I speak on a number of topics, one of them being technology pros and cons for potential Fire Service Candidates through Fire Alumni.
It goes beyond the usual talks about the dangers of the evil social media and gives candidates tools they can use to better use the medium for their benefit.
In the presentation I discuss personal vs shared narrative as a way of addressing their desire to use the medium to communicate. It’s not much use to tell you not to do something if I can’t explain WHY it is not a good idea.
Personal narrative is like a first person recollection of an event.
Shared narrative is including others in the event while simultaneously removing oneself from the event in order to do so.
I give 2 examples.
One is where a couple witnesses a romantic sunset and decides to photograph themselves with the sunset behind them. While they did experience the sunset, they also had to interrupt their personal narrative to arrange the photo, in which they are no longer enjoying the very thing they are hoping to share.
The second example is when I finally talked my young daughters into wanting to watch Star Wars.
We got bundled up on the couch, drinks and snacks at the ready and I started the DVD. The Lucas Film logo appeared and I suddenly wanted to share this personal narrative with friends, family and the girls when they got older. I crouched down in front of them and snapped a pic.
However, while I was doing that my eldest said, “Daddy, what do those words say?”
I had missed the opening scroll. Forever. I will never have that moment back.
My desire to share interrupted my experience of the moment.
According to the candidates that approach me following the presentation, this message is well received.
In order to keep errors on social media at bay, focus on personal narrative.
Today this Apple ad was circulating the interwebs machine and I think it perfectly encapsulates the importance of personal narrative.
Have a look:
The kid in the ad is ALWAYS on his phone. Like I am most days I’ll admit, but we assume from most of the ad he is texting or playing a game (Like I likely am, remember, I’ve fallen victim to the allure of the shared narrative) but we later learn he is making a clever little video.
We see the family becoming emotional at certain parts of the video, not because of what they see, but because of the emotions they associate with the memory of the events being shown. They are being shown events they took part in. The kid who made the video did not take part, he filmed them. Each of the images has him removed from the event in an effort to later share it with the people in the image. For the family it is a reminder of personal narrative, for the kid it is only shared narrative.
The exact same error I made with my daughters and Star Wars Apple wants us to believe is a good reason to use their products.
I love the idea of collecting and editing video on a handheld device.
I don’t love the assumption that ignoring the present to revisit in the future should be our priority. Our priority should be to live in the now, be with the people we are with and in the place we are in, not to post a clever status or photo to include others, but truly experience life while it happens. If that later leads to a sharing of events, so be it, but just wait.
Imagine the family Christmas celebration this family could have had if the kid on the phone had taken part instead of filming. We’d have no clever little video, but we would have the same memories and perhaps even more to talk about instead of looking to technology to share every moment at the expense of the moment itself. Just as powerful to me would have been if the child was constantly reading a book the whole time, then stood and recounted all the fun times he witnessed. he still would have missed the events themselves while reading. It’s not the phone that is to blame here, it is the desire to share the experience before the experience has been…well…experienced.
I tell Fire Service Candidates that social media is not dangerous, it’s how you use it that is. Technology has made it so easy to share anything with anyone at anytime the urge to transfer personal narrative to shared narrative can be difficult to overcome, but the only way to be truly successful and enjoy life is to do just that: Live Now. Post Later.