Communicating a mile wide and an inch deep
OK, call me “Mr. Efficient.” Yeah, I like to multi-task or at least try to kill two birds with one stone. I usually do that early on Sunday mornings when I try to build the mind while trimming the bod. On the physical side, I run three or four or if I’m really feeling up to it, five miles. I attempt to mitigate the effort by listening to a program on NPR called On Being with host Krista Tippett. Perhaps, you’re familiar with it.
Well, today is a Sunday and I awakened, ready to perform the ritual once again. I begin my run, turn on the headset, and quickly discover that today’s edition of On Being is a repeat. I quickly recognize the topic and the Krista’s guest, Sherry Turkle who is the Director of MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self. This is a segment I won’t tire of.
Her focus, if not concern, is how technology is shaping us. If technology is having any particular impact, it’s in the area of “communications.” It’s not so much that we aren’t communicating to each other. Quite the contrary. We are doing it more than ever. Facebook and Twitter are prime examples of that. According to ZDNet (March, 2012), Facebook users spend 10.5 billion minutes per day on Facebook.
With numbers like that, Turkle says, “We are communicating so much that we don’t have time to think.”
How can that be?
T.S. Eliot offers this perspective:
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
This world, knee deep in people, needs deep people.
It simply seems that our tether to our Smart phones has prevented us the opportunity to think with any measure of careful thought. We are virtually wired to confine our thinking to that which we see on our 2×3” screens. As a consequence, we are constantly in react mode. And I have to wonder how substantive our thought process is. Don Postema in his book, Space for God, suggests that “the world doesn’t need more busy people, maybe not even more intelligent people. It needs ‘deep people.’”
Those of you reading this blog are in the arena of “communications.” There’s much on your plate for what needs to be communicated, when, and how. It’s a tall order. If you do anything, you share information—vital information. And we’re thankful for it.
Yet, within your challenge to share information, what might you do to foster thinking and to extend the metaphor from Don Postema, deep thinking? While I might have some suggestions, I’d challenge you, if you’re a school communicator or public relations specialist to begin with one activity: go to a place of solitude and spend some time reflecting, asking questions, and imagining what you can do have your stakeholders think in deeper and more significant ways.
Oh yeah, one more suggestion when you do this. Don’t take along your cell phone.