I was reading in the most recent edition of Fast Company, Baratunde Thurston’s article how he decided to #Unplug for 25 days. For 25 days he was not on Facebook, Twitter, Four Square or Instagram.  There was no peeking on friends’ statuses, no quick FB messages, likes or comments. There were no Instagrams of what he was eating.  There were no emails read or sent. He only used his phone to call or text friends to make dates. He focused his time on spending time with friends – in person.

As I read this article, I stared to think about the technology I use daily for business and social. In today’s market, there isn’t really a defining line of when you are “off the clock”, because with our smart phones, we’re always on the clock. This is especially true with us PR folks. Our careers are a lifestyle. If a client sends me a note in the evening, I’ll send a quick reply. I’ll share articles, tweet and re-tweet at all hours.  Social networks run 24/7.

This got me thinking about how we interact on a regular basis. I have an iPhone that I use to share content and communicate information daily –  from texting, sending emails and tweeting, to managing online communities and sharing thoughts and images through blog posts and Instagram. The least used feature on my phone is well, the phone part. I spend more time texting and sending messages through Facebook to friends than I actually talk to them on the phone. I know I’m not the only one here. We all know that times have changed. But have you paused to think about HOW much it’s changed?

What did we do before we were all so #PluggedIn? Before news alerts were sent to your phone? Before you could stream movies and TV? Before Podcasts? Do you remember how you communicated with friends before social networks?  What tools did you use for communicating professionally?  How the heck did we engage audiences and get messages out there?

Do you remember:

  • A time before email?
  • A time before the personal computer?
  • Using a typewriter to draft formal communications?
  • Faxing media releases?
  • Snail-mailing media kits and party invitations?
  • Calling people to make plans? Three-way calling? A land line?  Corded? Rotary!?

Today we have begun to take for granted the speed at which we communicate. We receive instant gratification by sharing content at the press of one button. We have absorbed this 24/7 culture of consumption into our daily lives without even noticing.

There’s an analogy about how if you want to boil a frog you have to slowly raise the water temperature so it doesn’t notice. If you toss one into a boiling pot, it will leap immediately out. That is what has happened to us with social media. The number of tools has risen at a steady pace; and as we adopt more of them into our daily lives, we start to boil without even realizing it. Until one day we do. Then we do just as Thurston did and temporarily #Unplug…

A Royal Affair

I once again had the pleasure of taking pictures at The Royal’s Leaders For Mental Health breakfast on Tuesday morning. If you haven’t had the opportunity to become a part of The Royal Ottawa Hospital’s events, you are missing out. This breakfast, and their annual Inspiration Awards, celebrate individuals who have overcome challenges in their lives due to their mental health. After photographing these events for the past four years, they continue to be the bar that I hold all others to. I always leave ignited with the passion to make a difference…

It’s 7:30am. There are 600 people in the room. Six hundred people completely silent; listening as 15-year-old Sam Fisher talks about why he tried to kill himself. His father, Ian tells these 600 strangers about his own brother who successfully did just that at the age of 20 in the mid-70s, and his emotions, thoughts and actions the day he raced to save his son. Suicide is rarely talked about. In fact, Ian says, his parents referred to his brother’s suicide as “the accident” right up to their own deaths. People didn’t talk about suicide, depression or metal health back then. Most people still don’t today. By realizing that he had “done something stupid”, as he describe it, Sam decided to live and called his parents for help. They’ve been given a second chance. Some families are not so lucky. So now the Fishers’ talk about it.

I’m reminded inappropriately of a joke about mental health: Statistics show that 1 out of 5 people are crazy. Look at your four closest friends, if it’s not them, it’s probably you. Joking aside, chances are we all know someone who suffers from some form of mental illness. You may not even know it. If you see someone struggling – help. If you’re struggling, ask for help.

Silence kills. So speak out about mental health – loudly.

You know who I am…. Are you with me?