Mondays with Mike: Virtual, schmirtual

August 10, 2015 • Posted in Mike Knezovich, Mondays with Mike, Uncategorized by

Lately I have been trying to remind myself that whenever I have something touchy, sensitive, or otherwise difficult to say to — or about — somebody, it’s probably a good idea to do it in person. Ideally, in the same place at the same time, not on the phone, or via Skype. It’s something I like to call Actual Reality (AR®).

This young man is about to experience Actual Reality.

This young man is about to experience Actual Reality.

A news story here in Illinois last week drove home that very basic principal. I’m a proud graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but that pride has taken another in a long list of recent hits. The U of I is beset by troubles right now – in the athletic department, and in its academic administration.  It’s facing a lawsuit about the hiring/firing of a faculty member. It’s all pretty complicated and deserving of its own treatment. I bring it up here only to explain the news story I mentioned earlier. Last week, emails between then-Chancellor Phyllis Wise and other administrators became public (despite their best efforts to prevent that).

The cache of correspondence is not flattering, and I don’t know where to begin on the content. But it provided a brilliant example of the virtues of AR®.

If you’re a bigwig, of course, worried about scandal, it has the virtue of really keeping it between you and another person.

But apart from the CYA aspect, with all the texting and email and online surveys and Facebook memes, and posts and Tweets, the only truly interactive communication we still have is in-person conversation.

You are forced to look at the person you’re about to communicate with, unlike when you’re sitting at a keyboard alone, building a righteous, ironclad argument about why you’re absolutely right and the other person is dead wrong. You’re less likely to be glib or snarky, and you have the opportunity to correct, steer, and recalibrate in real time.

Seeing that person will probably make you measure your words more carefully. To read facial expression and body language. And the other person will have the same opportunity with you.

And if you’re talking about controversial issues and making tough decisions, it’s more likely that at some point, one of you will look at the other and realize, “Hmm, maybe what we’re contemplating isn’t such a great idea.”

Moreover, it means that whatever you are discussing is important enough for you to have taken the time and trouble to be in the same room at the same time. And important things usually do merit such effort.

I’m not preaching on this one. I’ve done my share of stupid online responses, via e-mail or unwise and unfair Facebook comments.  This is more a NOTE TO SELF: If someone says something online that concerns you and that might possibly warrant any back-and-forth, don’t type a response, type a note to yourself to take the matter up the next time you’re together.

And if it’s not worth getting together to do that, it probably doesn’t warrant the time.


Chrissy On August 10, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Amen to getting in more Actual Reality!

Sheila A. Donovan On August 11, 2015 at 9:50 am

Especially those who use Facebook to break up with their girlfriend or boyfriend. Sad how insensitive to others people are these days.

Linda Miller On August 11, 2015 at 10:12 am

Agreed! Next time I see you, I will tell you in person.

Monna Ray On August 11, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Something to think about, Mike. Monna

Monna Ray On August 18, 2015 at 6:51 pm


I hope you will share this with Beth. I don’t seem to have her address. I promised to send a message with a suggestion for a memoir topic which was being written about by NYTs staff: “What performance would I like to experience again for the first time?”

That’s it. Thanks, Mike.


Deborah Darsie On September 13, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Mike, this is a close to AR® I am likely to get!

I am a moderately geeky person of a certain age, who has embraced and reviled tech – especially as it has enabled embarrassment and bullying at never before seen speeds. And often unexpectedly fierce intensity.

I truly enjoy the more personal touches of a card with a couple of sentences of appreciation, celebration or sympathy. And with the ‘kids’ nowadays it is something they don’t expect and has brought many smiles their faces.

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