Imagine for a moment that tomorrow everything blinked off. All sense of normalcy gone. No Internet. No phone. No electricity. Nothing. But darkness. What would you do? Well, if you’re not throwing yourself out of a window in panic or looting the local electronics store (duh), your next step would be to start doing whatever is necessary to survive. Things like hunting for food, finding water, and gathering firewood. But then what? Well, you’d probably reach out to others. That’s right, you’d turn to your network. And in turning to your network, you open your line of communication up to other networks. Eventually you’d come to find out that a massive solar flare torched north Asia and fried all power on the planet. Then you’d pass this information back down through your network to inform and enlighten others so that people could do what’s necessary to survive.
Don’t let the word ‘network’ throw you off. The idea of human connectivity has been around a lot longer than Twitter and Facebook. Yet, we focus so much on the tips and tricks regarding the medium(s) of communication we engage in that we tend overlook the basic fundamentals that make this technology so amazing in the first place. Why? Because fundamentals are too basic. Too obvious. Too simplistic. Who needs fundamentals?
To me there’s only one rule of Social Media – be human. And sorry, there are no shortcuts. When you’re sincere and compassionate here you become less of an avatar attached to a string of characters and more like an actual human. And because human beings are your audience, the more human you are – the more likely you are to develop your network. Social Media is about dialogue. Between real people. Just like in real life. Admittedly, a massive solar flare taking down the planet’s power grids is probably a little far fetched. But not impossible. The idea is that something like being a compassionate human being to those around you is the same in Social Media as it is in everyday life. So whether it’s oversimplified or not, if you really want to make the most of this technology, stop thinking of it as a new and tricky medium that you have to manipulate for maximum benefit and start looking at it for what it is – people talking with other people. And then talk. Because you never know when you’re going to have to rely on the compassion of others to see you through a dark stretch.
Be yourself and engage. Everything else will take care of itself.
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Sep 15, 2009
Oh, I love this post! Oddly, I had thought about a script for a movie once, where that very thing you describe happens — and the first half of the movie takes place in almost complete darkness. However, that’s a tangent for another day!
The real crux of what you’re saying — and on bad days, I myself am guilty of forgetting this:
“To me there’s only one rule of Social Media – be human.”
I am going off to tattoo that on myself somewhere so I don’t forget. Thanks, as always Jim, for helping me keep it real.
Sep 15, 2009
Thank you for the note Lisa. I would love to see that script – it’s a terrifying concept. But yes, sometimes the basic things like being human are probably the things we need to hear the most around here. 😉
Sep 15, 2009
well written, my man. it’s amazing to see that the people who are most passionate about social media have come “full circle,” understanding that one on one communication, whether online or in person, is the one thing that will make the difference between building relationships, or letting it slip into the hands of the next person willing to make an honest connection. it’s absolutely the new — and old — way of the world. without the internet, those of us who embrace this kind of thinking, will not only survive, but thrive. if you ever wanna make a fire, jim, i’ve got a stick. you?
Sep 16, 2009
Thanks Michael. I think I’m one of those ‘full circle’ guys, as I was pretty skeptical about SM last year. In fact, I distinctly remember last Thanksgiving a friend asking me whether I was ‘into Twitter?’ I said no, that I didn’t see its commercial applicability. Nearly a year later, it’s clear to me that commercial applicability is a residual effect of expanding people networks. Now I’m an ambassador of this thing. Only, if the lights blinked off tomorrow – I have to admit, I’m screwed. I don’t camp.
Sep 18, 2009
You can have authenticity without relationships, but you can’t have relationships without authenticity. A fine post.
Feb 22, 2013
This post and all responses are so right on. I went through an active stage on facebook during my early stay-at-home-mom years. Feeling somewhat isolated while super busy parenting was eased by reaching out and being reached through threads in which meaningful conversation was sparked. That was what I call my honeymoon phase with facebook. This good feeling lasted to a point, until it was no longer enough. I appreciate facebook and now twitter for what they are, but I am measured with the amount of time I allow myself to spend mentally composing what I will say next, shaping my voice and presence. I must actually see and connect with people face to face. I worry over my lack of online presence very much, especially for someone in their prime. In job hunting, it has become really clear that such activity of being myself online is what I must resume to make a presence. It’s something I can do, but got out of the habit due to keeping busy in the real physical world. I refused a twitter account until recently, for not wanting an additional time suck on my attention. Sometimes I feel that with so much saturation of endless opinions, who cares what I have to say? If I don’t put it out there, it won’t be missed. Therefore one must succumb and make time to share themselves online to be known, understood, hired etc. For this reason the expression of authenticity and being human are so very right on, and helpful for me to hear. Thank you. I’m okay with this, it’s a miraculous way to connect. But it takes time away from physical chores and labor, becoming another item on the to-do list. I’m currently working on big time updating my LinkedIn profile because I know it is the way forward. Working on preparation of my portfolio website and Etsy shop. Very human offline. Working toward uploading my humanity, bit by bit, so as to exist. 😉
Jim. I truly enjoy your writing. It sparks many responses from my mind, most of which I keep to myself, because who has time? I’m not just saying this because I still covet the idea of a job at Boxman. I plan to connect with Boxman on LinkedIn– AFTER I strengthen my LinkedIn profile. Your writing, thought sharing, is consistently thought provoking compelling across a diverse range of subject matter.
My novel – Minor King
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