We Need to Take the Conversation off Social Media
We need to re-phrase the ‘Speaking World’ as the ‘World of Conversation’. It’s an absolute joy to watch a speaker on stage transforming an audience. As we learn, we form opinions and with these ideas, comes discussion, debate and interaction. This is what brings about amazing ideas, strategic plans and creative thoughts to drive individuals, businesses and movements forward to achieve truly remarkable feats.
However, we now have a platform which is always available and receptive to us with an audience who are ever more addicted to keeping tabs on the flow of information. Social media has taken on a lifeform which informs, instructs and educates us humans in a way that has captured our senses and driven us down a path where, in this specific area, the consequences are quite daunting.
Social media is positioned as the ability to have readily available conversations with your network, but the art of conversation is being driven away by social media. Posting on social is not a conversation but a one-way message board. Yes, the right to reply exists and is actively used but let’s not kid ourselves, each individual post is a statement of perceived truth by the individual making it.
Each time we do this, our statement takes away the nuances of a real conversation, removing the flow of dialogue and the phrasing and delivery of the words. The art of conversation should be a meeting of minds, but my fear is that social media conversation is nothing more than a diatribe of views.
At school in my English lessons one of the random things that has always stuck in my mind was that if you wanted to read the best journalistic writing skills in action, look at one of the tabloids. The journalists who worked on tabloids had a fraction of the word count to use compared to their compatriots on the broadsheets, they were also delivering news to a broader demographic but yet they still had to deliver the same level of content. I highlight this to emphasise that delivering thoughts, concepts, ideas and facts on platforms where conciseness is a necessity is something that requires great skill and clarity of thought.
This is also true in the world of speaking where one of my favourite conversations is where the client is discussing the length of speech time to the fee and wondering if they shorten the speech time, this will impact the fee to their benefit. On the surface, a fair challenge but in my head, my response is always to ask the client that if they want the same content with the same impact delivered by the speaker just in less time, well that is twice as difficult as they need to be absolutely focussed and as such maybe in terms of fee, the reverse thought applies.
Give any speaker unlimited time and they should always be able to hit their content and inspire their audience, but to deliver the speech successfully in a fraction of time is a much more refined skill. This is why the TED talks are so enormously successful, 17 minutes is a perfect time for viewers to listen but more importantly it requires the speaker to be focussed on their delivery and key points and hone their speech with absolute clarity.
Social media holds these challenges to abundance. We are limited in our prose when posting knowing both the space limitations of the platform and the attention span of the viewers (which is why video and pictures ideally suit the medium) but yet we think we can deliver in this limited environment the focus and clarity around subject matters that can spark informed debate.
I seem to always say this but these are confusing times, it is a time when we all have opinions and no single person is right or wrong, conversations are critical, both for us to learn and grow but also to understand other people’s opinions and views without judgement.
We need time to debate, discuss, absorb and converse, we need platforms and environments which encourage, not stifle or restrict. Conversations should not be slogan shouting or opinion stating but more nuanced probing and flow.
We need to use social platforms in the right way to bring richness and connectivity to our lives but understand the limitations so that the conversations are being held in the right environments that aid us all rather than enflame or polarise.
By all means start the conversation on social media, but to truly engage in meaningful debate and bring our divided world closer together, we need to take the debate back into the real world.