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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: emotional connection

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

Last time, we talked about Impostor Syndrome, how many of us struggle with feeling like a fraud. This often dovetails into a nasty cycle of over-achieving as a coping mechanism to shield us from feelings, failure, pain, etc. But, like many coping mechanisms, they can be great for the short-term but a living hell if we allow them to become a habit.

Habits can be particularly insidious because its behavior so ingrained it’s subconscious. Add on top of this a world that keeps pushing us to go faster, do more, be more. This adds fuel to the proverbial fire.

Our modern world trains us to never hit the ‘OFF’ switch because there’s money to be made if we’re constantly plugged into the Matrix.

Perhaps we work at a computer all day. How do we take a break? We hop on-line, dive into social media, watch Netflix or play on-line games. We’re never taking time to ‘get out of our own head’ which is often why we lose touch with our emotions.

As a consequence, our capacity to ‘feel’ atrophies.

The data’s already piling up. Technology is wreaking havoc on our emotional, psychological and physical health. As technology becomes more ingrained in our everyday world, part of culture, we’re wise to pay attention. Technology is increasing codependency, anxiety, and depression, while also wrecking memory, social skills, and our ability to empathize.

Our Western culture already had an unhealthy relationship with emotions, and it seems technology is making this worse. We’re addicted to distraction.

Socially Acceptable Emotions

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

As humans, we’re naturally imbued with a vast pallet of emotions. No emotion is inherently good or bad but all are necessary and serve a purpose.

When we repress one emotion, it’s like plugging a geyser. That will only work so long until there is an eruption of some sort. For instance, if we believe we don’t deserve joy and shuffle past this emotion to go onto the ‘next’ achievement, it can eventually manifest as grief.

Why?

Playing armchair shrink, we’re grieving the moments of joy that have come and gone that we failed to grab hold of. We lose sense of purpose because if there is no joy, no sense of I DID IT! Why are we even bothering?

There’s this odd social dogma that being happy is good, and, that if we aren’t happy something is wrong with us. Anger, sadness, disappointment, disillusionment, rage, fear, etc. are ‘bad.’ If we can’t be any of these, then busy works just fine and comes with lots of kudos.

When someone is sad, angry, upset, it makes us uncomfortable. We switch into trying to make the person ‘feel better.’ But is this always the best course of action? It is (perhaps) for us, because ‘bad’ emotions make us uncomfortable. Additionally, since we’ve been reared unprepared for these emotions within ourselves, how can we help anyone else?

Grief and Loss

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

On the last post, I mentioned I’d recently come unstitched because I use work and achievement and being responsible to numb out. Yet, if we study human history, we’ve gotten away from many of the traditions and practices which used to accommodate the ‘bad’ emotions.

For instance, let’s dial back a century and look at death and loss. I recently listened to an excellent Southern Gothic, Black Water by Michael McDowell (the unabridged saga). In the book, when there’s a death, those impacted hung black wreaths on their doors. They also hung black wreaths on the front of the cars. Women wore black and men wore black arm bands.

Grief and loss possessed a physical outward expression, a bold honesty to the world claiming pain. Oh and wonders of wonders! This was OKAY.

The community respected, honored and nurtured those hurting. There used to be a mandatory time period for grieving.

Yet, how many of you have lost a loved one and work wanted to know if you’d be back within the week? How many of you have experienced a loss and YOU expected YOU to be back at work within the week?

Modern World & Loss

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

I spent most of my growing up years with my grandparents, meaning my grandmother served also as a mother. I lost my grandmother July 4th two years ago. Problem was she died when July 4th happened on a Monday. No long weekend to get over that one.

Also, since her death was ‘only’ one in a long series of losses, I didn’t mention it a lot. I’d already ‘burdened others’ with four deaths in the previous year. Don’t want to be too needy. Then, after she passed, I lost four more loved ones in the next six months.

To be clear, no we weren’t hit by bad luck or plague. I was extremely blessed with a large family I loved very much, who lived VERY long lives. This meant these great aunts and uncles and grandparents had been a fixture in my world since I could remember. Problem was they were all hitting their 80s and 90s at about the same time…meaning I was losing them at about the same time.

Yet, what complicated my grieving (or lack thereof) was that even if I’d lost ONE person, our culture rushes past death.

To be blunt, our culture rushes past loss in general. Breakups, divorces, job loss, kids going off to college, getting dumped, losing a business, etc. are all ‘deaths.’

Yet, how often are we encouraged to ‘forget about it,’ ‘move on,’ ‘get back on the horse that threw ya,’ and so forth? Worse, how often do we encourage others the same way? *cringes* Our kids cry because they lost a game, fought with a friend, or broke a toy, and immediately we comfort…and distract them. Again, guilty as charged.

Why can’t someone feel sad? Maybe WE can feel sad. Calm down. Baby steps.

How Does It FEEL?

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

Experiences, good and bad, are meant to be FELT. Yet, how often are we thinking when we should be FEELING? Part of me is sad that there are not a lot of pictures of my growing up years.

Cameras, film, processing film cost money. Most regular people couldn’t afford home movie cameras to ‘document’ the birthday, graduation, birth, baby’s first steps, etc.

Yet, I’m also happy about this. The handful of old pictures evoke far more emotion than the 1700 images on my current iPhone. Why? Because BACK THEN, I was fully present in the vacation, party, family reunion, etc. I was free to feel.

I watch those around me (and I’m guilty, too) so busy taking pictures (to post on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, or to ‘remember’) they’re actually not present in the PRESENT. Left brain (analytical) is so busy documenting the joy, we’re not slowing down to FEEL the joy because right brain is told to wait.

It was tough for me when I visited New Zealand last year. I wanted to take pictures of everything! Film ALL THE THINGS so I could REMEMBER!

I had to chastise myself to stop, put down the iPhone and BE PRESENT. Experience the majesty, the elation, the beauty and FEEL them all.

Imprint the moments in my bones and my mind. Viewing mountains through a small screen was a shill for stopping to simply enjoy the view.

We’ve turned into a world of documentary-makers. Yet oddly, what good is the film or picture to recall a moment where we failed to be fully present?

If we’re not experiencing emotions during the graduation or the wedding, then what is that short video truly going to bring back? What will we feel?

Paralysis of Analysis

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

If we’re numbing and avoiding grief and emotionally absent from joy, this has a cumulative effect. Over time, we drift away from what makes us human (our feelings). When we are hurt or angry or sad, we analyze it away.

Google a blog about how to handle being dumped. Enjoying a good time? Grab the phones and DOCUMENT.

It’s fair to say most of the population over thirty is growing increasingly concerned with how much people are staring at their phones all the time.

We see families at dinner in a restaurant talking to people on-line, ignoring the ones across the table. Couples on vacation busy taking pictures of ‘moments’ instead of making real moments.

I’m old enough to remember when beauty parlors (salons) were hives of talk, chatter, gossip and laughter. Now, when I go get my hair done the women all sit staring at tablets and phones, checking email and Facebook.

I’ve made it a point to interrupt them, especially the young ones.

One time, I interrupted a young 20-Something on her phone to talk. I asked her about what she was doing, why she was there to get her hair highlighted…and she gaped at me like a deer caught in headlights. Smiling, I said, ‘Facebook will be there in an hour. Promise. But I won’t be. Tell me where you’re going to college?’

Initially she seemed on the verge of apoplexy, but over time was smiling and telling me about how she was going off to UT Austin and was hoping to go to law school. Within minutes, she was laughing and excited and had forgotten all about her phone.

Put the Phone DOWN

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

This seems like strange advice from a social media expert, but it’s actually okay to put the phone away and to not document every moment for posterity 😉 . That image posted on Facebook will be gone in a couple days. Yet, make an authentic memory and that’s there for life.

When my nephew graduated and everyone had phones aloft, I simply watched, listened, and enjoyed. Let myself feel. I guarantee that memory will be far more visceral, hold exponentially more emotional weight than the times I was ‘busy’ taking pictures of every minute. I was too distracted to take in the smells, sounds, textures, and feelings.

We only have so much time, and we have a choice. Reality or virtual reality? I believe the more willing we are to be present, the more comfortable we’ll become with our emotions. If more of us do this, the more comfortable we’ll grow with other people’s emotions.

Let Them Cry

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

Ever hear that advice for babies? Crying is good for us. We need to let ourselves CRY. Crying releases stress hormones and increases the feel-good hormones. Besides, the emotion will be there in one form or another. If we fail to feel it real-time and at full strength, we hammer it flat.

Flattened emotions take up more metaphorical surface area. Thus, instead of gut-wrenching grief that lasts only a month or six months, we might be left with dull, aching depression spanning years.

If we don’t dive into joy so intense we feel we might burst, we could be left with saccharin memories (artificially sweet and not quite ‘the real thing’).

As writers, being emotionally attuned is critical for superlative writing. Empathy is our greatest tool, but empathy demands we’ve experienced an emotion. If we keep numbing, avoiding, documenting, and checking out, it shows in the writing. We end up with talking heads, plot puppets and ‘bad situations’ instead of drama.

We remember great stories for one reason and one reason only: How they made us FEEL. Want to be a great writer? Less thinking, more feeling 😉 . Pay attention to feelings (ALL of them) because it will make you healthier as a person and stronger as a writer.

In the End

Moderation is key. I love social media, blogging, chatting with people all over the world. Yet just because the world doesn’t have boundaries doesn’t mean boundaries aren’t a good idea.

My goal with this post is to challenge us to FEEL, because what makes us humans and not robots is we FEEL. We feel happy, sad, elated, crushed, proud, jealous and we NEED to feel those emotions and MORE.

I, too, am a work in progress. But, I believe if I work on slowing down, learning to feel the good and bad and ugly I will get better at it. Like all things, practice makes perfect. Setting down my iPhone for more of the iFeel 😉 .

What Are Your Thoughts? (Then Feel FREE to Go OffLine!)

Do you seem to struggle more in our modern age with being able to feel? When a negative experience hits, are you (like me) quick to go look up a blog, binge-watch HBO, or scroll Facebook? Are you afraid to feel? Unused to being able to feel? Have you turned into a mini-documentary maker, too?

Have you become addicted to distraction? Are there childhood memories that are SO REAL (even decades later) because you didn’t have any technology to interrupt? So you remember the smell of the grass and Coppertone, the feel of the sand, the bite of saltwater up your nose when you first dove into the ocean…

If you do? SHARE! I’d LOVE to hear about these authentic moments!

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

 

 

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling book, We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. This is the day I dedicate to help you guys rock it hard when it comes to social media. For the past two months, we have been discussing blogging. If you are new to the blog, I recommend going back and reading the previous lessons. It will save you a lot of time and heartbreak. I am going to assume all of you are clever enough to look to the sidebar to take you there ;).

For the past eight weeks, we have discussed blogging from almost every angle. Today we are going to discuss ways to make our blog connect with our readership. I read too many blogs that sound like the author is lecturing, ranting or having a party all to herself. Those blogs do not connect with me, and I doubt I’m alone in this. I have to admit, in the beginning, I was a lousy blogger. Make no mistake, I was an excellent writer, but blogging is more than preaching…it’s connecting. When I look at my early blogs even on this site, I see how my language, my topics and even my writing “voice” failed to connect with the reading audience.

Actually, the tactics I will show you today are so simple you are probably going to smack your forehead. So much of this is common sense, but as humans (particularly writer humans) we love to overcomplicate things. This is why I suck at True and False. Choose ONE? Can’t I write an essay? Why am I sweating? Is my shirt on backwards?

Dichotomy is my enemy. But back to blogs.

When we decide to vest ourselves in social media, it is smart for us to pull back from the gidgets and gadgets and whats-its to look at WHY people are on social media. What do they want? Information and entertainment. No, what do they really want? Connection. Noooo, what do they really, really want? Relationship. We are people, and we need connection to stay sane. We crave attention and praise, and we like to feel as if we matter. People who intrinsically understand this principle will enjoy far more success in all realms of social media, whether it is a blog, a tweet or even a status update.

Feed the real need. Relationship.

How are relationships created? With dialogue. Have you ever met someone who was witty and charming and interesting…but they never shut up (*whistles and looks away guiltily*)? They go on and on dazzling you with stories and jokes, but yet there is still something lacking. On the other hand, have you ever met someone who asked about you? Your thoughts, your opinions, and your ideas? They patiently listened and even seemed interested? We LOVE these people, but they are so rare.

Why?

I believe it has to do with fear. We feel we don’t have much to offer so we put on a good show, failing to understand that we don’t have to jump out of planes or go on safari to be interesting. All we have to do to be perceived as interesting, is to genuinely be interested.

If you go back and look at the early posts on this blog, it is easy to spot that I was very insecure. You can also see that I really wasn’t engaging with readers. How? Very few comments, but we will talk on that more in a bit.

Thus, though trial and error, I have found some ways that can make your blog feel more intimate and engaging.

Pay Attention to Your Pronouns

Throughout this blogging series I have emphasized over and over that we are serving the reader first. Our blog is a service. We must be careful how many times we use the pronouns “I” and “you.”

If our blogs are full of sentences with “I, I, I, I, I”…then we risk coming across as self-centered. We will be like that person at the party who only talks about herself. Can we use “I?” Yes, duh. We just need to do a quick sweep and make sure we don’t have a personal pronoun infestation. If we go on and on with “I, I, I, I” it makes it hard for readers to feel as if they are part of a conversation, and leaves them feeling like spectators. This isn’t entirely bad, but blogs that grow the fastest create dialogue.

“You” is another pronoun that can get us in trouble. How? Subconsciously, it places the author and the audience on opposing sides of a dividing line. One is right and one is wrong. Too many “you, you, yous” and the reader likely will feel more like she’s being lectured or chastised, and that doesn’t make for a positive experience this reader will want to repeat.

Notice in my blogs that I go out of my way to use “we,” “us,” and “ours.” Why do I do that? First of all, it is because I need to be mindful that I am not above my own advice. Also, because most of my blogs are instructional, inclusive pronouns are the best way to calm your nerves, ease your fears, and help you begin to feel as if you are part of my team…which you guys are. It is my subtle way of joining forces with you. Choosing inclusive pronouns subconsciously impresses on you (my readers) that I am on your side, and that social media is our collective endeavor…because it is!

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, I wasn’t born knowing social media. Most self-help or instructional experts would be wise to admit openly that they weren’t always perfect. It connects us as teachers to those who desire to learn from what we have to say. We can be professional and empathetic without losing the respect of others. In fact, when we come down to a human level, it helps our audience learn faster because it peels away that layer of fear. Our audience feels as if we understand them on a far more intimate level because we have battled the same dragons.

Ask Questions

As a social media “expert” it is really easy to slip into “Know-It-All Mode” super fast. I used to feel that asking questions at the end of a blog was dangerous for a NF author, but I believe that was from my own insecurity at the time. People who are truly secure do not mind a different perspective, and, in fact, should welcome it. I grow every day from the comments posted here. Many of you have life experiences and insight that offer a totally unique perspective I might not have thought about. When readers offer comments, insights and opinions, it challenges me and makes me grow. It offers fresh content that makes my teachings more dynamic. I don’t always have to agree, but if I am confident in what I know, then a different opinion (offered respectfully) should be welcomed.

Dialogue is very important. Try to have questions at the end of all of your posts. Actively spark conversation. In fact, often I reserve information, because I like challenging you, my readers, to rise to the occasion and give your thoughts. If I cover every detail, then not only does that make my blog too long, but then no one has anything to add. What fun is that?

Look for the Common Emotional Ground

We can blog on all kinds of topics, but the ones that will resonate are the ones with a central theme. Common emotional ground builds instant rapport. For instance, I could tell some great tales of living in a refugee camp in Syria (which I did). The story would probably be interesting, but would it engage? What if I took it to another level and added a universal theme? Instead of focusing on life among the bedouin and the refugees, I could talk about the profound loneliness of living so far away from home surrounded by people I couldn’t communicate with effectively (my Arabic was less than stellar). Almost everyone can relate to being homesick or lonely or misunderstood. Now this exotic story (blog) is far more intimate, and opens a way for readers to offer their stories and, ultimately, connect.

Most of us feel a need to be heard and understood. We long for relationship and like people who care about what we have to say. As bloggers, if we will give others something more to take away than simple entertainment or information, we have the foundation for a hit blog.

What are some things I missed? What element makes you guys feel really connected to a blog or blogger? What is it about style or voice that draws you back week after week?

Happy writing!

Until next time…..

This week, I do not have a Mash Up of Awesomeness. I am in the process of doing the final edit for my new book Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. I simply have not had enough time to read blogs like normal and collect them for you, so I hope you will forgive me. I don’t believe in posting stuff I don’t read first. Thanks for understanding. I am super-excited about this new book, and the Mash Up of Awesomeness will likely resume next Wednesday.

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.

Also, I highly recommend the Write It Forward Workshops. Learn all about plotting, how to write great characters, and even how to self-publish successfully…all from the best in the industry. I will be teaching on social media and building a brand in March. For $20 a workshop, you can change your destiny….all from the comfort of home.