You Don’t Have to Go It Alone

Chapter 19, “Shoot the Ones You Love,” of How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck opens with the lines “there are two kinds of people in the world: the ones who are interesting on screen and the ones who aren’t” (84), and explains that it is the job of the filmmaker to cast people from the first group of people. Given all the thinking I have been doing recently about the extrovert ideal, my gut reaction was that surely this meant extroverts were the ones largely being cast in videos. But then the next chapter, “Make Your Star Look Great (Part 1: Figuratively)” opens with an example of how very few people would be comfortable juggling in front of a crowd of 500 people without any rehearsal.

This chapter suggests that most people, regardless of where they fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, are generally unaware of how to best present themselves on video. The proposed solution is to meet with your star ahead of time, review the shooting plan for the day, and ask them what they are comfortable with. In other words, collaboration between the filmmaker or director and the actor is crucial to an enhanced final performance. The more I have been reading about the extrovert ideal these past couple weeks, the more I have adopted the view that people are who they are, and we should not bother trying to change them.

This view, however, seems to fully favor nature in the age-old nature versus nature debate. In other words, there can also be harm in drawing too rigid of a distinction between extroverts and introverts, and suggesting that introverts can never feeling comfortable acting extroverted, so we should just let them be. It is this balance that I have been thinking about this week – the balance between accepting someone as they are but also recognizing that acceptance does not preclude further growth.

How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck evokes this balanced approach as well. Though it reminds us that we can prep and groom our actors (or nurture them), it also directs us to “find out what your talent isn’t good at-and then don’t make them do it” (87) – in other words, to not completely discredit their nature.

The Quiet Revolution (@livequiet) tweeted this week about a parenting course they have developed that is led by Susan Cain and meant to give parents tips on how to raise a “Happy Introvert in an Extroverted World.” The Tweet uses the word “empower,” which I think encompasses the aforementioned balance between nature and nurture. While we need not question people’s nature by asking them questions like “why are you so quiet?”, we also need not be complacent and leave introverted children alone. There is still space to teach them that being quiet is their “superpower” so that they feel self-assured and ready to share their talents with the world.

This tweet, unlike many others from the Quiet Revolution’s account, also encompasses an explicit call to action. I was driven to click on the link to the course by the explicit call to “preview” it. I was also persuaded by the Tweet’s image and accompanying text, specifically the question “why are you so quiet?” In other words, after viewing the image, I felt a sense of compassion and empathy with the child, and so I was primed to click on the link when called upon to do so. This short Tweet effectively accomplishes  what I intend to with my video project. I realized that I should not be hesitant to put an explicit call to action at the end of my video, or fall victim to the idea that most audiences are “lazy.” This simple but effective Tweet was able to evoke a response and action from me. My video can similarly get people to feel empathy for those (women, introverts) who are so often told to smile, and so I should feel confident that viewers will respond to a stronger call to action.

Overall then, these past two weeks I have been thinking about the many relationships that exist on social media or are involved in the creation of videos, such as those between filmmakers and actors, and creator and audience. As a member of Susan Cain’s (@Susancain) introverted audience, I decided to reply to one of her Tweets last week and shared my infographic with her. She ended up favoriting my tweet, thereby empowering me to become even more active member of the #QuietRevolution.

 

What Makes an Effective Tweet?

During the past two weeks I have been wrapping up my podcast project and been brainstorming ideas for a video project on the Quiet Revolution that will include a call to action. As such, I have been thinking a lot about how narrative and other rhetorical choices can be used to capture a listener or viewer’s attention and enhance their understanding of a message. I have also been thinking about how these choices vary by medium, and so decided to take a closer look at what makes an effective Tweet.

First, to become more actively engaged in the Twitter conversation, I turned on notifications for both the @livequiet and @susancain accounts so that I could keep up to date with all of their Tweets and track when they were being posted. I then decided to use number of Retweets and favorites as metrics for how much interest or response a certain Tweet generated. The following Tweets received the most Retweets and favorites on each account over the past two weeks.

The book How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck advises videographers to identify a target audience and work to understand that audience’s needs and preferences. The book states that “even if you think your video will be great for everyone, there has to be a subset of “everyone” who will especially like it” (34). Looking at the above Tweets, it appears that both appeal to particular audiences and present content catered to those audiences’ preferences. The Tweet from the Quiet Revolution’s account is targeted at introverts or people with introverted children. I find it interesting that of all the Tweets from the Quiet Revolution’s account that deal with introversion, it is one that talks of past childhood experiences, rather than current struggles, that was the most well-received. I believe this may be because nostalgia or recollection of a common past experience is often the impetus for a strong emotional reaction – even one as simple as the excitement two friends express while discussing a favorite episode of a show they watched growing up.

It is these common experiences among an audience that can be identified and used to enhance a multimedia creator’s message. Community Tool Box’s webpage on preparing public service announcements similarly emphasizes the importance of knowing your target audience. The site also advises that PSAs should use simple and vivid language and have “hooks” to immediately attract the audience. Susan Cain’s Tweet on highly intuitive people adheres to these rules, as it uses simple language and hooks in users by leaving them wondering what the 7 habits might be. The Quiet Revolution’s hook is perhaps even more powerful. In asking the viewer “Sound familiar?”, the Tweet not only causes users who relate to the question to think back on their childhood, but assures the audience that this is a common experienced shared by many. In evoking the common experiences of introverts, the Tweet thereby furthers one of the Quiet Revolution’s larger goals of making introverts feel more self-assured.

Despite all this, I think it is very important to note that accumulating a large number of Retweets and favorites is almost certainly not the main purpose of either of these Tweets. In fact, although both Tweets in my eyes successfully identify and target a specific audience, I believe the Tweets may each have higher Twitter “numbers” because they appeal to slightly wider audiences. For instance, the Tweet on intuitive people is interestingly not directly related to introversion. I wonder then if this Tweet was more popular because it caught the attention of both a segment of introverts who found it interesting and a segment of people who may not necessarily consider themselves introverts but identify as highly intuitive. And as mentioned, the Tweet on an introverted child’s experience could be applicable to individuals either because it is an experience they themselves have had, or it is something their child has felt. I personally did not favorite or Retweet either of these Tweets when I saw the notification for them, which makes me think there is likely, as How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck suggests, a trade-off between the broadness of an audience and the extent to which you reach or move that audience.

Becoming a Quiet Activist

Two weeks ago, I was introduced to the idea of quiet activism and began to question my view of digital activism as somehow lazier or less effective than ‘louder’ forms of activism such as marches and protests. These notions were challenged by this piece which argues that introverts may not necessarily feel comfortable going out in public and being around large crowds to show support for causes they care about. Rather, the author of the piece defines an activists as “individuals who are actively working to make problems and injustices known and pushed to the forefront of people’s minds.” Over the past two weeks, I have begun to engage in quiet activism by favoriting and Retweeting content from Susan Cain (@susancain) and the Quiet Revolution’s (@livequiet) Twitter pages.

Looking over what I have Retweeted the past two weeks, I noticed that I was most inclined to Retweet content that I most closely related to. For instance, I Retweeted the below Tweet because it recounts an experience that not only has to do with my being an introvert, but my being an introvert with an Asian heritage as well.

I found the Tweet incredibly compelling because it brought attention to a frustration I have long felt but almost never seen discussed. I personally view my introversion as a personality trait that I have in common with my father, who is introverted and Caucasian. My mother, by contrast, is Chinese and incredibly extroverted. It bothers me that the combination of my Asian descent and my introversion could potentially perpetuate a stereotype even though in reality I know these two facts about me are completely unrelated.

I also Retweeted the below tweet about the power writing as a means of communication for introverts. I did so because I similarly view writing as a powerful medium through which I can express my inner thoughts and feelings.

Lastly, I Retweeted a Tweet about the potential pitfalls of being a night owl because I am one myself.

After noticing that I felt most compelled to Retweet content I found relevant to my own life, I find the messages we have been hearing the past two weeks about the importance of knowing and connecting with your audience in a podcast all the more meaningful. For example, Episode 25 of the podcast This Rhetorical Life features individuals who discuss what they have learned through podcasting and share the elements of making podcasts that they particularly enjoy. Karrieann discusses her experience of learning how and to what extent she should adjust her accent while podcasting. In sharing this story, the part of the audience Karrieann will most relate to is likely those who have had similar experiences in their lives. She explains that she tries “to connect the topics we discuss with whatever exigence I can identify that would help give voice to marginalized groups.”

Other podcaster-specific examples of audience could be discussed here, but what I particularly appreciate about This Rhetorical Life is its recognition of the fact that not all people prefer to process information aurally. Transcripts are posted alongside each episode, which I personally found incredibly useful in following along with the podcast. By recognizing that people are different and making an effort to accommodate multiple preferences, This Rhetorical Life embodies the notion of authenticity that I feel underlies much of the content posted online by the Quiet Revolution.

For instance, the above Tweet about being a night owl does not necessarily have any direct relation to introversion. However, I believe it was posted because it presents a dilemma similar to the one many introverts face. Just as many introverts are learning and working in classroom and business environments not suited to their personal preferences, night owls may be on daily schedules that are not suited to their personal ‘chronotype.’

 

Introverts on Twitter

For the past two weeks, I have been following The Quiet Revolution (@livequiet) on Twitter, as well as Susan Cain (@susancain), the founder of the movement. The main objectives of the Quiet Revolution are to question society’s current preference toward extroverted personality types in both workplace and classroom environments, and to raise awareness of the many benefits of being an introvert. In other words, The Quiet Revolution hopes that we will begin to not only acknowledge, but embrace the power of introverts, as opposed to making introverts question themselves whenever they are in environments designed for extroverted thinking.

In some sense, the Quiet Revolution emerged out of the frustration introverts faced from having their fundamental narratives questioned. This dilemma is thoroughly described in Jim Corder’s piece “Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love,” which explains that each person has their own story and beliefs, and that conflicts arises when we encounter individuals whose stories cannot be reconciled with or infringe upon our own. This is an experience that introverts likely encounter every day, when they are asked to discuss their ideas in class before having an idea to think deeply about a task individually, or when charisma seems to be a larger factor in promotion for leadership positions than quality of written work. The Quiet Revolution can therefore be interpreted as a defense of the narrative of an introvert, as many of the Tweets I came across advocated that we begin to foster the natural talents of introverts, rather than viewing these talents as weaknesses.

The extrovert ideal has likely been sustained by our tendency to “sometimes judge dogmatically, even ignorantly, holding only to standards that we have already accepted or established” (Corder 16). Not only is the dilemma introverts face in line with what Corder describes, but the approach the Quiet Revolution takes in raising awareness and evoking change is similar as well. But rather than forcefully attack those who currently ascribe to an extrovert ideal, the Quiet Revolution takes a more thoughtful approach. This approach not only embodies the essence of introversion, but also captures the value of proceeding with love. Corder writes that “argument is emergence toward the other” and that it “is a risky revelation of the self, for the arguer is asking for an acknowledgment of his or her identity, is asking for witness from the other” (26). In embarking on the Quiet Revolution, introverts are asking to be seen and accept for who they are, rather than being asked to abide by the standards and structures currently in place that are often catered for extroverts.

However, rather than ostracize extroverts, the Tweets I looked at often emphasize authenticity and inclusivity. In other words, the Quiet Revolution seems to not only fight for an introvert’s right to be themselves, but for the rights of all individuals to unabashedly be themselves. This was clear in the fact that the Quiet Revolution also posts Tweets relating to other causes such as racial injustice, and in the fact that Susan Cain not only posts about introversion, but about other aspects of our personalities that we should strive to connect with more. 

Perhaps the most thought-provoking Tweet I came across was the one above, which introduces the idea of quiet activism. The piece the Tweet links to seems to complicate the debate raised by Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on the power of Twitter to produce change. A simplified version of the debate involves Gladwell viewing in-person protests and marches as more ‘revolutionary’ or fundamental to change than the spreading of information and raising of awareness over Twitter. However, the Tweet above notes that introverts may not necessarily feel comfortable engaging in the type of protest Gladwell favors. I found the idea that even activism may be subject to an extrovert ideal incredibly interesting. Though part of me has always viewed sharing news on Twitter as ‘not enough,’ I suppose that it is more important to encourage introverts to participate in activism in this way, rather than convincing them the method of participation they feel most comfortable with is insufficient.