• Patrick McAndrew

A Master of Tools or a Tool of Masters

Starting a business or movement of some kind is no easy feat. While I am in the early stages, I am a speaker and consultant in addition to being an actor. I’ve talked with individuals and organizations on how to better their communication skills and develop trust and empathy in the workplace. So much of my work centers on engaging less with technology so that we can engage more with each other. And, of course, I need to practice what I preach.

This can be a difficult thing though in the 21st century. Our attention is scattered all over the place. There are billions of webpages out there for us to visit and hyperlinks take us from one to the next. In short, getting attention is immensely difficult. Attention is now the most valuable commodity out there. Many companies profit on how long consumers are spending time on their website.

As I begin to extend my reach, my prevalence on the Internet is certainly something I have been hesitant about. “If I’m on all social platforms, wouldn’t I be a hypocrite?!” But my opinion is starting to sway a bit. The Internet has provided us with these incredible tools to get our message out. Right now, I could be depriving a lot of people of this message. This is important to keep in mind as we develop our lives, our businesses, and ourselves. The Internet has provided us with these incredible tools to get our message out.

Somewhere along the line, many of us forget that social media platforms and other Internet-based mediums are simply that: tools. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and many other websites are excellent tools for marketing, public relations, broadcasting, sales, and several other means that had limited outlets not so long ago. But we mustn’t let these tools dictate us.

Everyone’s attention seems to be attached to their phones, so one may reasonably argue that in order to grow a business, one must be readily accessible on said phones. I do believe this is an important strategy for sharing our gifts and talents with the world. But we must not live by them as some mandatory doctrine. Yes, posting a video or photo is definitely beneficial, but we can’t spend the rest of our waking hours observing how people react when we could spend our time producing another video. While its good to note how people react to the content we create, we can easily become obsessive about the opinions of others and cease creating anything at all.

I use a wooden spoon to stir my dinner in a wok. Sure, I can do this by hand, but it would take much longer. Also, I would burn myself. I use books to learn about a new topic rather than solely going off my own life experience. I learn quicker this way. I use eyeglasses to see better. And we can use social media and the Internet to spread our message, to educate, and to entertain. The key difference with this, however, is that social media and the Internet are relational. A wooden spoon doesn’t have much of an influence over how I talk with my parents. Social media and the Internet deal with fragments of human relationships and connection.

Tools are meant to be extensions of ourselves, not substitutes. So long as we keep this in mind, we can use the Internet and social media quite effectively, with beautiful returns on investment. But if we start substituting technological communication for face-to-face interaction, it won’t be the same because there are fundamental differences between the two. We must strive to be the master of our tools instead of a tool of masters.

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