I learn something new about social media every day. I read about it and learn something new. I use it and learn something new. People talk to me about it and I learn something new. If social media experts exist, I am a pre-schooler compared to them. Really, I am not being humble. I know I use it a lot and understand it more than many people, but there is still so much to learn – and it changes almost daily.
I am comfortable with not knowing. Getting there is half the fun, right? Social media has made my work fresh and exciting. It adds an entire new element to communications that did not even exist three years ago.
Here is what I do not embrace: social media fear. People keep telling me they are “afraid” to get social online. It’s too scary. They don’t understand. It’s confusing. What I don’t get is what’s not to get? I am genuinely confused by all the handwringing. Really, it’s chatting online, with some links and a few catch phrases. It’s practically the same as email, but with fewer words and more people to read your typos. And no one expects you to get it, but there are books and blogs and blabber mouths like me who would be happy to tell you all about it.
I do not want to beat-up the non-socials out there, but it is time for some tough love. You can’t be serious and not get social media. And I mean serious about anything! Avid golfer? Better get online and read some product reviews. Cooking nut? You’re missing a world of recipes. Want to chat with a teenager? You better have a mobile phone that lets you tweet, post & comment.
Two years ago social media was the next big thing. Last year it was hot. Now it just is. No one has the option of not getting it. In 20 years, kids will wonder how we ever functioned without it. Right now they’re wondering how we function without it.
Let’s put this into perspective a little. The first steam engine tramway locomotive rolled down the track in 1804. It took two hours to go nine miles. People feared this change. Some warned that the human body was not suited for such high speed travel and that our delicate frames would explode if we ever reached speeds of 20 miles per hour. That didn’t happen. The Maglev Line in Shanghai reaches speeds of 268 mph (that’s 431 km/h for the rest of the world.) My minivan can do 80 on the way to grandma’s house. Imagine having a fear of double-digit speeds.
When the printing press was invented, the ruling class and clergy were afraid of the speed at which the written word was created and the ease of access to books. As early as 1620, the English statesman and philosopher Francis Bacon noted that printing “changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world”. I can see the monks now, rubbing their beards and saying “I just don’t get printed books.” But look how well we’ve done with books. Ok, so a few people died defending religious texts, but we can’t blame the printing press for that.
The point is that the topic of IF social media is relevant or WHEN social media becomes important is gone. It is relevant, it has been important for a while. I will now assume everyone knows this and we shall not speak of this irrational fear again. I promise not to bring it up again. You just have to promise not to tell me “you don’t get it” again.
But, just so you don’t think I am totally mean, I want you to know I am looking out for you. Here is a list of inventions that changed the world as we know it. I just want you to be careful, should someone suggest you use any of these items:
- Rope (Paleolithic era)
- Alcohol (10th millennium BCE)
- Ice skates (5th millennium BCE)
- Soap (3rd millennium BCE)
- Umbrella (2nd millennium BCE)
- Screw (4th century BCE)
- Encyclopedia (77 AD)
- Quill Pen (700)
- Metronome (810–887)
- Magnifying glass (1021)
- Vodka (1430)
- Gas Stove (1802)
- Ice Cream (1843)
- Radio (1893)
- Neon (1902)
- DVR (1999)
There are many things about social media that you should focus your energies on – content, message, dealing with negativity, measurement – but fear is not one of them.