Lessons from Face-to-Face Advocates

Animals Cows copy

This huddle of cows awaiting a storm reminded me that being face-to-face has benefits for more than just humans. In my investigation of whether (and how) blogging might be a mindful form of communication, I thought it would be a good idea to look into face-to-face interaction.

In her 2017 TED talk, Psychologist Susan Pinker explains that face-to-face interaction reduces stress and extends lives. Besides releasing beneficial neurotransmitters, this type of interaction engages parts of the brain associated with attention, social intelligence and emotional processing.

In The Village Effect, How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier (page 15), Pinker notes that “The power and immediacy of electronic media have persuaded us that the different ways of ‘clothing ourselves’ in social contact are interchangeable,” but “Despite our being increasingly tethered to the devices that connect us…we’re lonelier and unhappier than we were in the decades before the Internet age.” (Page 287)

It occurred to me that Denmark is a country that places a high value on being together face-to-face. As it turned out, what I learned about their culture had some useful lessons for bloggers.

That Danes value face-to-face interaction is evident in their tradition of hygge. Hygge involves leaving troubles and drama behind as friends and family gather to share cozy nonjudgmental “quality time,” often with candles and something good to eat. Everyone contributes to the mutually-supportive atmosphere.

The hygge oath that Jessica Joelle Alexander, an American writer married to a Dane, and Danish psychotherapist, Iben Dissing Sandhal, include in The Danish Way of Parenting; What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids reads in part, “We agree to try to: Turn off the phones and iPads.”

Denmark consistently ranks near the top of the World Happiness Report that includes over 150 countries. The authors of The Danish Way of Parenting believe this is because of Danish child rearing practices that include:

play, authenticity, reframing, empathy, no ultimatums, as well as togetherness & hygge.

I find a number of lessons here for bloggers. For one thing, bloggers might want to consider how their balance of face-to-face versus online time affects their own wellbeing.

Meeting with those who share the blogger’s interests could lead to new friendships, not to mention blog followers. Face-to-face meetings might inspire blog topics and provide a more nuanced understanding of the audience a blogger cares most about reaching.

Approaches from the Danish Way of Parenting can be applied in various ways by bloggers. Here are some ideas that occurred to me:

PLAY: According to Stuart Brown, adults need to play too. Blogs can be playful to varying degrees and inspire play.

REFRAMING: Reframing can be modeled by starting with a narrow concern and then taking a wider and more positive view that puts things in perspective, while perhaps soliciting comments to open the discussion still further.

AUTHENTICITY: There is evidence that blogging in ways that display one’s authentic personality is likely to attract readers who can relate to you. Being authentic also helps bloggers to better understand what is important to them as they observe their own posts over time. However it is good to be quite careful to review potential impacts, as it is impacts that can matter more than intentions.

EMPATHY: There are many ways to use varied media artfully to demonstrate empathy. Telling stories in words, photographs and video can often help with understanding others’ feelings better. It is also possible to explain in a post how facial expressions and emotions relate.

NO ULTIMATUMS: It is even possible to model no ultimatums. This can be achieved by avoiding absolute judgments, and including alternatives with an intent to inspire exploration rather than dictating what others should think or feel. Open-mindedness and deep listening can also be demonstrated in how comments are handled.

TOGETHERNESS & HYGGE: In keeping with the spirit of hygge, bloggers could intentionally adopt a warm nonjudgmental tone for posts sometimes. That would likely help with the blogger’s own stress. Providing reminders of the warm support that humans are capable of providing each other might work for some bloggers and topics. As you would expect, bloggers share tips on how to create hygge in real life. In these scary times, a little warm coziness in the blogosphere might be welcome.

While applying lessons from Danish parenting practices to blogs might make them more mindful, there is a different kind of beneficial energy to face-to-face interaction (including to a lesser degree communication via video conferencing). Even limited face-to-face interaction with the right person who shares the blogger’s passion could lead to personal transformation and a more open and aware perspective. Then everything the blogger does might become more mindful.

Author: katzlator

I am a graduate student interested in how we can support each other's growth and wellbeing through honest sharing and creative collaboration.