Back in the office freshly minted from a blissfully disconnected holiday weekend, I began musing on the dot429 topic for the new week. “Struggle” for most in the digital realm is finding that line between transparency and privacy. This is, of course, an entirely subjective exercise since the degree to which one person is comfortable sharing varies from that of another.
Most people will never expose deep, personal stories to a widespread audience on-line. I would like to posit, however, that if more people did – even if within relatively walled on-line gardens – the result will be powerful – and not just for the person sharing the story.
In 2008 I was working at a start-up company called Seesmic. At the time the company was building a technology enabling “threaded conversations” in video. If you don’t know what that means, imagine any chat or IM “conversation” except instead of text, you record a short video with your webcam, then someone watches your video and responds with their own.
It was on Seesmic where I met Craig Manganello – a 37-year-old musician suffering from chronic heart and lung problems. Due to his health, Craig spent a lot of time at home. He spent a lot of time in the hospital. Mostly he spent a lot of time in front of his computer. Through Seesmic he shared his experiences going to the doctor, going in for surgery, recovering and then back again.
Craig went back into the hospital – a trip chronicled in his usual way with a post from his hospital bed, complete with oxygen tubes & starchy sheets. Thre days later, I got an email from a friend of Craig’s. Craig had died complications from surgery. I never met Craig in person, but had just lost a friend. Moving quickly I recorded a video (which is embedded into this blog post), sharing the news and my grief with the community.
By the next day the conversation had more than 100 videos – including a mash-up tribute created by a community member using Craig’s music and his Seesmic videos.
A few days later, I got another message. This one from Cammie Manganello – Craig’s sister-in-law. The family had been watching the entire conversation on Seesmic. Though still too upset to speak, she said the videos were healing. They thought Craig was living a closed off life, alone. They realized in seeing the outpouring not only was he not alone, but he had touched hundreds of people around the world.
I am not proposing everyone race immediately to their Facebook profile and splatter all deep, personal demons for public display. I do propose this: Let go just a little and share a bit more with those around you. Had Craig kept his struggle to himself, his death would have meant nothing to me; but he did and as a result not only did he and others gain more from his life, but his passing had greater meaning for more people.