I freely, and many times, too openly admit that the more I seem to know, the less I actually do know.
One of the many things that I struggle with is the changing landscape of the way we communicate with each other and share information.
Today we have more and better ways to communicate our thoughts, wants, and desires with each other than at any time in human history. Cellular technology, the internet, and modern transportation systems allow us to see each other in person quickly, even instantaneously. With all of these ways to speak to each other, we seem to communicate less with our fellow human beings.
Social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter, have proven to be a great equalizer in communication. Everyone is a celebrity now; all opinions are valid — everyone has the “right” to be heard and be correct as well.
Well, only if you agree with my opinion. If you do, you are obviously brilliant. If you don’t, well, I really can’t sugar coat this for you — you are an idiot and should not be allowed to communicate with other people.
Recently, I began watching “After Life,” a program on Netflix created by, and starring British comedian Ricky Gervais. Gervais is best known as the creator and star of “The Office,” (the original one that aired on the BBC) as well as one of the producers of the American version. Gervais is known for his rather acerbic wit and humor. Trust me, if you know his work you either love him or hate him, there’s no middle ground.
In this new show, Gervais plays a journalist at a small weekly newspaper dealing with the death of his wife to cancer. “Dealing” is a bit of misnomer, he has decided that he no longer needs to deal with social niceties. If someone says something he doesn’t like, he says exactly what comes into his head, and more often than not it’s nasty and profane — and funny. The humor, in my opinion, is in the fact that many of us would like to say these things but social conventions keep us from actually doing so.
I read an interview with Gervais where he commented about social media. He has 13 million followers on Twitter. Gervais believes everything on Twitter is “exaggerated” and an “illusion” with nothing being real.
“No one would talk to you in the street like they do on Twitter,” Gervais said. “They’d never come up and say, ‘Your articles stink.’ They’d never do that because they’re normal, but they’re not normal on Twitter because there’s no nuance, no irony, no conversation there.”
The interviewer asked Gervais why we should take social media so seriously. It’s here where I think he makes his best point. “You don’t. If you ignore it on Twitter, it didn’t happen. It’s like going into a toilet stall and arguing with graffiti. If you don’t go there, it doesn’t exist.”
All hail the rational mind.
“After Life” is funny and poignant as Gervais’ character, time and again, is brought back to feeling and caring. Sometimes it happens through the seemingly mundane stories he writes for the paper, other times it is in his interaction with the same people he has berated.
In the end, personal communication ultimately leads to understanding.
There’s a lesson there, if you are willing to see it.