I am on my phone constantly.
And if it’s not the phone, it’s the laptop, where I simultaneously run my Twitter and Facebook feeds, while listening to a TED Talk and reading a lengthy New York Times article. That, or some other combination of over-stimulation and attention deficit disorder.
I’m always plugged in. And on the occasion that I decide to check out – or my mental breaker goes – I am in one way or another connecting with another person. When I’m physically alone, I’m connected to others through books or music, in a literary or melodic transcendence of time and place.
That’s the ultimate goal, whether it be in one’s personal life, social life, or professional life: To connect with others, and to feel connected. Psychologically, it boils down to our need for acceptance; Journalistically, it’s the ability to tell powerful stories that open eyes, warm and break hearts, and cause people to feel. And it’s this ability that can make or break a career. It is the difference between a story having a dramatic political impact, and it’s physical form being re-used as fried fish wrapping paper.
I attended a Kwantlen University GDMA event in Vancouver recently. It featured Terry O’Reilly, who spoke to the power of storytelling. In a nutshell, he iterated that in communication, it simply isn’t enough to make people understand: You have to make them feel. Feeling, he said, calls people to action more than facts and figures. (Which explains the impact the #Kony2012 movement was able to have in such a short period of time, before the world decided to check the facts: A classic case of action based on emotion, which is then followed by rational, critical, logical thinking. This, I’ve argued, is why the creators of the 30-minute video were successful: They achieved exactly what they wanted to achieve, by telling a powerful story that opened eyes and broke hearts, albeit temporarily.)
When you tell a story, you add value. Value, in turn, creates margin, and margin means profit. While O’Reilly was talking specifically about communication in advertising, the same principles are applicable not only to journalism, but to how we communicate in our day-to-day, hour-to-hour, text-to-text lives. At the end of the day, we relate to other people through a series of stories, through feeling, through making a connection.
So today, as I sat at the beach in front of a million-dollar ocean view with my eyes glued to my iPhone, I had a bit of a long-awaited epiphany: That through apps and social media sites and digital devices, I am able to instantly connect with any other human being on the planet. I can follow the successes of an old high school peer as they actively construct the timeline of their life, and I can let someone living thousands of miles away know that they are missed, and have them instantaneously share my feelings in that same moment. I can see the trends of what is being talked about globally, and know when anyone I’ve ever met, living in my area, has checked-in nearby.
What an incredible time it is to be making connections, and communicating ideas. So here I am, connecting with you.