The word “spin” has a negative connotation.
That’s fancy-talk for saying that a word has a negative meaning.
Obviously, this bothers me.
Not to the extent that it keeps me awake at night, but it still is a slight discomfort for a guy who has plastered his online alias “Doktor Spinn” all over the internet, which coincidently is where I work.
Have I gotten it all wrong?
Even my favourite blogger, Gini Dietrich, has named her blog “Spin Sucks”.
And to be fair, in the way she would define spin, I’m quite sure I would agree with her. That sort of spin, well, sucks.
But I see no reason for giving a perfectly good and usable word only a negative side.
Because here’s the problem:
Many who describe the word spin describes it as if it would mean that you’re deliberately lying or misleading.
Since the term spin doctor originates from the world of politics, I can see how this came about.
But I think that spin, in its neutral meaning of course, is quite essential. Let me give you an example:
If I say that my glass is half empty, I imply that I wouldn’t mind a refill.
If I say that my glass is half full, I imply the opposite.
Neither of the statements are false; half empty or half full—they both describe the same accurate state of reality. But they suggest different outcomes.
Now, this just happens to be true for all communication:
We all spin messages as soon as we open our mouths and start talking.
As human beings, we simply can’t help ourselves. We spin, because spinning’s at the very core of all human interaction.
We frame our statements to make them serve our purposes. And we can absolutely do this without lying, misleading or confusing.
And it isn’t all about what you say either. It’s also about when you say it. Where you say it. To whom you say it. Why you say it.
It’s what’s described as media logic in PR literature. In this Einsteinian world of ours where everything is relative to the position of the beholder, definitive truths becomes theoretical constructs piling dust on the same shelf as the idea of absolute objectivity.
Marshall McLuhan even went so far in the 1960s to declare that what carries the message matters more than the actual message itself.
Or as he so eloquently put it, the medium is the message.
So, our choice of medium in itself puts a spin to our message, whether we like it or not.
Now, allow me to bang my biggest drum here:
I’d go so far as to say that we’re actually supposed to have our say, especially if it contradicts the perspectives of others. Because if I don’t get to phrase my reality in the way I see it, who else will?
This line of argument is not without merit from a linguistic perspective, either:
Spinning is a circular motion, not a binary type of flip where you switch from truth to lie or vice versa. Something can spin out of control, directly implying a circular motion breaking its gravitational bond with the centre and thus spinning outwards in wider and wider circles, like a spiral.
I think we can all relate to what’s popularly called “the viral effect” in social media, right?
So, regarding this post’s initial question, “Is Spin a Bad Thing?”, here’s how I would frame my answer:
NO SPIN… NO WIN.
Update: A couple of interesting LinkedIn reactions from International PR & Communications Group.
Update: Sebastian Hesse works at bigbangandwhisper.com!