Noticing When People Go Under Too Long

TW: Drowning, Depression  

I read a story about a diver that almost drowned over the weekend. After she completed the dive, she didn’t rise to the surface of the water immediately. In a split second decision, her coach jumped in fully clothed. Had the coach waited a few more minutes, this would have been the end of that diver’s life. 

While the trainer deserves a medal, what was fascinating to me wasn’t the heroics. It was the fact that she noticed someone else was drowning. Unlike some other life-threatening emergencies, there just isn’t a lot of time when someone is under water. It takes about 60 seconds before it becomes a lethal situation. 

Sixty seconds. 

Everyone I see is so distracted, whether it’s in an airport or at a park. A lot could happen in 60 seconds without most folks noticing. I’m guilty of disconnecting in that way. I lose hours to scrolling. I catch myself intentionally putting the phone down then grabbing it 30 seconds later. I don’t even know why I do it. It doesn’t even make me feel good. 

Paying attention to people matters so much more than knowing the latest trending hashtag. The catch? We never really know when other people are drowning. That doesn’t go into some filtered post on the newsfeed. There’s no hashtag. I struggle a bit with the crying Instagram reels, but if that’s your method of expression – you do you, boo. (That’s a joke.)

We give a lot of credit to heroic moments when someone saves another’s life, but not enough to those people who notice the subtle signs you aren’t showing up fully. The people who pull you out of the water when you simply can’t swim any more. I imagine it has saved more lives than we’ll ever know. 

I can’t show up in that way when I’m scrolling instead of taking time to talk to the people I love. I need to be present. It takes work to create a network of support between two people that balances the bad in the world. It takes noticing each other and when we go under. I can take 60 seconds to text.

The older I get, the more I value the people that look for me. I’ll do the work for them. The name “friend” gets thrown around a lot in this world, but I reserve that label for the ones that will do the work, too. I’m not so focused on being friends with everyone or building some big network any more. I want to make time to notice my people and be there when they go under. 


Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster,, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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