For at least two years, I’ve been hearing and reading about how social media is taking over our lives. It’s terrible. It’s revolutionary. We love it. We hate it. It needs to stop. We need to learn how to use it. What will we do when the bubble bursts?
It’s time to get over it. Social media is not a fad, although some of the particular websites that have been popular early on (such as MySpace) are struggling and may disappear. Like other electronic technology it will continue to evolve. But it’s not going away.
It’s time to stop arguing about if and start discussing the who, what, when, where, why and how of social media.
Last month I attended Social Media Week New York. As most of my career has been spent in non-profits, I registered for panels on non-profits, international development, and using social media for social good. There was a good deal of discussion about events happening in the Middle East, and opinions were divided on how much (or how little) social media like Facebook and Twitter were influencing the democracy movements.
Friday around noon I returned from an early lunch break for a panel discussion. Every venue (that I know of) had wi-fi, so after finding a good seat I cracked open my laptop to check e-mail and Twitter. Twitter was alive! Reports that Hosni Mubarak had resigned were lighting up my timeline, so I switched briefly to my News list, which was also crazy. But this is a new medium, and the contradictory reports of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in January had shown me that misinformation can propagate just as easily as reliable information. So I quickly looked at the websites of the New York Times, the BBC, and Al Jazeera English. All of them reported Mubarak’s resignation, so I accepted it as true.
Unanswered questions are scary. That’s what I scrawled in my blog notebook back in October after I gave a Ready New York presentation in Brooklyn, not far from where a tornado had touched down a few days earlier. Tornadoes are rare in this part of the country, but every couple of years we have a small one. Or, in this case, two—one in Brooklyn and another in Queens.
Someone at the presentation had said she knew emergency preparedness is important, but thinking about possible emergencies scared her. I can’t help but agree. Sometimes watching the news is scary, but I believe that the only way to take the fear out of “What if?” is to answer it-and then do whatever is necessary to be ready if “What if?” happens.
I have always liked old buildings. On vacations I usually seek out old house museums. My home is almost a century old (the original part, anyway, which is only two rooms). I love that high-tech companies are putting their offices into old lofts and industrial buildings. So when I learned that Christopher Gray, who writes about architectural history for the New York Times, was speaking at a local historic preservation organization, I went.
After Gray’s talk I got into a conversation with a woman who is a regular member of the group. She said it was nice to see a “young person” like me (this was several years ago; I was still in my 30s) attending an event in person. It seemed to her that many young people spent too much time with “this new Internet thing.” Then she asked how I’d heard about the event.
“I read about it on the society’s website.” Her face fell.