you ever play the game telephone?
if you haven’t, you’re probably familiar with it. But just in
case… the game works like this (and doesn’t involve a phone)…
get a group of people. Ten is a good number. Person one passes
a message to person two. It’s done in a way where they’re the
only two that can here the message, say by whispering or whatever
way allows the exact message—the exact phrasing and words—to only
be shared by person one and person two.
step of the game is person two passing the message along to person
three under similar conditions. And then, it continues, until
person ten receives the message.
the chain is completed, person ten shares the message and it gets
compared to the original. Hilarity ensues when everyone gets to
see how much it’s changed.
often than not, the shift isn’t that incredible if you consider
the first and final versions of the message. Something that began
as having a picnic on a nearby hill finishes as an observation
that it’s a great day to eat outside… a thought about how brilliantly
blue the sky appears to be morphs into how bright and hot the
sun is that afternoon.
Sure. Crazy, unthinkable stuff? Probably not.
there are times when the messages get swept away and become wildly,
ridiculously, potentially even dangerously different. And those
times are not at all rare or isolated. It may not be a majority
of instances. It’s absolutely not one-in-a-million.
of the practical applications of the game comes in the form of
team-building. It’s a communication tool, perhaps used with a
staff from the same department or business. It’s an effort to
show how messages can get warped and changed and, in the end,
where that can create significant problems during a project.
this point, my guess is the game of telephone and what I’m saying
about it are hardly surprises. As I stated early on, turns out
you know the game.)
becoming more convinced each day that social media is the environment
where today’s editions of the telephone game are played. Places
where thoughts and actions go to be misinterpreted, switched around
a bit, and ultimately shared for reasons beyond what any of us
could possibly have intended when we first offered any item.
other day I logged on to Facebook. And… something was wrong.
Any of us that have used Facebook understand this one. Messages
aren’t posting correctly. Features seem disabled. Things are not
working properly, or at least not in the fashion we all are familiar
with. The two solutions are obvious enough that we attempt them
without much care or thought. Log out and then back in to see
if it clears up. If not, then either deal with it as we scroll
around or leave for a bit and check in later.
that particular day, pictures weren’t loading properly for me.
My profile/page images were gone. Links were marked as broken.
Visually things were off. Most other days, my reaction would have
bordered on a shoulder shrug level of excitement. But, I could
see Terry’s profile, and it sure looked like everything was loading
properly for her account. So…
I started playing around. I began attempting to upload a new cover
photo, and when that didn’t work, I tried changing my profile
picture. I could navigate through the options and various windows,
and even see the potential selections, but once I made the move
to confirm a selection everything just sort of moved into disappearing
and not progressing.
well”… shoulder shrug… and I logged off.
hours later I returned, and things had gone a bit nutty. I had
likes and comments and messages.
of the pictures I had selected was from Disney World. I was getting
notes from people asking if Terry and I were in Florida, and what
we had planned for our visit. I was getting feedback from friends
that were in or headed to Orlando, wondering if we could meet
up since they figured both of us were in town. I even got two
e-mails from different friends, trying to reach me to see where
I was on the Disney World property. Both of them—seriously, BOTH
of them—claimed to have seen my photo within minutes of it being
posted, knew where it was taken, and they happened to be in that
area. So, they rushed over to surprise me, didn’t see Terry or
I, and wanted to know if we were still located nearby or had firm
plans that evening.
was crazy. The funniest parts for me came from two things: (1)
The profile picture that had sparked the Disney reaction was taken
five years ago. (2) The other photo… the cover photo… involved
the Sydney Opera House, created a few questions of its own, and
happened to be some fifteen-plus years old.
image included Terry or I in any way. There were no indications
on either of our pages that we had roamed in any way outside of
our home zip code. And yet, picture posted, there it was (my words):
“Guys! Stay still for a minute. We were literally a hundred yards
from you when you took the picture at Disney World ten minutes
ago and you were gone by the time we arrived. Where are you?”
suppose it says something about our friends that many of them
do know we don’t check in and post details like travel information
on our social media pages. So, amateur detectives at work, hats
off to them for recognizing an image from a spot in Disney World.
And, it means a lot that they were trying to find us to spend
some time together. (I do like my friends.)
started this essay by talking about the game of telephone. Covered
the idea of messages twisting and communication breaking down.
I went on to talk about social media. And yes, this story moves
along to another level.
short time after I spent a bit of time laughing at Facebook comments
and returning details, Terry’s phone rang. It was one of our neighbors.
They happened to see on Facebook that we were out of town, saw
the mail truck stop at our driveway an hour or so before while
making its usual way along the road, and wanted to know if we
needed her to pick up our mail while we were away.
tell me people aren’t watching us more than ever. Even innocently
and well-intended. I knew it was true before. I have proof it’s
true now. But in many ways, it’s more than that…
are sweeping up even the must subtle of clues and information,
tucking it away and then running with it. It’s not that any of
their intentions are malicious or even all that misguided. But,
the information at the end is an incredible distortion of the
of mine used to love this expression: “Even Freud said that sometimes
a cigar is just a cigar.” And I believe that’s as true today as
it was the first time I heard it. (Unless, of course, someone
posts a picture of a cigar on Twitter.)