Last year I read ‘Born to Run‘. If you’re a runner, or would like to be, and haven’t read it, then do yourself a favour, it’s a goodie. At the end of the book the author suggests that Homo Sapiens made it to where we have because we’re runners. And then drops this line that I’ve not forgotten, “We run because we’re human, and we’re human because we run.” Running is part of who we all are, and we only got here because of our ability to run. We dare not stop running. It’s more than getting fat and unfit. It’s about holding onto our human-ess.
For those who’ve peeked at my writing this year, you’ll know I keep suggesting that it doesn’t matter if Twitter /FaceBook et al, lives or dies! The real question to be asking is whether it’s changing us? Changing how we engage, relate, interact, etc?
I think it’s a great perspective for companies to consider. While you’re panicking about getting into or staying out of Social Media, you better be asking whether it’s changing your customers?
Of course I don’t think Social Media has reached the kind of gravitas running has, in the context of talking about what makes us human, but I still do like thinking about the direction we’re all headed. This weekend I picked up this article from The New York Times Magazine – I Tweet, Therefore I Am. You understand why it got my attention : ) A title declaring the connection between our Humanness and Social Media. The author picks up on similar themes:
The expansion of our digital universe — Second Life, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter — has shifted not only how we spend our time but also how we construct identity. For her coming book, “Alone Together,” Sherry Turkle, a professor at M.I.T., interviewed more than 400 children and parents about their use of social media and cellphones. Among young people especially she found that the self was increasingly becoming externally manufactured rather than internally developed: a series of profiles to be sculptured and refined in response to public opinion. “On Twitter or Facebook you’re trying to express something real about who you are,” she explained. “But because you’re also creating something for others’ consumption, you find yourself imagining and playing to your audience more and more. So those moments in which you’re supposed to be showing your true self become a performance. Yourpsychology becomes a performance.” Referring to “The Lonely Crowd,” the landmark description of the transformation of the American character from inner- to outer-directed, Turkle added, “Twitter is outer-directedness cubed.”
This for me is just another reflection. I don’t know where we’re headed yet? I don’t know if it’ll be good or bad for us? I don’t know if we’ll care? I do know it’s beginning to change some things. The NYT article suggests that ’empathy’ may be a loser:
The risk of the performance culture, of the packaged self, is that it erodes the very relationships it purports to create, and alienates us from our own humanity. Consider the fate of empathy: in an analysis of 72 studies performed on nearly 14,000 college students between 1979 and 2009, researchers at the Institute for Social Research at theUniversity of Michigan found a drop in that trait, with the sharpest decline occurring since 2000. Social media may not have instigated that trend, but by encouraging self-promotion over self-awareness, they may well be accelerating it.
Let’s be careful out there. With each other and with ourselves. And perhaps, for now, don’t stop running : )