I’ve recently been acutely awakened to the fact that our modes of communication have a very bad side effect as illustrated in this comment by my good friend Rachel.
“If it can’t be understood in a 30 second sound byte America doesn’t get it.”
I am indeed guilty of such brevity in many ways. Every twitter feed, status and mini-post I make can be recalled as only a small sound byte in the full orchestral movement that is my life.
This actually limits my freedom. My freedom of speech in a way. It limits my ability to fully address all issues that have a sense of gravity in life, because nothing that is important is without debate and complexity. The “brevity bias” as I will call it, is sensational and appeals to a visceral reaction. It doesn’t allow for all the facts to be brought to the table. It is not patient, it is not humble, and it is not forgiving. The brevity bias is not forgiving because it breaks each statement into it’s one full and complete statement without giving ear to context which is everything when understanding statements of power. It suppresses our ability to truly communicate and be understand only giving clues to the audience giving them control to interpret based on their own context. It also limits my topics. Wanting to be fully understood and understand other points of view, I avoid topics of controversy knowing that and sound byte of info is not enough to give respect to important topics. So if I do know find an outlet that allows me this freedom, I in fact bind myself via my modes of communication.
I fully admit that these forms of communication have a place in our arsenal of communication, but they must augment it as a piece in the puzzle rather than drive it. For someone who spends a lot of time in the social media world this can be difficult to find the right place for it. Recently in his address to the 2010 graduating class of the University of Iowa Tom Brokaw made this statement. “It will do us little good to wire the world if we short circuit our souls. And you should not surrender the essence of the human experience to 146 characters on Twitter or a Facebook page however cleverly designed it may appear to be. No text message will ever replace the first kiss. No keyboard will ever take the place of someone you love nor will it spell out for you just what love is. That irreplaceable condition of the human experience.”
My hope is that we’ll find the patience to think before we act based on a well informed position so we can act with civility, rather than viscerally.