The seventh and last of Todd Henry’s Everyday Acts of Bravery: Stay Connected.
It’s the simplest and the hardest of the seven everyday acts of bravery. The web today gives us a zillion options to keep in touch with life beyond our four walls:
And those are just the ones I use. On top of those, there are a hundred discussion forums and bulletin boards for any interest you could possibly have. And that’s before you ever go down to your neighborhood Starbucks.
The problem isn’t losing touch. The problem is choosing the best way to stay in touch.
Except the goal isn’t to stay in touch. The goal is to stay connected. And that’s much harder.
We all have friends on Facebook who stay in touch. They’re constantly updating their feeds, checking in, putting their lives online so we can see all the fun things they’re doing. They like our posts, occasionally leaving us a witty one-line comment so we can see how clever they are. They never forget to post a birthday message.
And somehow, for all their sharing, they never manage to connect. They never open up. In trying to impress us with their exciting lives, they never really share themselves.
Connection is scary. To connect with somebody, we have to be open to them. We have to allow them to affect us, instead of just working to affect them. To connect, we have to make ourselves vulnerable.
That’s the hard part. We who call ourselves creatives, who strive to make stuff that affects people–we have to let them affect us, too. We have to be vulnerable, open, real. Because the people we want to reach can smell bravado and BS from a mile off. If our work isn’t sincere enough, if we haven’t poured enough of ourselves into it, they’ll know, and they’ll click away.
Here’s the kicker: they might click away anyway. Even if we’re sincere, even if we’re vulnerable, even if we’re connected, they may not like what we have to say. Sometimes, after all, we don’t want to connect. We just want funny cat videos.
There’s another side to connection, as well: we have to ask questions. And we have to care about the answers. At some point, we have to try to match what we want to create with what the people we want to reach want to hear.
For some of us, that’s the hardest part of all. It’s so hard it has a disparaging nickname all its own: we call it selling out.
But is it really selling out to want a broad audience? If you believe your work might help people, is it selling out to want to help as many people as possible? Is it selling out when serving a million people means you are open and vulnerable to a million people?
I think not. To me, that seems like the ultimate in staying connected.
What do you think? What does staying connected mean to you? Share with us in the comments!