Sonder Stories- Tales of the Everyday Human

If you have been around the Internet for a spell, you may have noticed a word in use that is previously unknown to you: sonder. This word, which is actually not a word according to Webster’s Dictionary, is an Internet-fueled phenomenon that gained traction because of its appeal and relativity to some Internet dweller’s lives.  Sonder is a noun, the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

When I discovered this “word” on a random corner of the Internet, it resonated deeply with me. The feeling that I had was evidently felt by others, this sonder-filled moment of looking around and seeing that the world is not about you, not even a little bit. This feeling of placing yourself squarely in the shoes of another, to empathize with their story that you are not a part of, brings humility and awareness to all of us if we would just listen.

Which brings me to my next project as a writer: Sonder Stories

Experiencing sonder is a humbling moment in which we are yanked out of our realities and placed into a space where someone else is the focus. Readers experience this most often, and usually with fictional characters. I am a proponent of people reading non-fiction for this exact reason: real people have such complex lives that we never get to experience. People have different viewpoints and realities and moments that are lived with pain or pleasure, honesty or dishonesty, happiness or grief…and they are so important to hear. And I want to tell them.

Stories are how we learn about how others tackle issues and overcome obstacles. But some stories have horrible endings because someone did something wrong. These type of stories are normally woven together as fables and do not show real situations with real effects on real people. Some stories have amazing endings because someone did something right. And these type of stories are normally dramatized and made into heroics.

What about the real stories?

This type of project is not new. Humans of New York does it with pictures, Chicken Soup for the _______ Soul does it with collections of relatable submissions by everyday people, and Studs Terkel did it with oral collections of Americans’ lives in his time. What I want Sonder Stories to do is tell stories of another’s life, with honesty and hopefully an enlightment of some kind. I want Sonder Stories to evoke empathy or learning, understanding or acceptance, to bring the human experience closer.

Here are my guidelines:

  • The interviewee will be prompted to verbally tell me a story. They can begin wherever they wish. Through normal conversation, I will ask the interviewee questions and give them a chance to round out the story. I will ask uncomfortable questions.
  • Then I will write the story. I will hold true to the substance of the verbal tale, but I will write it in my style from a third person point of view. The interviewee has a chance to read the story before I publish it, and they are welcome to give me feedback, but unless I get a fact blatantly wrong, I am not obligated to change the story.
  • These stories will all be true as I am told. I trust that the interviewee understands the essence of the project and acknowledges that if they wished to tell a fictional story, they can write it themselves. The onus of truth is on the interviewee.
  • The interviewee may remain anonymous if they wish. Some stories require anonymity. I will tell no one of the anonymous identities.
  • The stories can be big or they can be small. Sometimes the smallest story can evoke the greatest relatability.

If you wish to have your story told, contact me. I prefer to conduct the interview in person but I am not opposed to Skype. Body language is important in getting a story right. I already have a few people lined up as interviewees and I am excited to begin this chapter of my writing!

 

 

How to Use the Internet to Your Advantage Part I

The Internet is a strange place. Billions of devices create a conglomeration of connected information that spans languages, time zones, and different types of technology. There is no end to the information that can be gathered and manipulated, especially with the advent of Big Data (think of what is collected by your phone listening for you to say “Hey Siri”; everything prior to you saying “Hey Siri” doesn’t just disappear through some sort of “He isn’t saying ‘hey, Siri’ so ignore” filter. The words you say are heard and collected and used by analytics to determine patterns of behavior and other marketable information. Think of how many people are talking around a listening device. Think of allll of that information. Like, whoa.)

Anyway, back to the Internet. This post isn’t to teach you how the electrical signals traversing a cable are transposed into the words you are reading on your screen right now. That would take a few years of computer science classes to completely grasp (I might be biased, but PLEASE take a computer science class. The more you learn, the less you know. And it is so cool.) This post is to teach you about a few ways the Internet can make your life easier. I’m not talking about googling the best way to make chicken tikka masala. I am talking about how to gather and manipulate your own information through a few tools. None of these tools are illegal, but they do allow some ethically questionable behavior if used correctly incorrectly.

  • Incognito Mode

This is the entire reason I am writing this post. I didn’t know until last week that there were people who don’t know about this portion of Google’s Chrome Browser. Are you concerned about constantly having to delete your browser history? What if you die and you had last googled “man shoves lemon up butthole”? How would your family feel if they brought up your browser history and saw that after your death? Their image of you could be forever tainted by citrusy coitus! Well, Google’s Chrome Browser stepped up to the plate with “incognito mode.” This browsing mode removes all traces of search history on your computer, and prevents websites from storing your cookies (a cached reference between your computer and the Internet, to put it simply). This means that everything you do is “private”.

Now, don’t get it twisted. This keeps your browsing private on a very simple level, think against nosy housemates who don’t know anything about computers. This DOESN’T protect you from any of the following: keyloggers that record every keystroke, parental controls that screenshot activity, and network monitoring tools that report ports, protocols, sources, and destinations (nTAP, Wireshark, etc). So browse at your own risk.

How to Do It:

-Download Chrome and use it as a browser. All browsers have a private mode of some sort but use Chrome. Do this because Internet Explorer/Firefox/Opera blow.

-Open a new browsing session. Tap on the three dots on the top right hand corner of the page and select “New Incognito Tab”

You’ll notice that the screen goes dark and shifty-looking. This is perfect, you spy you.

  • The Wayback Machine

You know that saying “Once it is on the Internet, it is there forever’? This website is proof of that ideology. Since 2001, a company has been backing up the Internet, using web crawlers to take virtual snapshots of the Internet. Take a second and appreciate the forethought and the amount of storage this takes. It doesn’t matter if the web server is gone forever, a snapshot of its data has been stored. You can browse what websites looked like from 2001!

How to Do It:

-Navigate to https://archive.org/web/

-Type in the url (web address) of the website you want to view and when

-The blue highlighted days show when a screenshot was taken so you can see the differentials of the days

Keep in mind this isn’t all inclusive but it does give an interesting view of pages that might be missing. Conversely, you can also ask for this information to be removed by emailing info@archive.org if you own the webpage. Or you can ensure a proper crawl if you do want your site archived.

  • Google Voice

Imagine having multiple phone numbers on one device. Google Voice allows this feature by creating a phone number that is separate from the number associated to the SIM card on your phone. You can use Google Voice to prevent people from having your real number, which comes in handy when someone tries to harass you and sign you up for car shipping services to spam call your phone. It’s easy to get rid of a Google Voice number, plus it doesn’t show up on your phone bill when you text with it like regular texts do. Use that as you will since evidently some of you have that problem.

How to Do it:

-Download the Google Voice app in your phone’s App Store

-Follow the prompts to get a new number.

  • Informed Delivery with USPS

This is a service provided by the US Postal Service that will scan all mail that is sent to your address and it will send you an EMAIL with an image of all of the scanned mail for everyone at your address. This is super cool and super helpful if you travel or are used to roommates “misplacing” mail.

How to Do it:

-Venture here and create an account.

-Enjoy!

These are just a few of the tips I have to help some of you. Stay tuned for Part II!