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.

6 thoughts on “It’s Social Media – What’s There To Get?

  1. I would agree that social media is a part of the way the world works now, but I do not and will never agree with the facile statement that “you can’t be serious and not get social media.” There are those who choose not to engage with social media because they are among the few who are standing at the crossroads asking serious questions about the benefits vs. tradeoffs while the rest of the world rushes to embrace the next newest media sensation. Blind acceptance of what culture dictates seems more akin to operating on a robotic rather than human level. I am not saying that social media are worthless and should be eliminated. However, I do think that we should carefully evaluate before we accept. Media acts as a sedative to our critical reasoning. It does not want us to think, only to accept. Everyone is doing it! You need to be part of it too or you will be left behind! If you doubt the validity of these sentiments, try going a day or two without any media interaction whatsoever, if you can. You will quickly understand that there is a profound sensation of being disconnected when we deny our devices. Where exactly is all this taking us anyway? When we have finally texted, tweeted, facebooked, chatted, responded, emailed, commented, blogged, followed, and informed ourselves into a place where all we can do is desperately try to keep ahead of the wave of information waiting to break over our heads, then what? Again, I do not advocate eliminating social media. I only advocate that we ask questions and that we relegate social media to the status of servant rather than master.

    1. Hello Square Knight ~ Super great points and exactly what I want to read on this blog. What I mean to say when I write that you have to “get” social media is that you have to understand social media, not that you have to use it. Rather than being afraid (the hand wringers) those who are on the cliff need to plug their nose, dive in and not let fear stop them. It’s not scary, it just needs to get done. I think people should understand how it works. I am very serious about PR and I have never had a MySpace account, but I understand how it works. Ignorance, denial and fear, I do not support. Looking at it, seeing what it is and walking away, I can totally digg that (pun intended.) I love freedom of choice, but only after you educate yourself, your team, your organization. Very smart, successful people that I know do not use any social media, but that is a conscious choice, not a fear-based, knee-jerk reaction.

      Further, I think there are going to be many, many people joining you at the cross roads of Benefit Blvd. & Trade-off Terrace wondering just what the heck it is all for. For many, social media is a whole lotta hoopla and not a lotta moola. As I have said before, all that glitters is not gold and that especially applies to shiny new social media tools. Even more so if you do not educate yourself and view them as a marketing/sales/communications panacea.

      It reminds me of the housing bubble. Everyone was buying-up at 100% financing. Mr. Zunich & I did a very boring traditional loan, in a very boring neighborhood that we could afford. Then (crazy kids that we are) we sold our house and paid off our debt. Lots of people thought we were nuts because we didn’t use the “equity” in our home to buy rentals/investment property. Many of them are in foreclosure now. “Everybody is doing it” is probably the first sign that one might want to reconsider doing it.

      I love your questions and insights. I hope you’re someone I know and we can hang out – at least as long as you support blogs.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Thanks for clarifying. I agree with your explanation that it is healthier to understand social media and its various functions, even if one doesn’t use it, than to retreat in fear. However, I do advocate a robust skepticism when it comes to any type of media. Let’s discover what these media do, then, before we rush out to be part of the next big trend, let’s begin asking questions about what place they should be allowed in our culture and in our lives. The problem, as I see it, is that our culture is obsessed with the notion of progress as defined by unlimited technological advance, and these advances are designed, as I already mentioned, to be sleek, sexy and irresistible. Then they are marketed as indispensable. All of this, combined with mass approval, does not encourage the type of thinking and questioning that I believe are imperative. Yes, our world is changing, as it has many times before with the advent of “new” technologies, but I fear that unlimited access in all technological arenas will have dire implications somewhere down the line for the very sources of our humanity. But enough of this.
    Alas, we do not know each other; I saw your blog on LinkedIn and felt compelled to respond. Perhaps we can connect that way. It’s nice to know there are other intelligent people out there who are thinking about these things in more than a one-dimensional way. I encourage you to continue thinking and writing about this subject; we need strong, fearless individuals in our culture who will be honest and confrontative. Good luck.

    1. I am smiling, Mr. Knight, because I am thankful on a daily basis that I work in PR & marketing simply because it has allowed me to develop a robust skepticism of all forms of media. I have influenced so many stories on behalf of my clients that I now always look for the PR angle behind the story. But, I must admit, I haven’t gotten over sleek, sexy and irresistible.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and taking the time to respond. Please feel free to connect with me via Linkedin and I hope you will continue checking in here to make sure I am on the right track.


  3. As history shows, people fear the unknown…. So I would have to agree they just need to dive in and see how cold/warm, deep/shallow the water really is. Ignorance and fear can become very old and boring and frankly I am tired of hearing that people don’t want to find out because better to not know.. No not at all! Inform and educate yourself that way when someone ask you why you feel that way you have a real reason. Social media is nothing to be feared, just understood. So all in all I really enjoyed this blog. Thanks Jules

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