In the spring of 1984, I was ducking out of yet another high school pep rally. I had somehow managed to get the master key to all the classrooms (how did I get that again?) and was hiding out in the school newspaper’s computer lab.
I never made it to a football game—did run cross country, though, but consistently came in last. I got up the nerve to ask a girl out that I had a crush on and she said no. I took refuge in computers, in punk rock, and in stage crew for theater. I was even known to play Dungeon and Dragons from time to time, or suit up and go hit other people with padded weapons.
I was a geek and not in the cool sense we use that word today. Shy, awkward, lacking confidence, I may as well have been living on a different planet from all the popular kids at school.
When I first tried out social media through blogging a few years ago all of that stuff came up again. Ugh! Painful!
I’m not young enough. I’m not cool enough. I’m not whatever enough. I basically used my blog as another place to publish our newsletters and did nothing else with it. I avoided Facebook. Twitter didn’t exist yet, but I would’ve avoided that, too.
Just frickin’ painful, people. Ugh.
Much easier to write my ezine, answer emails, and hang out with friends outside of work time. Besides, did I really need to spend another 20 hours on the computer?
Any of this sound familiar? You may be an old geek like I am. Should we just give it up and forget about social media? Are we just not cool enough?
It might be helpful to understand why social media has made such an impact.
Where Social Media Came From
For most of the last several hundred thousand years humans existed in tribes and extended family units. Everyone could talk to everyone else who mattered just by, you know, opening your mouth and talking.
Then along came the printing press in the sixteenth century, bringing to life the first easily duplicated broadcast media where one person could speak to many, many people.
Literacy rose and communication began changing very quickly. Newspapers, radio, television.
These have all been marvelous means for communicating. That is, in one direction. Although technology has improved over the last 400 years, broadcast communication has stayed one-way.
Finally, though, in the last fifteen years, there has been a breakthrough. People being broadcast to can talk back!
That little 400 year aberrancy in human history, and especially the last century, had been acting like a dam. In all the years people have been zoning out in front of the tube (remember when they really did have tubes?), there has been loads of pent-up self-expression, responses with nowhere to go.
Enter Stage Right: The Internet
In hindsight, we can now see how letters to the editor, published in newspapers, and local-access cable shows foreshadowed the breaking of the dam. Blogs! Facebook! Suddenly, the medium, a screen, that had been only one-way, has become two-way. People can now speak to one another through it.
That’s all that’s really happening in social media. People are waking up from a century of zoning-out and swallowing their half of conversation to find that they can speak to one another from nearly anywhere. The ability to call up a friend without having to show up on their front doorstep, has been multiplied a million times simultaneously.
Not bad, eh? But, maybe we’re not cool enough to participate?
Everyone Is a Dweeb
We’re all lacking in confidence. I have a friend with several best-selling books, the epitome of cool, who still has moments of being wracked by doubts. It’s not uncommon for me to sit down in the morning, before my spiritual practice and have the zapper thought: “No one cares about you or what you do. Just go watch videos.”
It’s hard to realize it, but everyone has feelings like this. And what does that mean?
It means that all of our hearts are aching to be seen, to be acknowledged, to be loved. It means that we’re sick of feeling isolated and alone and disconnected. We’re so wanting appreciation and recognition that we’re lovable despite everything.
I don’t mean to say that the mass of humanity is a steaming pile of sobbing neediness. I do, though, want to suggest that when you’re feeling all dweeb-i-fied, to take a moment to breathe and remember that the super cool people you’re comparing yourself to have moments of self-doubt. They need the same things you need:
Love. Appreciation. Acceptance.
Laura, who has been kind and generous enough to invite me to write this guest post, has lots of easy ways for you to engage in social media. She’s teaching you, for instance, that you don’t need to spend more than ten minutes a day on Twitter.
What I want you to realize is that social media actually represents a return to some of the most nourishing impulses in the human heart: the desire to connect and give to one another.
You don’t have to be cool. You can talk about the weather. But be sure to ask yourself: Do the people your business is meant to serve use social media? If so, show up for them with your full heart. Use social media simply as another place for your human heart to do what it naturally wants to do: give and receive love.