On being … curated

By Ingrid Sapona

“Curated Content” was a popular (read: overused) phrase six or seven years ago. Folks used it to describe articles, publications, websites, and on-line postings where someone acted as a “curator” to filter things for readers. I didn’t much care for the phrase because it was often used in a self-aggrandizing fashion. Indeed, I developed a healthy suspicion of folks who were offering me curated content.

The phrase seems to have gone out of fashion, and yet it popped into my head last week as I was reflecting on the variety of things friends and others have sent me during the pandemic. My friends have always been judicious in terms of what they sent out. In other words, they’ve never swamped my inbox with nonsense or rantings and ravings about anything. That’s not to say they don’t forward things they think I’d be interested in – they do.

But the past two months I’ve noticed some changes regarding what’s landed in my email inbox. One change relates to the folks who have been in touch. Many friends and colleagues have made a special effort to reach out to check in and just touch base. I’ve done the same with many people. For the most part, these emails are brief reassurances that they – and their families – are weathering the storm.

Then there are emails I’ve received that have provided unique insight into friends’ personalities and interests I never knew they had. For example, after a discussion with a friend about the naming of COVID-19, she sent me a couple scholarly articles she had read on the Spanish Flu. Shanon’s quite cerebral, so I wasn’t that surprised she’d read in-depth articles. But, I was quite surprised when she later sent a link to a neat video of the last performance of an award-winning equestrian rider and horse (Valegro) explaining she used to ride. Another friend sent a link to a performance she had tuned in to by the American Ballet Theatre. I had no idea Eva – a pathologist – was into ballet. (I had to laugh when she also mentioned that her physician husband apparently didn’t find it as enthralling as she did.)

Poetry has never been something I thought much about until Ann, a lawyer friend, forwarded a newsletter put out by the American Association of Poetry. They’ve been publishing “Shelter In” poems to inspire folks during the pandemic. I enjoyed so many of the poems, I decided to subscribe to their newsletter. Now, every time I get it, I think of Ann and wonder whether we’ve both found the same poem – or poems – moving. Interestingly, Ann wasn’t the only one who has sent me poems lately – a surprising number of folks shared poems that they came across in April (National Poetry Month).

I’ve also gained insights into friends’ hidden talents and skills. I had no idea how many people know how to sew, for example. I’ve been amazed at the number of friends who’ve mentioned they’ve made face masks. Another friend links to YouTube videos of “house sessions” he and his adult kids have had because they’re all home right now. Honestly, I knew they were talented, but I didn’t realize how seriously they took their music – with all the equipment on hand, you’d think they have a staff of roadies standing by! Keith even mentioned they take requests, in case there was anything I might like to hear… How sweet is that?

I’m sure part of the reason friends are sending things that they might not otherwise send is because they have more time and they probably figure others do to. Be that as it may, I’ve loved these glimpses into their interests, knowledge, talents, and senses of humour, not to mention being introduced to some new sources of information and inspiration. They are awesome curators!

To everyone who has reached out during this pandemic and shared a little something about themselves and their interests with their friends, I say bravo. In these days of distant socializing I can think of no greater gift than curating some content for your friends.

© 2020 Ingrid Sapona


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