Sunday, August 6, 2017

I don't wanna read your sad story on flash cards...

Some time ago, I recall seeing a viral video put out by a woman with metastatic breast cancer.  The woman, name of Holley Kitchen, has since passed on, but I easily remember the video, which featured her holding up placards with her story printed on them.  Accompanied by syrupy music and her own sad and outraged facial expressions, the video obviously resonated with a lot of people.

This video was memorable.

Now... Holley Kitchen was probably not the first person to share her story this way.  In fact, I think I've seen other people share other tragic stories by holding up flash cards for their viewers.  The subject matter is usually serious and personal, so people who have been victimized in some way seem to think the flash cards are an effective way to spread a message.  Holley Kitchen, by the way, apparently had the same kind of breast cancer from which my friend Pam recently perished.  

Since Holley Kitchen's video was made, I have noticed that a lot of other people have jumped on the bandwagon.  In a way, maybe it makes sense that people do this.  Holding up cards forces people to pay attention because they have to read...  or at least they have to read if they want something more than a pop song out of the video.  It also potentially makes delivering the message more expedient.  The words are written, so there's no stuttering, ums or ahs, spontaneous crying, or any other type of interruption that can come up with a person speaks.

However... personally, I find these kinds of videos extremely annoying and cliched.  I think it takes a certain type of person to be able to pull them off.  A person needs to be able to act and a lot of the people who do the flash card thing can't act their way out of a paper bag.  Moreover, while I appreciate that the cards force a person to read, they also force a person to listen to whatever music the uploader is using.  Too much of the time, the music is irritating pop music.

I see I'm not the only one who feels this way about flash card videos... 

This subject comes up today because I saw the video below on my Facebook feed.  In my defense, I saw it before I'd had any coffee, so I was feeling rather short of patience.  Of course I understand the importance of learning about PTSD and suicide, but...

I think I would have been more impressed had this lady, name of Stephanie, spoken... 

A voice is a powerful instrument.  Have the courage to speak.  Don't force us to watch you flip through flash cards, especially as you lick your finger with each flash card change.  In the above video, the uploader cries openly because her husband committed suicide after having been stricken with PTSD.  Having been raised by a father who had PTSD, I can relate and empathize with how serious PTSD is.  I also relate to the military's stupid policy of stripping people with depression and other mental illnesses of their livelihoods by forcing them to surrender their security clearances.  It truly is a big barrier to help that can lead to awful consequences.

However, wouldn't it be much more powerful if this woman had been able to voice her feelings about what happened?  Writing is powerful, but it has its place.  I, for one, would rather read something at my own pace without having to rely on a person holding up flash cards and watching their (often contrived) emotions and patronizing facial expressions on the video.  I'm not saying that Stephanie's feelings are contrived.  I can see that she's genuinely emotional.  But watch a few of these videos and you'll see that a lot of the people doing them are making faces... trying and failing to act.

PSAs are, by nature, designed to pull at one's conscience.  The flash card videos are less effective, in my opinion, because they are, in some ways, easier to tune out.  I can run the video, listen to the music, and not get the message.  Or I can watch the video, get bored, offended, or annoyed by the flash card technique and miss the message.  

If I hear you speaking, especially if you're a good and engaging speaker, I am much more likely to get your message.  Moreover, I am a big proponent of public speaking.  I think more people should do it and actually be heard rather than relying on video gimmicks.  A voice is a simple but very powerful instrument.  Unless there is some legitimate reason why one can't speak out loud, I think using one's actual voice is almost always a better choice than holding up pieces of white paper with words written in magic marker.

I'm sorry if this post offends, by the way.  I have been posting on my blog long enough to know that sometimes people Google themselves and find my opinions, some of which go against the popular grain.  A lot of times people get pissed and want to set me straight.  Before anyone is tempted to do that, allow me to reiterate that this is just a blog and, as such, it's full of my personal opinions about things.  Many people disagree with me and that's fine.  But leaving me a pissy rant about how wrong I am is likely only going to result in my being inspired to write more.  I'm always looking for inspiration.  So just be aware and forewarned...


  1. It seems to me like something Kellyanne Conway would do. Didn't she use flashcards to make a point on some news or talk show?

    I find it to be an annoying affectation, if that makes sense.

    1. It does. It's one of those trends that has been played out. People need to come up with a new gimmick. If you haven't seen it, I recommend watching the second video. It's pretty funny and articulates my points better than this post does. :D

    2. The second one was a charmer, and I agree that the added touch of licking her fingers between almost every page added to the overall ambience.

      If a story is worth sharing on a video, it's worth telling orally. If the lady literally had no voice, it would be different, but we have no indication that such was the case. (If she had been suffering from temporary laryngitis, the better course of action would have been to wait until her voice had recovered before creating the video, though I seriously doubt that laryngitis was the issue.)In my opinion, her video is almost the same as having a music video with no audible music and the music notation displayed. One COULD create such a video, but just because something CAN be done a particular way isn't necessarily a reason it SHOULD be done that way.

    3. Well, it was her story and her video. I suppose a case could be made that she has the right to tell her story in whatever way she wants to. I just don't like flash card videos.

      As for the page licking, that was in the third video, not the second. The second is the funny guy who appears to be a Brit of some sort... and is appropriately witty!

  2. Oh. I saw the third one, then. I'll have to watch the second one. In the third, her story was compelling, but the signs made it much less so in my opinion. You're right that she can choose to tell her story in any way that she sees fit, but I really don't think she did herself any favors.

  3. I liked Charlie. His facial expressions were fitting.


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