Mark Twain recounts an interesting little sidebar story about a friend of his. This friend was a preacher and was on his way to church when he was handed a note. The note said that General Sickles, who had been this man’s mentor and great friend, had passed away (this turned out to be false). The preacher was shaken, but of course he had to continue on. His sermon for the day was on the “begats.” Moses begat so and so who begat so and so. Given his state of mind, the preacher was not able to hold his voice steady and occasionally tears rolled down his cheeks. Of course, the congregation had no idea what the preacher had just learned. To them, it was an absolute mystery why this man, who could maintain a straight and even tone when giving much more emotional sermons, was so distraught over the darned “begats.”
From a different perspective, of course, the preacher’s behavior makes all the sense in the world.
Perspective in the Social Media World
I had a really interesting exchange with Deep Soni after I wrote my letter to the a-listers last week. Deep questioned me. “Who are the a-listers? Why give in to that kind of categorization?” From Deep’s perspective, there is no such thing as an a-lister in the online world, and there shouldn’t be. Another person noted that to someone just starting, lots of people can seem like “a-listers.” It was these conversations that made me realize how much we all need to try to see issues from perspectives apart from our own. Yes, even in the online world, where all of the sites ask us what we are doing and what we are thinking about.
The benefits of studying other perspectives
Let’s go back to the conversation about so-called “a-listers.” If you just go by your own perspective on this term, you will probably participate in social media in certain ways and let the presence of that elite crowd affect you – or not. However, let’s say we absorb another person’s perspective. Maybe their perspective is that an “a-lister” is anyone who helps out someone else. That could impact how you act online, couldn’t it? Or let’s say that another person suggests that a-listers are people who have been around for x number of years. That could also have an impact on how you think about things, right?
Another nice thing about engaging with perspectives beyond our own is that we can extrapolate how our words may impact other people. Maybe religion is silly from your perspective, so making fun of it or treating it lightly doesn’t really bother you. However, maybe there’s another person out there who feels like they are driftwood on the ocean of life, and they feel like religion is their only anchor. From their perspective, your words are making light of something they feel is a life saver. You just never know, do you?
Putting things in perspective
Perspective also needs to become more prevalent online when it comes to people keeping the online world in perspective. It’s easy – very easy – to let happenings in the online world engulf you. We become so enmeshed in peoples’ lives, so obsessed with things like followers and comments, that we can quickly lose perspective on things that really matter. In the end, Social Media platforms are tools and are ways of networking with people. In comparison to things happening in the world at large, most events in the online world are laughably manageable.
Of course, all of this is just my perspective. What’s yours?
Image by Chris Cockram. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/coolchrisc