I would like to tell you I developed the following thoughts while deep in study of man’s ethical imperatives and decision-making processes, while considering weighty and erudite reflections on how we co-exist, or even reviewing my notes for moral development in the vein of Lawrence Kohlberg.
I’d like to do that, but the truth is I was browsing videos on Facebook …
As I allowed myself to be distracted by the myriad and wonderfully diverse mini-movies that proliferate on this and other social networks, I was struck by several thoughts about human nature and behavior. The last of these thoughts relates directly to our responsibilities as leaders:
1) I am not alone …
I share my distractibility with many other people, based on the number of views that many of these little clips receive. Apparently many people spend some time doing exactly what I was doing … watching short, usually non-professional, and awkward videos.
We like our entertainment and distractions bite-sized … easy to digest and with minimal useful background or context.
2) The world is fascinated with many different things …
I saw soldiers reunited with families, cute kittens by the bushel, breathtaking human behavior and near-accidents, weather phenomena, and people being kind to other people in unusual situations and places. One thing that truly disturbs me is the popularity of videos showing people surprising us by being generous or nice to another human being.
A person being generous or kind should not be cause for fascination or viewed as an extraordinary event, even as my logical mind tells me that people are not always generous or kind to each other. It is a shame that many of us feel the need to share these occurrences, trying to spread the word that a better way exists. Wish we did not have to do so.
3) “Going Viral” is not necessarily a good thing …
A great danger exists in this post-modern world, where most of the world has access to whatever someone chooses to record and share. Watching someone else suffer embarrassment or discomfort is apparently a fascination for many, judging by the popularity of some videos showing exactly that.
I will not further cause pain to those involved by identifying or linking to the videos that caught them being human in some very embarrassing and unattractive ways. Let me just say that I myself sometimes have misjudged the distance, been caught unawares, done something silly, stupid, or dangerous, and even had my body betray my sense of decorum … as have we all.
My Point: Our penchant for instant and visual stimulation carries with it the risk that we will reduce all that a person is to this one moment in time.
We do not see the lifetime of struggle, work, learning, family, and just living that are part of who this person is. We only see the moment captured for apparent eternity, and every share increases the pain of that person who has been reduced to a few seconds of entertainment for others.
Consider for a moment if you were caught … on video … at your worst or even just at an off-moment. Does this represent your sum and worth?
Reality: We digest our news in much the same way as we do our entertainment… in small and often non-representative slivers.
I will use Ferguson, Missouri as an example here, not because it is unique, but simply because I know the area well.
The visual images shared during the height of the protests around issues of racial equality, economic opportunities, culture, and the relationships between law enforcement and the community captured moments, in much the same way those YouTube videos show us the thinnest of slices of someone’s existence…
… and we reflect, consider, judge, and decide based on those slender slivers.
Some saw pointless urban violence, while others saw bravery in the face of injustice. Some saw despair and hopelessness, while others saw heroic acts and generosity. Some saw the essence of being Americans, while others saw a threat to that essence.
Ultimately, each person saw what they expected to see, what they feared, and what they were shown. Yes, each sliver is reality, but it is not the only or the complete reality.
Few saw the totality …
I know I draw with a broad brush and many good and beneficial uses exist within the social networking and video world. However, as leaders and people who would help others become leaders, I would like us to consider this a little more carefully.
Points to Ponder:
What are you making decisions about, based on a sliver of information?
How might you do so differently and more effectively?
How might you influence others to consider things more holistically?