There is so much “grey” here but I am trying to write to understand my own learning, so hopefully this is not too disjointed.
Ken Shelton and I have become good friends over the years, but have only had a few interactions. Sometimes you just meet people that you feel you have known forever, and your relationship just clicks. Thats my connection with Ken.
One of the things I heard him saying to someone else while I was there, has really resonated with me, and connected to some of my other learning at the conference. As he was discussing some of his opportunities to travel, someone said to him, “I live my life vicariously through you.”
Ken then responded, “I live my life vicariously through myself.”
Earlier in the conversation though, Ken shared some turmoil that he had gone through in his career, and the opportunities that he is having now are pretty amazing. When putting these pieces together, Ken has worked (and continues to work) extremely hard to create what he has and I appreciated that he is living a life that is focusing on what he has, not what he doesn’t. I am sure that Ken doesn’t have all that he wants in the world, but you couldn’t meet a more positive person.
Connect this to an earlier session with Dean Shareski on “Digital Footprints” at ISTE. Dean is the type of person that is comfortable discussing the “grey”; he wants to push your thinking, yet wants his challenged as well. It is one of the reasons that I am so close with him. We don’t always agree, but we are in a constant pursuit of figuring stuff out, knowing there is no end game.
In the conversation, Dean was sharing his beliefs on showing more of an authentic self online. What I took away is that we often show only our “highlight reel”, as opposed to some of the stuff that makes us human. I get this and have seen it often. Humble bragging has become somewhat of an art form online. Or maybe that is my perception. A lot of times we can be disappointed that a person we have connected with online, is not the same when we meet them face-to-face, but is this always fair? Some people feed off the energy of others, while others it tires them out. Sharing yourself on social media is totally on your time, at your pace, where in person opportunities don’t follow these same rules of engagement.
I have always thought that I hope people are the same in both spaces, but I guess it depends on what you mean on being the “same”. If you say you love dogs online, but really hate puppies offline, there is an issue. But if you are more of an extrovert online, but an introvert face-to-face, is there something wrong with that? Wouldn’t we be totally fine if it was the other way around?
Yet one of the stories from Dean stuck out to me, and he brought it back to my attention. It is about a college student who ended up committing suicide while her social media painted a different picture than what she was actually going through. It is an unbelievably tough read and I am sure the family lives with this every single moment, yet it is a very important read. This quote stuck out to me from an ESPN article on this tragic event:
Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self. Hundreds of years ago, we sent letters by horseback, containing only what we wanted the recipient to read. Fifty years ago, we spoke via the telephone, sharing only the details that constructed the self we wanted reflected.
But it is not limited to the picture we paint, but what we see of others:
With Instagram, one thing has changed: the amount we consume of one another’s edited lives. Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others’ filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered. In a recent survey conducted by the Girl Scouts, nearly 74 percent of girls agreed that other girls tried to make themselves look “cooler than they are” on social networking sites.
Yet as I read this next part, I could hear Ken’s words in my mind:
She seemed acutely aware that the life she was curating online was distinctly different from the one she was actually living. Yet she could not apply that same logic when she looked at the projected lives of others. Before going home for winter break, she asked Ingrid, who was also struggling at Penn, “What are you going to say when you go home to all your friends? I feel like all my friends are having so much fun at school.”
Thinking about my own context and what I choose to share, I think about the “filtered” life I have created. I definitely have rough patches in my life and tough spots that are my own and not for public consumption, but I also have many awesome moments that I choose not to share with anyone online. I get the opportunity to travel to many awesome places, and I don’t share everyone of those moments, yet I also go out of my way not to complain about things online as well. For someone who flies as much as I do, delays are part of my life, but I also know that sometimes these delays are created by things out of a person’s control.
Things that I am not comfortable with; flying on broken planes and into tornadoes.
Things I can deal with; delays where I am still alive, even if that means inconvenience and lack of sleep.
As I think of Ken’s words, the trap has become comparing our lives to the “highlight reel” of others. To be honest, every time someone shares that they won some award, I think “How come I have never won an award?”, although I wish my default would be to think “that is awesome for them”, and to be grateful for the opportunities I have. This is a critical shift from “deficit comparisons” (why don’t I have that?) to “abundance introspection” (being thankful for what I do have).
Dean pushed my thinking in how we share ourselves, and Ken pushed my thinking on how we compare ourselves to others in these same spaces.
Empathy is a critical component to our world today and I love this quote:
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” —Henry David Thoreau
Empathy teaches us a lot about thinking of what others go through, yet introspection is also important. Understanding that what we see online is often not the whole picture, and comparing ourselves to others could easily help us lose sight of who we are as individuals. Constantly comparing ourselves to others to some might be motivating, while debilitating to others, and although we often filter our lives online, it is important to apply these same filters when thinking of ourselves.