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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