Photo Credit: UnSplash – Austin Ban

Social media is pretty much everywhere. When you see people looking at their hand held device, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? They’re probably on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope, Snapchat or tons of other social networks that grab their attention away from life. That’s what I think anyway.

Not too long ago I was riding the mass transportation into Boston. I had to laugh when I saw large groups of people standing around, huddled together like there was some really cool thing about to happen. Nope, nothing cool. Well, at least not as far as I was concerned anyway. I asked myself, is this really happening? Life was passing them by and they didn’t seem to care. What has this world come to anyway? The social media craze that has totally consumed pretty much every person who owns a smart phone, tablet or something similar. According to a study by Microsoft Corporation,

This craze has completely engulfed people’s minds and hooked them on small, 3.3-inch screens (Hmm, guess they’re larger now), with text, live video, music, apps, games, friends, fans and who knows what else. Social really isn’t social at all, it’s anti-social.

“The average human attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds, but by 2013 it was only 8 seconds (1 second shorter than a goldfish!).”

“In the digital age, where the news is limited to 140 characters and conversations take place in the form of emojis, our attention span has shortened.” – Lizette Borreli, MedicalDaily

First Ever Social Media

Just a few years after the Y2K thing calmed down, Friendster hit the street as one of the first-ever social media sites to gain traction. I have to admit; back when social media first began, I was not an early adopter. I had friends who had jumped on board and were telling me stories about their new “circle of friends.” I wasn’t convinced. I was happy with my circle of friends right where they were, at least for now. Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook all started within about two years of each other. After many “tangible” friends coerced me to get with the program, I decided to get my own space with MySpace. I wasn’t impressed, so I left MySpace for another so-called space in this newly created virtual world called social media. Soon, I became an advocate of what I think is a wonderful social media tool that I quite frankly, today cannot live without. Wow, how things have changed. Goodbye MySpace; hello LinkedIn.

Our Culture has Changed

Social media has permeated every aspect of our culture. Yes, I have embraced it like many others, but being social wasn’t always that way. My social story really started decades ago, when people like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey were probably selling Kool-Aide to kick start their entrepreneurial careers as young kids. It was 1987 when I graduated from college in greater Boston. I secured my first full time job, was gainfully employed, earned a degree and was on my way. I had a vision about where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to do. What I didn’t know, was that I would eventually make a living working in and around the internet, social media and digital media space. The weird thing about that entire concept is, that industry was not even born yet.

My liberal arts degree taught me to think, and to do it well. What I didn’t realize was that many peers, bosses, co-workers and others would soon recognize my social skills. These social skills were not the social media or social networking skills we know today. They were the tried and true social skills that allowed me to talk to someone with confidence, look them in the eye and hold a conversation, critically think (without a smartphone and Siri thinking for me), and conduct my personal and professional life as an intelligent, charming individual.

Old-School Social Skills

These old-school social skills would help me to become the person and professional that I am today. Fast-forward over 25 years. Yes, I may be the senior director of staff with not much hair, but I am also the person who is a vibrant thinker, innovator, young at heart and invests in and values today’s technology-driven culture. In reality, I am not the young 20-something any longer, nor do I want to be. Today’s young college grads have a different set of challenges in front of them. A major one is how to navigate being social or anti-social. Today, the word social has taken on an entirely different meaning than what Webster’s Dictionary once called it back in 1987 when I graduated from college. There are a few things I wish I could get back from those days. But, what I really wish I could resurrect is the true meaning of the word social.

The Lost Art Of Conversation

What I see and experience in today’s young adults, and even young professionals is that they just can’t seem to engage in a conversation, let alone keep it going without peeking at the small screen that is beckoning them to disengage from life and the world around them and engage with what the tiny digital device has to offer. Being truly social in the sense of the word has become a lost art. Most of generation Z and all of gen Y are now totally immersed in social media, not true social interaction and dialogue with a real person. As we get closer to the next generation, and that won’t be too far from today, social engagement as we once know it will be gone.

The Social Media vs. Social Dilemma Debate

I am a person who loves to be social and social, if you know what I mean. I have decided to take the best of both worlds and integrate them into my work and personal life. What does that all mean? Well, it means Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat, Pinterest and others have become staples of my personal and professional self. What I have really come to enjoy is the Google Hangout feature on Google+. I think they have figured out that even though social engagement as we once knew it is pretty much disappearing, Google has discovered how to bring it back in the form of multiple people using live web cams with video and audio, and wrap it around my circle of friends in the online world. Additionally, Periscope is just plain amazing. Broadcast live anywhere you want. It’s like your own TV station right in the palm of your hand. Wow, who ever would have thought that now I can do both… social media and old school socializing, all in one place? How times have changed. Don’t give up for those of you who are anti social media, there’s a glimmer of hope.

Scott MacFarland writes for the Huffington Post of which a variation of this article was originally posted in October 2013.

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Scott MacFarland


Linkedin | Huffington Post | Twitter: @scmacfarland


Photo Credit: UnSplash – Austin Ban



Original Article Published By Huffington Post.

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