So I just finished reading Jeff Turner’s (@Respres) post on his site: Kenya Exposed More Than Just My Emotions and I felt compelled to deliver a response. Jeff has that effect on his audience – part of what makes him worth following and paying attention to. But I’m a snarky sonofabitch who can’t help but speak up.
The gist of his post was this:
It’s been a week since I’ve updated my public Twitter or Facebook stream. I don’t think anyone has noticed. It’s noisy in both places, lots of people are vying for attention. And I have no desire to broadcast this post on either one of them. I’ve unchecked the “Publish to Twitter” box on this post. I realize that will mean fewer people will ever know this post is here. I don’t care.
And that’s fine. But you’re wrong. For the right reasons, to be sure, but you’ve fallen for a fallacy that I can’t help but call out. Correlation is not causality. People (well, at least myself) noticed your absence, but also respected the fact that you were on a legitimate adventure. That’s worth experiencing in its entirety because it’s not something you get to experience every day.
But imagining that the world is better because you’re NOT adding to the collective conversation is… well, it’s false logic. You’re blaming the network for the noise, but then not adding signal to the stream. That’s backwards. You choosing to disable the “Publish to Twitter” button means that the quality of dialogue is diminished; not improved. [And besides, that one checkbox took me hours to figure out how to build – have some appreciation! Hehehe…]
I’m rambling, so let me get back to the point. The simple fact of the matter is that we’re all participating in a connected environment that has never been imagined. We’re still building it – and there’s a lot of junk to sift through. There’s lots of noise. Our attention spans are pulled in a thousand directions at once. Focus & presence is at a premium. But the reality is that once you have that attention – the attention of an audience – it’s your responsibility to raise the level of discourse to new heights. Abandoning your audience doesn’t provide value for anyone – you or them.
You have the opportunity to educate us. You have the opportunity to share your journey, to share what it meant to you, and to share what you want us to take away from it. You have the opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges and obstacles that exist for the girls that you’ve made part of your life – and to empower us to support them and the millions like them. You have the opportunity to tell a story that compels positive action. Or, you can choose not to. Those are your choices.
You’re part-owner in a piece of social media software designed to create better conversations – to build better dialogue. It shouldn’t come at the cost of looking people face-to-face and discussing what matters. It should compliment it. It should improve upon it. It should broaden our horizons and raise our perspectives. This software isn’t perfect yet; but that perfection is worth striving for. It’s why I keep chipping away at the boulder. If your trip has inspired ways of improving how we pay attention to each other – let’s build it.
There are all kinds of communities. Should we spend more time in the physical ones and perhaps better focus (and reduce) our attention while in the virtual ones? Absolutely. And, should you have paid attention to Head Mutha while she was talking with you? Damn straight.