Friday, March 08, 2013

When It Comes to Love and Hate, This Age of Overcommunication Is Part of Our Evolution

And What Do Anne Hathaway and Oberlin College Have to Do With It, Anyway?
Some critics say Oberlin over communicated and overreacted to recent campus disturbances, but in this case declaring a Day of Solidarity and discussion was the right call.

Two interesting and completely different events shaped my online experiences this week, and they both in their own way validate Communications, for me, in all its sometimes resplendent "weirdness." There's no question we live in the age of both Twitter-esque minimalism, contrasted with formidable Overcommunications. But it's way beyond reporting what we had for breakfast. So let's embrace the issues we're all talking about, as I see our overcommunications as part of our inevitable evolution.
The first event took place on Monday, March 4th, and concerned my alma mater, Oberlin College, which held a rally and day of solidarity in response to a disturbing wave of hate crimes that had afflicted the college over the last few weeks, including anti-Semitic, racist, and anti-gay messages being left around campus. Monday's event was well covered in the press, including The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, and countless others.
This news of course was startling to anyone who had ever attended or even visited campus, and for me was particularly hard to envision, when some of my most vivid memories from my time as a student included pastoral bike rides from north to south campus, late night talks in the snack bar about philosophy and literature, and those memorable purple "embryo" chairs in the library, where you could seal off the world to read or study as needed. The only notes being posted were for upcoming concerts, calls for study partners, and co-op recipes for granola.
Still, here it was, the bad news that was tarnishing fond reflections, with alumni posting and commenting all over the place. While most of the comments were supportive, I was surprised to see so many that opposed the day of discussion, suggesting that it was only giving the culprits --still unknown-- the attention they wanted. Classes should have gone on as usual. Monday's special events were an overreaction. Even during the live stream of the event, the students themselves seemed aware of Oberlin's own criticism of itself--that everything is a discussion, and more action needed to be taken. I was reminded of the old food co-op joke:
How many people does it take to plan dinner? One, and 20 more to discuss and vote on it..."
Still, I would submit that Oberlin did the right thing in holding a special day of discussion, even at the risk of "Overcommunication," and that by doing so the college enhanced its brand. I referenced in my comments that the school should let the important facts come to light, and in the meantime facilitate discussion. For one thing, there was fear in the air, and the day of solidarity seemed to calm nerves. For another, it brought to light some apparent gaps in education that could be filled through more robust multicultural offerings. One student pointed out that she was graduating in two months, without a single course or requirement in that area. She received a standing ovation. Finally, to do nothing could easily have created the impression that there was not only no forum for expression, but that the leadership was simply not doing enough.
The second event is trivial in comparison, but I bring it to light here to illustrate just how subjective the concept of Overcommunicating is. And who better to illustrate this then Anne Hathaway? Yes, a link to a blog post on PR Daily, "The Inexplicable PR Debaucle Known As Anne Hathaway," was posted for discussion by a publicist in one of my Linked In communications groups. Why is she so hated...was the discussion topic, which to date has elicited nearly 40 responses, several of which question why the topic is even worthy of discussion. The rest of the comments cover everything from the actresse's wardrobe malfunctions, to her perceived lack of authenticity, to, ironically, her disorganized acceptance speeches. Who cares? Apparently all the Linked In commenters, who decided the topic was businessy enough, and the additional 30+ commenters on PR Daily. And if it's any consolation that our movie star discussions be validated, a tweet by none other then Lena Dunham, (an Oberlin graduate) was included as a screen capture, with over 3,000 retweets.

Ladies: Anne Hathaway is a feminist and she has amazing teeth. Let's save our bad attitudes for the ones who aren't advancing the cause.

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