I haven’t posted for a long while, as I decided at the beginning of the school summer holidays that moving countries and being 100% there for the boys during the process was enough for even a superwoman (which I’m not!) and that I’d write again when the time felt right. Watching this great TED talk tonight though, was so inline with what I’ve been observing and experiencing during this particular adventure that I can’t resist.
This talk, for me, shows so clearly that our experience of the situations we find ourselves in is mostly a reflection of how we choose to frame or look at things – our responses to situations, rather than the situations themselves. In his project “We Feel Fine”, Jonathan Harris uses technology to capture an impassive ‘snapshot’ of the emotional state of the blogosphere every 15 minutes.
The database is programmed to suck in any blog post with the phrase “I feel…” contained within it. If there’s an image attached to the post, it captures that too. Then anyone who’s interested can view the data collected in a variety of ways – how you choose to look at it, or frame it, literally transforms you experience of the data, though fundamentally the data itself is the same. Will I look at it geographically, and see how people are feeling in a particular place in the world? or will I look at it pictorially, in the mosaic view, seeing how each “I feel…” statement is illustrated? or will I choose to look at the ‘weather’ view, looking at the same feelings but shown as sunny, cloudy, rainy and snowy?
My experience of the same basic information is transformed by the choice I make in how I will view it. And ultimately this choice also affects my actual pathway through the data, because I’ll be presented and drawn to different parts of the database – the story I’m writing as my brain makes connections between what I’m experiencing will be different.
And this has been my personal experience all summer long so far. When I arrived in the UK from Spain, (or to be more specific, in central London from rural Granada) I felt positive, optimistic and excited to be in such a happening, dynamic and different place – with infinite possibilities ahead, not just for ourselves, but for the boys too.
However, not many people saw things from this exact perspective. My parents framed this same event linked/chained to the recent past – that we’d had a financial crisis, lost the house we’d built to the bank, and arrived now with nothing and an almost impossible task of rebuilding our (broken) lives ahead. A friend framed it within a particular work ethic – that we’d failed in our quest for a different and (warmer!) lifestyle and were perhaps now returning to get ‘proper’ jobs – to fit right back in. Other framings have included “I feel…” emotions of all shades, from …worried, …sorry for, and …sad, to …relieved, …in awe, and …glad.
The range would make for an interesting map, just like Jonathan’s screenshots. Obviously, I’m choosing to stick to my own framing of feeling curious and like we’re on an adventure, rather than any of the more pessimistic, and for me, harder to move forward with, alternatives… and I feel fine! (also at various moments scared, worried and panicky, but overall still excited about the whole thing).
The other thing I got from watching this talk, was that, reassuringly or worryingly, depending of course on how you choose to look at it, that hundreds if not thousands of other people on this planet are experiencing fundamentally the same emotions or response to their situations at the exact same moment – we’re all in this together. I’d love to know if there have been any noticeable shifts in the overall patterns of feelings over the several years Jonathan has been running the project, or if there’s a basic consensus of our basic feelings.
I just checked the We Feel Fine site and just 15 minutes ago, the highest shared feeling (15.6 times higher than ‘normal’) was “I feel inspired!”. Me too! – could we all, in the vein of Michael Bungay Stanier’s Possibility Virus, by choosing to frame and therefore feel, more positive and collaborative feelings than negative and divisive ones – and spread that perspective and those feelings around – could we drive the statistics overall in a particular direction? Literally, could we make the world a happier, more “we feel great” place? Not just statistically and only on blogs, of course, but in our lives and those around us.
(Say yes, please.)
I feel better! How about you?
Check out Jonathan’s “We Feel Fine” for yourself here:
You have just read a post which is now also a statistic in a database!