Ideas are beautiful. I say this as someone who lives largely in her head. …or do I? It’s the thoughts that I think that are what I write as a blogger, author, and preacher. It’s the thoughts that I think that come out in prayers and healings and exorcisms. But communication is an experience, not a thought. Even in the digital world, we communicate with our whole bodies, all that which comes together and makes up ‘us’.
I write stories. (No shock to most of you.) And when I write my stories, I’m in my flow state – I’m communing with my Teacher and writing what I need to write. And despite the fact that I do absolutely believe my stories (yes, even the NSFW bits) are divinely inspired, they are also absolutely the culmination of my own experiences and insights. I’m modeling good communication styles in most of them, and real-world consequences of what happens without good communication styles. So I’m writing from a place of having deep and changing personal experiences of both good and bad communication styles, not just theoretical models of communication styles. And the act of writing is a deep and moving experience for me, even if I’m having it quietly sitting at my desk, or in my comfy chair. Sometimes I end up sobbing by the end of a scene, or having other equally strong emotional reactions, and sometimes I feel changed simply by having written something. (I wrote half a million words in the last eighteen months in my last saga, and believe you me it left me a changed person.)
But then we switch to the reader’s experience. I know, because some of them tell me, that my stories are powerful enough to leave some readers moved by the experience of reading them. I watch as my spouse reacts to the first reading of a chapter out loud and carefully catalog her reactions, and then we discuss them. The stories evoke bodily reactions in the form of emotions as well as intellectual reactions in the form of insights.
And so even in a digital medium, this communication thing is still a full body experience as much as it might be in person. In in-person interactions, some people have very controlled body language and what they’re feeling on the inside they’re not showing on the outside, just like some people in the digital world prefer to lurk and not share their own reactions and responses in comment threads. And that’s fine – your reaction is a private matter and yours to share or not as you choose. But I’m not presuming that just because people aren’t commenting they’re not feeling or experiencing.
I think of it like the politicians do, actually. The emails, or photocopied letters, or calls, or handwritten notes politicians receive from constituents all correlate to a percentage of how their constituency feels, and depending on how much effort it took for the individual to make that connection, the politician presumes that the opinion it represents has a greater hold. Specifically, for every one person who emails, that might represent the position of five other people. For every one person who sends a photocopied/printed form letter, that might represent fifteen other people who don’t send a form letter. For every person who writes a letter on stationary with a pen, that person represents a hundred other people who aren’t writing letters. And for every person who picks up the phone and actually calls to lobby their member of congress, that person represents a thousand other people who haven’t picked up the phone. (This is why it is actually so important to call your member of congress, or write them a letter using a pen and paper. The impact is greater.)
And so for me, for every comment I get that is just a pleasant emoji, I figure there’s five or six other people feeling the same way who haven’t commented with an emoji. And for every person who leaves a kind word or two, there’s probably fifteen or twenty who feel the same way. And for every person who leaves a detailed comment either deeply engaging in the story, or sharing their own emotional reaction and how the story hit them, there are probably a hundred others who also have been so moved and just not shared that with me.