I was involved in an interesting conversation while sitting at an FCS playoff game Saturday afternoon. A Twitter user invited me to a four-way chat with a couple sports writers on whether the Kansas City Chiefs should play their game Sunday in the wake of tragic events there. Even though I was flattered to be asked my opinion as a crisis manager, I realized right away that each of us involved had a unique take on the answer. Here's a piece of our chatter:
My job as a crisis manager would have been to take all the logistical data I had so far and form an opinion. At this point, the league had already told the Panthers to travel, somehow indicating that they had been in contact with the Chiefs. Because there are so many missing information pieces, it's really hard to form an opinion. Bottom line: the organization has to do what's right for the players, the team, the fans, and the opposing team. And because I don't have access to any of that information, my opinion really doesn't matter much.
I realized after I had time to digest the news that asking whether the Chiefs should play was not the real issue. As I sat in the presence of friends and family at the football game, I recognized I was neglecting the present for a virtual experience with people I didn't really know. Does our preoccupation with real-time conversations in a virtual living room encourage us to tune out the reality around us? Quarterback Brady Quinn put the issue in perspective for me in his post-game comments:
"We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that's fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us.
"Hopefully people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis."
Nobody is saying that if social media did not exist, tragedy would not exist. But what Quinn is saying, I believe, is that all these virtual conversations can be a distraction. Maybe Quinn's comments will help us to put down our phones, and engage in real conversations with the people we are present with everyday. Good thoughts to remember and act on.