge that. It is, however, up to each of us to determine our reason and purpose for putting our thoughts in the universe. I now ask myself, “Why do I want to publish this? What does it say about me? Who does it serve? What point do I want to make?”

Had I asked myself these things once when I was putting myself back together…I don’t honestly know what things would be like today. I do know that I would feel far less regret for the things I “said” on social.

My lesson.

It may feel like telling someone “Happy Birthday!” on their Facebook wall is not the same as calling them, sending a card, or sending a carrier pigeon with a string-tied box of cookies. It’s not the same. That’s not important. That we do something at all is something. It means something.

Why? Because you mean something. I mean something. We all mean something.

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