This past week I blogged about a “culture of text” that is growing more prevalent (at least in the US). I briefly touched on how simulation and simulacrum shape this culture and wrote a bit about latency and agency. Yesterday, I offered a way to avoid awkward moments presented by incoming messages. In this post, I share another approach that starts with the self.

Our gadgets are in the realm of the physical. Our wanting different behaviors when it comes to interpersonal communication is tied to our emotions. To bridge the gaps that we’ve created by relying so much on text, we need to get cerebral on it.

For any change I want to see, I have to start with me. As a lecturer or a teacher or a leader, am I captivating enough to hold the attention of others? (Note: hear me use a lot of big words in my presentations and you’ll know i’m not so captivating.)

Can I break down the message I need to convey into smaller chunks to accommodate shorter spans of concentrated attention? Can I provide the :30 second pause so twitchers can check their devices free and clear of my frowny face? Can I do a better job of making my expectations explicit? Can I design a better user experience for others?

I KNOW some readers are thinking to themselves, “Why should I have to work this hard so people can pay attention LIKE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO?

I am pragmatic (at least I try to be). I wish things required less personal investment to see them done well. Wishing for things to be so doesn’t make them so. Expecting others to change their ways when so many variables, like habits, reinforce those ways — this is unrealistic. To encourage change, I must design the scenarios that channel the change I want to see realized in others and remove the barriers to people doing what needs be done so that we can work and learn better together.

Using physical and emotional forces to create change are rarely sustainable when dealing with hard-wiring of the brain. As leaders and teachers, we need to meet people as they are and design the path that encourages their growth (and pro-social relationships).

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(Sing it: “Start With Me!”)