Jeremiah asks if we are moving too fast in the Social Media Sphere. My answer – for me – is (1) No, and (2) Maybe.
As Chris Brogan urged us to recently, I took a moment to step back, pause, and reflect on why I use social media, what I think I am getting out of it, and what the actual effect has been on my life.
In response to Chris’s questions, I know why I connect on social networks. I have very clearly defined goals and reasons behind that. These things really put the wind in my sails, and I want keep going and see where this thing will take me.
About six months ago, I committed to spending more time and effort exploring the things online that really jazz me. This includes just about everything that comes under the term New Media, or Web 2.0. I’m pretty passionate about my work, too, so I’m naturally interested in seeing how these new technologies can advance the mission of my organization and organizations like mine.
So, in a pretty short span of time, I have attended three conferences relevant to these interests, and presented (on web 2.0 for nonprofits) at one of them. I’ve made an effort to meet and connect meaningfully with the people whose work I admire. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time on building a new network, both online and in person, to support and reflect the interests that really spin my wheels.
But in the process, am I losing touch with the non-tech Real Life world that surrounds me, with the reality that MOST of the folks I see every day don’t even feel that comfortable with email? To them, I must seem like a multi-tentacled alien from outer space. Which brings me to(2)
Only one month ago, I gave a presentation on web 2.0 tools for nonprofits at a regional conference for the philanthropy sector. Out of about 125, there were two bloggers in the room. Five who read blogs. The blogs they cited were old media blogs – like the blog of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, etc. Several folks approached me after the session to say they had no idea blogs weren’t just for kids and stalkers “anymore,” and that they would certainly look into this blog business now.
As I go zipping along, lapping up as much knowledge as possible on the trends and movements of things SocNet-ish, adopting what makes sense to me or intrigues me, and dropping less intriguing things as I go, I wonder how far ahead of my Real Life world I am leaping, and how that might damage my ability to talk sensibly about new media to the decision makers in that RL world.
When I taught geology to undergrads at Syracuse (in my former life as a paleontologist and aspiring academic), I worked hard to keep the content of my presentations at an approachable, yet intriguing level. It’s tough to hit just the right note of tension between delivering the information at the level the audience is at right now, and offering a glimpse behind the “advanced” curtain to see how amazing and interesting and COOL things get once you’ve got the basics down.
The point is, we all have to memorize the formula for apatite and feldpsar and dolomite before we could even think of making sense of an outcrop of rocks. (I had the best mneumonic device for apatite, to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Show theme song. Maybe I’ll utter it later…)
I’ve gotten pretty good at carving out time to feed my own interests – creating and maintaining this blog being one singular example, as my old blog just wasn’t serving my needs anymore – but I think I might need to spend some more time with the folks around me in (the internet equivalent of) Rocks for Jocks. Help them out a little with the Moh’s Scale. Tell a few corny jokes. Sing them a little song.
Or at least remain aware of where they are now, and not confuse and disorient them by speaking in foriegn tongues. The community that I am trying to serve at work is, by and large, tech-resistant or tech-laggards. It’s really important to meet the people where they are now, and try to offer them something of tangible value to their lives as they are living them now.
Why? Because I’m purporting to be a community builder in some ways. (I have my online community, with whom I hardly ever enjoy facetime, and my RL community, with whom I get nothing but.
My mother remains resistant to my attempts to keep in touch with her via twitter.)
However, there being only so many hours in the day… where should I spend my time and energies?
Should I change my habits to match my surroundings (spend more time with the tech-laggards, work on bridging the digital divide in my area, etc.)? Or change my surroundings to match my habits (travel more, go to more conferences of like-minded people, collaborate more on tech projects that interest me)?
What do you think?