Just try to ignore Social Media

June 8, 2009 at 11:45 pm Leave a comment

While I’m a bit manic about social media at the moment, I’m also aware that many people don’t share my enthusiasm – particularly in my business circles.  When I hear the nay saying (and see the eye-rolling), I tend to keep my opinions to myself.  That’s because I truly do understand the opposition.  When it comes to social media, there are lots of reasons to be skeptical.  There are lots of reasons to be resistant. 

On the flipside, in the interest of survival as a member of modern society, I caution against completely ignoring the power of social media.  It is my opinion that within a very short time, ignoring it could turn into ignorance and isolation.

The biggest complaint I hear from those who want to stay away from the madness of social media trends is that there’s just too much information out there.  It’s like trying to drink from a fire hose.  And who has the time to sort through all of it?  So much of it is useless, not validated, and often downright wrong.  These are points I can’t easily argue.   

When it comes to digital resources, the options are endless, and some are better than others.  But how do you know?  Conversely, can you really afford not to know?  With the pace at which the social media trend is growing, one must consider the potential risk of turning a blind eye.

A look back can help us see forward

I look at the past to help me imagine the future.  Comparing the history of the computer with the growing trend of social media seems appropriate. 

In the early ‘70s, Disney World’s Tomorrowland had an exhibit called RCA’s Home of Future Living.  It included a mannequin that looked like a teenaged boy dressed in a space-age-looking outfit – a white button-less shirt, white pants tucked into white ankle boots, and a silver belt around his waist.  He stood in front of a computer.  I wish I could remember exactly how big the computer was, because I think it was probably the size of a microwave oven, which is kind of funny in retrospect.  I may have some of these details wrong, but you get the picture. In the ‘70s owning a computer seemed very futuristic.

Then, in 1975, Bill Gates announced his vision of putting a computer on every desk and in every home.  In 1990, 15% of American homes had a computer; by 1997 that statistic jumped to 35% – and that didn’t include businesses.  Within about 20 years the future was upon us in a way that even the most imaginative minds couldn’t conceive.  (Disney’s depiction put computers way out there with flying cars.)

Today, most of us don’t know more than a few people who don’t own a computer.  Anyone in business or in school hoping to keep up with their peers and achieve any level of success must at least have a laptop and an e-mail address.  Many go online for their banking, shopping, entertainment and keeping up with the news.  If the constant reference to websites, blogs and Twitter messages by prominent sources like the evening news, radio and TV advertisements, doctors, community leaders and churches is any indication, the expectation now is that every household is actively using social media.  Thanks to technology, the early ‘70s looked very different than the present “digital decade.”

Before the personal computer, “social media” consisted of letters and phone calls. Now, social media consists of sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo; networking sites like LinkedIn and Plaxo. Blogs are everywhere, in every conceivable category, industry and topic of interest.  Dating sites named Match and e-Harmony are drawing throngs of lonely hearts. UTube is creating phenomena out of virtual unknowns. Twitter has caught nearly everyone’s attention.  The rapid proliferation of social media probably has many of us wondering where it’s taking us, and how we’re going to keep up.

I guess you can still try to ignore it.  But can you imagine where you’d be today if you had tried to ignore computers?  Rather than ignore it, think of social media as a natural blurring of the lines between technology and the human beings who use it.  (Human beings are after all social creatures.)  Having endured the initial disruption to our lives, we now embrace computers with enthusiasm.  They are here to stay.  Now social media is having a tremendous impact on our lives.  It will likely continue to shape human behavior.  You can try to ignore it, but that doesn’t change the fact:   Social media is here to stay.

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Entry filed under: Social Media.

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