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 or about 200 others 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 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 consumed pretty much every person who owns a smart phone, tablet or something similar. This craze has completely engulfed people’s minds and hooked them on small, 3.3-inch screens with text, video, music, friends, fans and who knows what else. Social really isn’t social at all, it’s anti-social.
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, around 2002 I was not an early adopter of social media. 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 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.
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 that weren’t created yet.
My liberal arts degree had 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 thinking for me) and conduct my personal and professional life as an intelligent, charming individual. 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.
What I see and experience in today’s young kids, 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 3.3″ 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 social 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.
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+ 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. 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.