Painful reflections

The internet is like one of those shaving mirrors you get in hotel bathrooms. You know the ones, especially those with bright lights around their frame, that seem to expose and exacerbate every flaw and blemish on your face.

Learning to use social tools for work feels the same. Starting to work out loud, and in groups, is awkward to begin with. What might have been got away with in a face to face exchange lingers online. A brusque response, a glib aside, a “light hearted” criticism, sits there staring at us for hours days and weeks, growing in magnitude each time we look at it. Our flaws, and those of others, gain a permanence and are amplified in a way that is testing, but testing in a good way.

Those shaving mirrors were invented to improve on the blurred, hazy images of our faces obscured by steam that risked missing bits of stubble or slicing layers of skin. It’s the same with social tools. They enable us to get up close and intimate with attitudes and behaviours that arguably we should already have been dealing with. They make it harder to hide and cover up our moments of shame.

They are not for the faint hearted but reward those willing to take a closer look at their actions and their consequences, willing to learn from their mistakes, and willing to learn to learn together.

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