The Story Library of your Life in the age of Social Media

22 06 2011

Social media has turned communication technology upside down and changed how we share our life’s stories with each other. Rather than a singular, linear storyline we are developing webs with other people. The entire scope of our stories encompass all the volumes of the people we are connected with in this “wired” time.

Since the development of language people have been telling stories. With every new technology and medium, communication has been revolutionized: the printing press, broadcast media, phones, cell phones and the internet. It seems that with any new technology, we humans will find a way to use it to communicate.

The internet has not only changed how our stories get delivered, but has also changed how we compose them. Long gone are the days of multiple page, hand-written letters. Now it’s 140 characters or less or a short Facebook profile or “About Me” page. And sure, each individual message, tweet or comment is shorter but the overall volume is growing exponentially (even youth today who have grown up with the internet are writing more and writing more outside of school). Communication over the internet comes in shorter bursts…but those bursts are continuous. This new and sporadic exchange of information influences how we choose to share our stories and how we listen to the stories of others.

The construction of your story 

Rather than write a 10 page letter to a pen pal telling the story of our lives, we now maintain Facebook profile pages and Twitter feeds. No one message can capture the essence of a person, but look at their entire history on a site, what they reposted from somewhere else, what they “liked” and who they are connected to and you could learn far more than what they could write in even 100 pages. It may even be one of these secondary aspects of what you put on a social media site that strikes someone else and gets them to follow or to friend you. The picture we paint of ourselves on these kinds of sites is not a continuous narrative but rather a hodgepodge of thoughts, ideas and interests. It’s up to the reader to put the pieces back together to find out about you.

Stories interweaving

In addition to re-composing the stories of others, readers are also active by being interactive. There is always a “like” or “follow” or “share” button and readers are encouraged to engage. When you retweet or repost an article or a message, you are adding it to your own story. We are not only creators but curators, combing through the mountains of information available, picking out what is of value to us and adding it to our repertoire. Rather than writing a singular story of our lives, we are constructing a library of everything that moves and inspires us. Of what makes us laugh and cry, dream and hope.

Moving your story forward

What you can pull away from social media and take with you to your real life are those things which you curate. Your own Feed or Profile contains what you have already experienced. The things you note and link to can show where you want to go. Take a look at all the tweets you retweeted, the photo albums of friends that you “liked” and the articles you shared. What do you like about these things? If they inspired you, what qualities do they share? The commonalities that these things have could be shaped into goals and aspirations for the future.

Personally, I have a friend who takes thoughtful, quirky photos which I “like” steadily. I admire her work because it ignites in me a drive to be more creative. To be a producer of something – anything – rather than merely a consumer.

So, are you more of a creator or a curator? Do you think there is value in both?

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The bodily curse of the knowledge worker

23 01 2010

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The turn-of-the-millennium business buzzword ‘knowledge-based economy’ sounds downright archaic  these days.  Except for the fact that we now actually live it, through every tweet and with every blog post.  Each of us has become a de facto knowledge worker, skimming cryptic 140 character updates or 1500-word articles for nuggets of wisdom that can propel ourselves, our work or our businesses to greater heights.

Deepak Chopra mentioned in a recent Youtube video that recent social media phenomena such as Twitter and Youtube are simply channels to exchange universal inter-connected energy and information.

It can’t be denied that we are spending increasing amounts of time and energy than ever before engaged in conversations, information or knowledge exchange and a more networked reality.

Which can get us in our heads.

And disengaged from our bodies.

It is vital that we continually bring our whole selves, and not just our knowledge worker brains, to the table each day.  As someone who spent years as an employed knowledge worker, there were times when I neglected or, worse, forgot that my body required as much TLC as my brain craved stimulation.

In Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED talk Do schools kill creativity?, he said ‘University professors…look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads. It’s a way of getting their head to meetings.’  Taken to the extreme, we as knowledge workers could all end up like the humans in the movie Wall-E, cheerless immobile and atrophied bodies that rely on technology to ambulate.  Such is the potential curse of the knowledge worker.

I exaggerate, I know.  But how can we make more conscious decisions to start living from the neck down too?

This is not an easy thing to remember when you’re caught up in the daily pressures of managing a business, or you’re a recently unemployed person who’s busy worrying where the next paycheck is coming from.  Who has time for food, exercise or realizing that you haven’t left your seat for the last hour?  There’s one more email that must go out, one more job ad to reply to.

Beware the perils of an over-used brain.  Burnout is not a pretty sight and won’t do you, your family, your employees or your customers any favors.

When you lose touch with your body, you start suffering from a chronic pain, your gastric juices give up on you, headaches are a constant in your life…the list goes on.  Before you know it, your immune system is compromised and disease could set in.

What’s more, a lack of self-care could ultimately limit the creativity and flexibility you need to grow or tend to your career.  Conscientiously harnessing the mind-body connection can generate personal breakthroughs at work and play.

So…what we can do about all this?  There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will lift everyone out of their brain-led doldrums, but creative wellness practitioners espouse several ways to reconnect to one’s body.  Some are listed here – try them out for size.

1) Breath.  Meditation and yoga are the most popular breath practices today.  Classes and books are easily available, or you can simply reprise your first act when you left your mother’s womb.  Stop what you’re doing, and breathe. (Crying your lungs out, like when you took your first breath, is optional.)  Feel your ribcage rise and fall.  Make each succeeding breath slower and deeper.  It can take as little as ten breaths to positively alter your mood.

2) Movement.  Get up, take a walk around the office floor or the block.  If going to the gym or pounding the pavement is not your thing, perhaps a dance class could be more enjoyable and sustainable.  And you don’t even have to be rhythmically-inclined – in Nia practice, for instance, each person moves at their own level of intensity and awareness through a dynamic blend of dance arts, martial arts and healing arts.

3) Sound.  This interesting journal article explores vocal improvisation as a means to better understand and connect to oneself.  In an especially relevant quote, it states ‘At the individual level, singing is making music with the body as instrument. As such, it is a form of “body work” that has the potential to do what all therapeutic body work does. It can release tension, loosen blockages of cellular energy, and access emotion, and memories that may be locked in various locations in the body.’

Remember, acknowledge and nurture your body.  Your loved ones, co-workers or business will thank you for it.