Why Be On Camera? (Chapter 4)

What I come to this for is a little calm. I want to feel connected. I want to not be so isolated and I want also some affirmation of the craziness that I feel…

– Jay Dedman, Videoblogger

Do you remember the first time you saw your image in a mirror as a young child? Perhaps you tried to grab your reflection, laughed, or became frightened. Ultimately, you learned to relax in front of the mirror and simply be. Society imposes assumptions about video (and media in general) that block us from having a balanced relationship with these creative tools. For our purposes, being on-camera is about authentic self-expression and engagement with life.

Following are several key reasons to reclaim video as a tool to use rather than be used by.

– Communicate –

Video is a first-rate lab where you can experiment and strengthen your communication muscles. Every individual has a distinctive perspective and creative voice. Keeping a video journal fine-tunes the part of yourself that feels drawn to help shape the world around you. There are two main reasons this is crucial, one more obvious than the other.

As mentioned prior, there is a massive communication shift occurring and as you’ll learn in Chapter 6, video is about to be at the dead center of it. Video bloggers often challenge stereotypes if not outright ignore them. For example, Peter Oakley, the eighty-two-year-old video blogger mentioned earlier, was able to break through the often persistent stereotypes surrounding aging.(1) He easily formed authentic connections with people much younger than himself. There are further opportunities to test barriers such as racial and cultural divides. However, this will only happen if there is clarity and creativity of communication.

The less obvious aspect, yet one that’s just as important, is the idea of “self-communication.” Admittedly or not, most people spend a good part of their day talking to themselves. Of course, if you frequently talk to yourself out loud for extended periods in public, you might be granted an unplanned vacation so you can get some “rest” But to talk to yourself silently – through internal dialog – is considered very normal.

Recording a video journal rapidly connects you with the content of this internal dialog. Unfortunately, there is sometimes more jeering than cheering. Yet, alone in front of a video camera, there is generally no live audience. Your audience reflects a part of you. Deep shifts can occur when you become aware of this and change the dialog.

What if you could see yourself a bit more clearly? What if you had the chance to communicate with yourself in a different way? You do have that opportunity – by keeping a video journal. Then you can boldly and effectively communicate in the creative and collaborative conversation of life.

– Explore Yourself –

Ever since Carl Jung promoted the diary as a therapeutic tool, people have journaled as a way to explore their inner selves, uncover deep creative impulses, and heal the soul. Many people carry the heavy burden of unexpressed feelings, emotions, and unstated opinions. As touched on in the prior chapter, unexpressed feelings are one of the primary causes of depression and dampened creativity – unless an outlet is found to release them. When they are released and understood, they can become a source of creative renewal and wisdom.

The video journal presents an ideal opportunity for this release and exploration. You can shout at your camera if you need to and it’s unlikely to shout back. If you need to cry, it will be there to record your painful feelings, with the hope of releasing them. When you relay your victories and wild inspirations, it will dutifully record them for posterity. There is no reason to monitor yourself or fear embarrassment – the possibilities are wide open and “delete” is always an option.

– Play With Identity –

People have experimented with identity on the Internet since its inception. From screen names to multiple online personas, from virtual sex changes to age changes, it’s a place where people reinvent themselves.

In the everyday world, you act a certain way, dress a certain way, have a certain job, speak with a certain accent to name just a few of the thousands of elements that differentiate you. Some of these elements are out of your control, like the color of your skin or how tall or short you are, but even with these, you choose how to present them to the world.

Identity on-camera is more flexible than in real life but also subtler and more honest than the old text-based method of screen names and multiple identities. If you have watched video blogs online and think that everyone is the same in everyday life as their postings, think again. People use video to experiment with different aspects of themselves. They wonder what it would be like if they were “X” or “Y.” So they create a character with those attributes and try it out.

Experimenting with identity on video becomes a playground that corresponds a bit more closely to everyday life. You can try on a new way of being while you’re videoing, enjoy that experience, and slowly incorporate that into daily life. There will be opportunity to explore this further later on.

– Find Community –

The use of video on the Net revolutionizes the notion of online community. It used to be that online community was kept at arms length from the everyday. This was partly because there was an implicit mistrust. There was no way of knowing who was really on the other side of the screen.

But the addition of sight and sound has raised interaction to a new level. Communication is tangible, identity is still malleable, but it is grounded in the real. Communities such as YouTube which emphasize openness and participation may help address issues of social isolation and foster a broader sense of involvement with society.(2) People discover those of like minds and develop a strong sense of connection to one another.

Live video sites such as ustream.com and justin.tv even deliver real-time video feeds directly to viewers’ computers or their mobile phones. The concept of online community has grown closer to a true global community of individuals where thousands if not millions of “face-to-face” meetings occur every day. There is virtually no limit to who you might connect with, or where you might travel.

– Stay Connected –

Most people already use text online to stay in touch with friends and family. Using video is even better. Video chat is available free through many different services. Video sharing sites offer options to make videos private and accessible only to those who you allow to see them.

Like a blog, but more immediate and personal, video gives you the opportunity to remain connected to those you care about. They hear and see your life with a sense of active participation.

You may find that using video in this way not only brings you closer to your friends or family but that it also wakes up your creative impulses. Because you choose what parts of your life you want to record, you by necessity set priorities as to what is or isn’t important. By sharing an inside view with others, your own life may expand in the process.

– Make History –

Have you ever read a journal entry, email or letter that you wrote a long time ago and wondered to yourself, “Who was that person?” With the passage of time, it can be difficult to relate who you are now to who you were then.

One of the reasons to keep any kind of journal is to keep track of changing perspectives. However, with video there are the hundreds if not thousands of subtle facial cues as well as the tone of your voice, rate of speech, and so on.

Reviewing a video entry weeks, months, or even years later is a powerful experience. You have the chance to meet this “you” from the past face-to-face. This offers an unparalleled window into moments of time. Not only do you experience this for yourself, you have the opportunity to make history for others.

You have probably experienced the thrill of coming across an old letter, journal, or even a holiday greeting card written by a friend or family member who is no longer around. In that moment, it’s almost as if they were in the room with you speaking. Perhaps you gained new insight into where you came from as you revisited your roots.

Now you have the opportunity to leave behind a video record for the important people in your life and even the world. Before you protest that you aren’t “famous” or “notable,” think about this: Some of the most interesting records discovered have been journals or other material regarding the daily lives of so-called everyday people. Consider, for example, Anne Frank who will be covered in the next chapter.

Everyone plays their part in history. If you don’t record your own, the only guarantee is that one day it will be lost forever.

– Stay Private or Go Public –

Staying private or going public is not an either/or decision. In Taoist philosophy there are two opposing but interconnected forces, the yin and the yang. You’ve probably seen the symbol to the left which shows their opposite yet interrelated nature. Yin is the nurturing, energy-conserving cycle of existence, whereas yang is the outward manifesting, energy-dispersing cycle. When considering the difference between public and private, this can be a helpful concept to keep in mind.

Neither one is better nor worse, they are both necessary. Energy is built up and restored during the yin stage so it can be released and expressed in the yang stage. Imbalance and disorder occur when one is favored at the expense of the other. Society’s current relationship to media appears to be mostly yang with very little yin.

Yin Yang

Journaling on video a healthy aspect of the Yin Cycle

Stay Private -Video Journal:

With the written journal, there is an expectation of privacy. Though there have been many journals published, generally, when someone keeps a journal or diary, people assume that it’s private. For example, if you mentioned to a friend that you were writing in a diary and they responded, “Great, when can I read it!” this would probably be considered a strange request, even from a close friend.

With video, it is the opposite. Mention to someone that you keep a video journal and they’ll probably feel that it is perfectly acceptable to say: “Cool! Send me the link!” Nevertheless, it is just as acceptable to keep a private video journal as it is to keep a private written journal. Just as an unpublished diary or journal isn’t diminished in value for its author, neither is a video journal less valuable to its creator than a video blog.

Video journaling can be seen as a manifestation of the yin cycle mentioned earlier. The yin cycle is one of creative regeneration and restoration. Your video journals are your sanctuary. By keeping them private, you can relax and experiment with complete freedom. Then, when you feel ready, you can put some of your work out into the world by video blogging. If you never feel ready to go entirely public, that’s fine too. As you’ll find in the workshop, there are many different ways video can be used for outward self-expression.

Go Public – Video Blog:

Video blogging can be seen as a healthy manifestation of the Yang cycle. Going public gives you the opportunity to join the growing number of people who actively produce media rather than passively consume it. The more people who reclaim their power to create, the better off our world will be. By communicating and expressing your truth, you inspire others to do the same.

Of course, people video blog for diverse reasons: to entertain, to self-express, to make money, to connect with others, to promote a cause, to teach, to create video art or just to have fun. In the workshop section, we’ll explore these reasons further and you’ll have the opportunity to decide which ones fit for you.

– Be a Pioneer –

Were you an early adopter of the Internet or did you play catch-up later? Early adopters began learning and using Internet technologies before they became mainstream. These individuals were pioneers who pushed boundaries – both their own and others’ – in experimenting with the new opportunities that arose.

Many early adopters were rewarded financially because they were inspired to launch innovative businesses that had never existed before. Whether profit was a motive or not, all had the opportunity to be part of the vanguard in a massive ongoing transformation of society.

Though the use of personal video has increased over the past years, anyone who begins now is still an early adopter. We have a long way to go and plenty of room for evolution. For example, video is for now mainly watched in a linear way—from beginning to end. Ultimately video will become hyperlinked and interconnected.(3) Small segments of videos will be able to be linked to other small segments.(4) The ability to do this with text led to what we now call the Internet.

This is an exhilarating time not only to join this journey but also to help guide the destination to its highest potential. Our precise itinerary is unknown, but, as you’ll learn next if what led us here is any indicator, it will likely be a fascinating voyage.

Buy Naked Lens now at Amazon.com for $14.58 in paperback or on Kindle.

There is also an e-version available (identical aside from its digital format) for just $9.99.

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