How should I communicate?

A reflection after reading “Contagious: Why Things Catch On”

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Some friends lately have been expressing their confusion about the government’s decision in handling the pandemic. Almost every week the government surprises us through their press conference. What has been puzzling my friends’ mind is the lockdown policy that is implemented (again) in Jakarta. This combination made me quiz myself about the ideal way of communication.

As a former Development Studies student who took a public policy analysis and evaluation class, I can personally claim that the recent lockdown policy does not surprise me. I assume that my familiarity with the process (including the political aspect that I gained from my first-hand experience) of policymaking forces me to stay in chill mode. Alternatively, living in Indonesia trains me to set the expectation bar at a very low level in a natural way.

In my early teenage years, I grow up as a grumpy girl who often found herself irrelevant to her peers. I rarely watch television because my parents did not allow it. Books, magazines, newspapers, and radio were my main source of information. Having a high-speed reading (and sprinkles of curiosity) led me the day when I started the consume news magazines, even though I was still ten-year-old.

The contents that I consumed significantly contributed to my way of executing my school assignments. During Year 5 to Year 6, I wrote a variety of topics for my short essays, from the Helsinki Agreement, the poisoning tragedy in Sumbawa, to the discourse of carbon trading. To some extent, those kinds of things sound cool. However, I felt a little bit alienated when my friends had a casual chit-chat about a famous actress, a new television show, or any kind of current affairs.

Long story short, I have the option to channel my fondness for knowledge by living a life as a researcher. Some people that I know put the “knowledge worker” label to this job. As cool as it could sound, the prestigious label could daunt me as well. I perceive that ideally being a knowledge worker should be seen as a way to take part in liberating knowledge, including through science communication.

In “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” Jonah Berger reveals the key to crafting worth-to-spread messages. He labels the formula as STEPPS, which consists of social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, and stories. Berger kindly suggests that these principles do not have to be implemented completely in sequence. Thus, it is totally fine to adopt what the readers find compatible with the addressed context.

Generally, I can relate with most of the ideas that Berger elaborates since they intertwine with my concern for science communication. Based on my non-scientific observation on Twitter, the current situation somehow warms my heart because science communication is getting more attention. Lately, people are starting to mention experts on Twitter to request a scientific explanation whenever something odd appears. Shortly, science communication is no longer unfamiliar, compared to the days when I started college in 2013.

If I have to choose among the six keys the fascinate me the most, I will definitely opt for social currency and practical value. Both entities are relatable with my personal juggle in translating complex notions and finding the matching context. I have experimented with different types of formula on my social media platform, which then revealed that contemporary affairs (be it movies, entertainment news, or memes) are the best ‘bridge’. Well, there is nothing harmful in getting to intensely know about contemporary affairs, as long as I know my threshold in handling the massive flood of information.

So, how should I communicate? While answering this question might give the readers only rhetorical suggestions, I owe myself a pause for deliberate practice. Perhaps, this is a sign of a temporary absence of my personal writings on Medium. At the end of the day, I would like to gently remind myself that the purpose of communication should be seen not only as a way to fulfill each other’s needs equally but also to train empathy.

P.S. I actually feel uncomfortable with the '"knowledge worker" label due to its elitist vibe. Suggestion for futher reading:
Berger, Jonah. 2013. Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Simon & Schuster: New York.

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reader, writer.

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Jennie Yuwono

Jennie Yuwono

reader, writer.

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