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Link: Open for Business

Laura Kalbag nails transparency in business and social media in her post Open for Business over at A List Apart.

In particular, I’d like to note this:

Being open as an individual isn’t just saying everything you think without caring—that’s called being a sociopath! If you want to be transparent, you still need some kind of filter. It’s like how we might not swear in front of our grandmothers; it’s not good manners. Or how we don’t use Twitter to broadcast every meal we eat, because we’d bore our followers. Diplomacy is necessary too. Very few of us want to be honest to the point that we hurt other people.

I sometimes talk about choosing transparency in our lives, and I feel like her explanation here really describes two key points of what I’m trying to say: tact and diplomacy are not antithetical to transparency; transparency does not mean opening a firehose — you can still strive for a good signal-to-noise ratio.

Emotional Communication

There is no language I know of that exists today that is able to truly convey our emotions, our inner needs. The scope just isn’t there — the best we can do is approximate it. We have words that are supposed to convey meaning, but even then, exactly what meaning is so fluid and amorphous, the true intent and meaning is lost in translation. Think about some of the biggest emotions in our lives. Think about love for a moment. “I love you.” “I love this television show.” “I love this song.” “I love my family.” There are so many valid contexts for the verb “to love.” As far as language is concerned, they are all valid, and we treat them as such socially. But the emotions underneath vary wildly. As human beings, we try to pick up on this additional nuance and emotional intent through body language, through situational awareness, the timbre of the voice, the tension of the moment. All of which rests on the hope that those around us are observant enough to notice, and aware enough to interpret these signals correctly. This is frightening, that so much of our emotional communication and well-being is reliant on others’ ability to perceive our comments in the way we intend. Given that, it is unsurprising that so many people feel isolated and alone.

Which brings us to another tool we have to try and communicate: if language does not have the tools to describe an emotion directly (not in a meaningful way, anyway), then it can at least describe them indirectly. Think about music, or books, or film, or photographs, or paintings, or any number of forms of art. The classic question of “What is art?” is easily defined to me: work intended to convey an emotional or personal response to someone. It’s an imperfect tool — there will inevitably be a lot of people who don’t “get” it. It’s not a fault of the artist, or of the viewer — they simply lack the shared context to invoke a response. A photograph of a weathered fence post in a field may not speak to some, but for others it can invoke a personal memory of visiting their grandparents on the farm, or strike a chord more metaphorically, describing for a moment the feeling of isolation that the viewer may be feeling or have felt. Put simply: art describes emotions.

Personally, I tend to draw from media sources to describe a range of emotions and personal thoughts pretty often. I’ve been doing so all week with video clips and songs and quotes, and this is hardly the first time, and I’m not remotely the only one — for every random silly link blog of goofy stuff out on the web, there is also a curated blog of someone trying to point at something in the hopes of getting their message across, and communicate something they feel is important to those around them. I post videos and quotes and songs and images to create a pastiche of who I am and how I’m feeling. (I’d be interested to see what interpretations people draw from the entries posted this past week.) Of course, I’m always afraid that I’m a bit of a Hector the Collector character when I do so, but if even one person gets and appreciates what’s shared, it’s worth it.