Today’s post is the second of a 2-part series from guest writer Andy Terbovich. He shares with us some of the lessons he learned from creatively connecting with long-distance friends. To read part 1 of the series, click here.
I came up with this story-telling idea because building and maintaining relationships is hard, especially today. Like a lot of people, my social network scattered widely across the country after college. Some people moved home, some moved to where the work was, and some had the work move them. Over a few years, I myself ended up doing all three.
Social media helped me stay in touch in general. It gave me a rough idea of what was going on in people’s lives. Honestly, for many of my acquaintances that was good enough. It kept me in the loop for big announcements–weddings, children, illnesses, relocations. But it didn’t have the comfortable feeling of a personal conversation that I was used to with my close friends.
I wanted to recreate our wide-ranging talks, where we would tell stories about the past, present, and future of our lives and beliefs. To be fair, I also wanted to laugh about the stupid things we did when we were younger, stories that do not belong on a Facebook wall. These private audio letters and stories worked in a way that social media didn’t and filled this gap.
There are three things that I learned through this process.
The first is that friends and family have lots of stories you haven’t heard.
They’re willing to share more than you think, provided they have a reason to bring it up. The truth is if you’re good friends then they’re probably happy to share it and you’ll be happy to hear it.
The second is that voice is still more powerful than text.
Talking conveys a story quickly and easily, but there’s so much more information overlaid. You get timing, inflection, laughter, emotion, and a real sense for what the person means. You get to hear all the little asides and vocal mannerisms that would never make it into a text message or get edited out of an email.
The last is that friendships are not always meant to be public affairs in front of the whole world.
Even if you’re just telling jokes and nonsense stories, it means more when it’s direct and personal. The way you talk to your best friend is different than how you talk to your mother, and talking to small groups of people you trust allows you to open up differently than if you were posting something for the whole world.
This doesn’t mean that social media is totally misguided. Of course an idea like this isn’t the only way to stay in touch. Like anything else, these are all just tools to help you communicate; each fills its specific niche.
But when it comes to talking with people who really matter, and those who you really want to know better, I would encourage you to think outside of wall posts and tagged photos.
Make the effort to talk to them candidly and privately, make it convenient and flexible, and don’t be afraid to push the conversation new ways.
After running this little experiment, I wanted to make it easier for other people to have the same experience. Based on this structure, I built a free mobile app called ONanON to help people drive substantive sharing with friends and family in a quick and convenient. If you would like to try it yourself, visit www.onanonapp.com. Your feedback (firstname.lastname@example.org) would be much appreciated to help improve the project.
More about the author:
Andy is a collector of hobbies and passport stamps. After moving through nine cities in ten years, he’s trying to reimagine how people talk with their friends and families and bring back personal, private storytelling in a fun and simple way.
Based on some time spent sharing audio text messages with friends, he built a free mobile app to help people communicate in a new way. He wants to make it easier to stay in touch with old friends, better understand new friends, and hear never-before-heard stories from family members.
You can find out more at www.onanonapp.com.