Apologies to email subscribers, who already received this. It got lost in the transition from one Web hosting service to another. I hope to have all these bugs screened out in the first couple of weeks of 2016! [Happy New Year, BTW!] Here’s what I first posted a couple of weeks ago….
As I read through the first 12 or so paragraphs of Sam Slaughter’s article in the New York Times Style section, I thought, oh brother, yet another clever article that’s #fashionably_grumpy_about_social_media. Especially when I got to, “It’s enough to make you pine for the good old days of typewriters and calligraphy.” Great. More hand-wringing (and the hand-wringing is only growing, which makes me wonder why we don’t stop wringing and start being the change IN our digital spaces, e.g., with counterspeech)….
Then I was pleasantly surprised to see Slaughter quoting a New York University media professor making the point that even letter writing was individual and contextual, letters getting finely customized with “applications” like perfume, fingerprints, pressed flowers, and – I would add – people’s personal seals, inks, papers, penmanship, doodles, etc. So now we have digital nuance, context, creativity, right?
Of course we can be overwhelmed by all the nuance in all our friends’, relatives’ and colleagues’ communications – Slaughter had to use “o” word, of course – but we can also have a lot of fun with it. For example, there’s one app that two colleagues and I use only to get a little silly and sarcastic (uh oh, even “snarky”) while 2 or 3 of us are sitting in different parts of rooms at conferences (one may be traveling, the “rules” of this interaction of ours allow, so no one’s left out). Now, it’s possible my colleagues use that app with other people for other purposes (I don’t), but this is just the one fun, unique use case we three together have for this app. Passing notes in class decades ago was way harder (riskier), slower and not really as fun (there were no emojis to instantly paste into hand-written comments). This is communications tools as a highly situational game. Don’t the hand-wringers have any use cases like this?!
And when people get overwhelmed by all the options and use cases we all have – as people will do – we’ll develop our strategies and workarounds (maybe we’ll soon start seeing fewer laments and more solutions in the news), for example: Some will…
- Pare back on the apps they use
- Decide to keep it simple and insist on only using certain ones (let friends adjust to their prefs for a change)
- Reach agreements with various groups of peers on what “we” will use where and for what (e.g., Slaughter’s example of workplaces using Slack for digital meetings) – just as our kids do.
Just a few examples. Put some of yours in Comments. Some of us may even become known for the apps we choose (and choose not) to use and how we use them – tech use as self-expression (just one example). But I suggest that the two biggest reasons why we and our kids embrace the plethora of tools and techniques of digital socializing are these: We do it for fun (like Slaughter’s sister burying random questions in unrelated Instagram comment threads) and we do it for love. And maybe we’ll be less overwhelmed when we take a cue from our kids and either get a little playful or start getting creative with workarounds!