I was a member of Linkedin for a long time before I finally learned to use it. But that was the least of my hurdles. I was downright annoyed, for several years, by people who tried to convince me to join Facebook. Facebook was for kids, it was a waste of time, it was like spending time watching sitcoms on TV, it was juvenile. And Twitter? I made fun of it all the time. “I don’t need to know what you had for breakfast or what movie you took your kids to last weekend,” I would say.
I’ve always thought it interesting to watch how people put down something they don’t understand. They build up defenses, create stories and rationalizations in their minds, and take every opportunity to convince those around them that they are too smart for whatever that thing is they’re resisting. I’m guilty of it too. Is it a generational thing? I don’t think so, but perhaps more of an age thing. No matter what generation we were born into, most of us were more open to new things as young people than we are as older people because when you’re young, you want to distinguish yourself from your parents. That makes the new thing cool and attractive.
I don’t think it was peer pressure or the constant public dialogue about social media that changed my mind. I think in the end it was pure utility. The first time I got on Facebook I realized I could copy photos from my colleagues to use for our newsletter and I wouldn’t have to beg and plead for photos every three months anymore. I also realized I could spend three minutes every morning taking a quick glance at my home page and see what my friends and family were up to, rather than the more time-consuming activity of calling and/or emailing each of them individually. I could comment on what someone was doing and let them know I was thinking about them and it only took a second. On Linkedin, I could find old colleagues that it might have taken hours of phone calls and inquiries to find otherwise, and I could see where they were working now and let them know what I was up to professionally. Twitter was the most surprising of all. I use it to catch up on the news–I just follow a couple of my favorite media outlets and glance at what they’re twittering about each morning, deciding which links to follow for the full stories. And when I have news of my own, I put it out the same way.
I don’t think all this twittering and blogging replaces good old fashioned human contact, but rather enhances it. Now when I see so-and-so at the grocery story, instead of saying, “what are you up to these days?” I can jump right in and say, “I see you went mountain biking in Moab last weekend, how was it?” or “I’m so sorry to hear about your mother-in-law, I hope she’ll recover quickly.”
And these are just the personal uses of social media for me. We’ve all heard plenty about the potential business uses.
I have so many friends who continue to resist. It’s not that I think everyone has to jump on the bandwagon. I just think everyone ought to at least take a look before they start that deprecating, worldy-wise banter about how social media is for kids. Otherwise, you really don’t know what opportunities you might be missing.
What do you think?