Your world only gets smaller if you want it to

The other day I was talking about social media in a pub. The reaction was almost one of scorn: that I was a loser for having interest in such matters, that social media was totally irrelevant to one’s life and there were much more important things to be bothered about.

Quite apart from this being a direct attack on my new job(!), I found the attitude saddening because it betrays a blinkered mentality. Turned out the person making these claims didn’t use social media at all, so the attitude was “I don’t use it, never have, therefore it isn’t useful.”

Surely this is the wrong way round? Surely you need at least to try something out before you reject it – and the people who deal in it – wholesale?

I recently saw a programme on TV about really, really old people. The one common thread I could see was that their worlds had become smaller, in some cases restricted to the four (blank) walls of the room of their retirement home. I recognise this phenomenon: it happened to my grandmother. She would be astonished by news from ‘outside’. She found it incomprehensible that I would want to eat Indian or Chinese food. I was convinced that if I even mentioned terms such as ‘the internet’ she would have not known about it at all.

This is kind of amusing in one way, kind of sad in another. The Guardian, in its review of 2007, has a wonderful piece by Oliver Burkeman talking about how the divide between online and offline is becoming increasingly blurred, and that, far from being an ‘information superhighway’ or even ‘parallel universe’, it’s “another way, albeit a staggeringly powerful one, of being human.”

It can only be that ‘way’ if you at least try to experience it. Imagine dismissing TV or radio as ‘irrelevant’. At the outset, you could conceivably have done so (and many did). Some live without TV now, but would be fools for claiming it to be anything but a major cultural influencer and important communication source, especially for communications professionals.

I guess I want people to avoid looking like fools. That’s the mid-term goal. In the short term I want them at least to experience what social media has to offer. It’s not just Twitter or Facebook, and blogging can change your life (it did mine).

But in the long term, I really want to help these people avoid living in a tiny world, where everything new is new-fangled, where everything modern is rubbish, where everything contemporary is mundane. It’s just a mentality, and you can change it if you want to.

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4 thoughts on “Your world only gets smaller if you want it to

  1. Just a quick note that I’m enjoying your blog, and wish you good luck with the new position. As CEO of NewsGator I’m one of the converted of course … I’ve lived too many proof-points the last few years that social media is first and foremost … social.

  2. Great that you’re enjoying it. However, the trick, I think, is going to be preaching to the unconverted. If you have any ideas on that score, I’d love to hear ’em!

  3. I have a friend who is my age (mid-late 20s) who is a normal, girl, hip to the times working in the fashion industry and whatnot, but absolutely refuses to get involved in Social Media… and (not to point fingers or stereotype) but I have found the same to be true with many of my friends who are now philosophy grad students, they simply do not want anyhing to do with this wierd social media stuff. So, in promoting it by work of mouth to those who believe it IS a waste of time, for years now I have just felt like such a dork, but I guess some people really just do not want or need it in their lives- (although I will admit that it has made several things possible for me, established or re-established little connections which would’ve never been established otherwise, and (except all those hours of my life I will never get back spent on MySpace and Facebook) it has been overall positive.

  4. Brendan, did you read Marshall Kirkpatrick’s January 7th post on Read/Write Web, Ten Common Objections to Social Media Adoption and How You Can Respond. It might help you script your arguments. Plus I think the comments are equally instructive.

    One suggestion: try not to lecture (or hector) your colleagues and friends who aren’t interested in participating in social media, particularly if they aren’t self-employed consultants or working in a PR/marcomm/ad agency. There really isn’t enough compelling business reasons yet to convince a lot of individuals to engage in a social networking platform like Facebook or Twitter.

    The real online winners (i.e., killer apps) are generally the ones that assist people easily: search engines, Wikipedia, MapQuest/GoogleMaps, etc. And those are tasks, etc., people can do alone. Keep that in mind: not everyone *wants* to live their business and personal lives in a community-driven atmosphere.

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