I am a bit of an agnostic about social media. I love how it allows people, say, parents with autistic kids (sounds like someone I know) to connect with and support each other. In fact, I’ve blogged about the fantastic asd community that Twitter has made possible.
Having said that, there isn’t much about Facebook that seems too far removed from the old-fashioned telephone party line (yes, party line can be found on wikipedia). Sure, we can put pictures or videos up and reach more people doing it, but how much does that make it different from handing pictures around at a family reunion. Same goes for Twitter. I think we are talking more like the difference between a hand saw and a power saw or a screwdriver and a drill–more force combined with old functions.
Paula Attfield, vp at Stephen Thomas, a leading direct response firm for non-profits, wrote in her recent blog about Malcolm Gladwell’s article in the New York Times dealing with social media and social change. I wrote a pedantic and boring reply to Paula’s blog that revolutions and movements still need people. In other words, I said the speed of the communications is important, but it’s not much different from the scribblers and the French Revolution; people still need to talk to one another.
Case in point…this past Saturday, I was walking along my favourite street in Hamilton and popped into a cool new restaurant. The only seats were at the bar beside Kate and Claire who were, like me, enjoying a mild, sunny spring day. We kibbitzed about all sorts of silly things (because that’s my superhero power–talking silliness–one topic was drinking pickle juice). I found out that neither is on Facebook or Twitter. They live in the coolest part of town where all the well-educated professionals and artists have iPhones, so they should be hooked on social media. Right? Nope.
After they paid their bill, they got up to leave and I commented on Claire’s blue top. It being Saturday, April 2nd, I had to say something to make the connection between blue and World Autism Awareness Day. Because we had already been talking about kids and I had shared with them about Daniel and Rebecca’s statuses, it wasn’t a stretch. They weren’t witnesses to the tweetvalanche of commentary about Autism Awareness Day. Someone affected by autism had the perfect opportunity to help make the connection between blue and April 2nd.
I agree wholeheartedly that social media is a faster form of spreading information than what came before and perhaps a little more democratic in allowing people to be at the centre of their own information gathering network. Just as the web made using a computer more democratic and accessible when sharing information vs. broadcast media or publishing and just as the telephone supplanted telegraph, social media increases the speed, but the only reason we have this need for speed, if I may again be boring, is that we are looking for the compelling stories that live in each of us.
That’s what the other parents of kids on the autism spectrum are looking for in connecting with each other. Speed helps in bringing us together faster.