Category Archives: Social Media Musings

Humans are Social Animals

Technology makes the world smaller. It reunites lost pets (and teddy bears) with their children. It lets us find our tribe – even if they live halfway around the world.  When I hear people argue that technology (and especially social media) is “bad” for you, I think about all the people who argued passionately that the earth was flat and that ships would sail right off the edge. The world is not a stagnant place. Society (and hopefully thinking) evolves. Refusing to adapt doesn’t make you brave and it doesn’t make the Earth any less round.

Friends are not any truer or realer just because they live next door or down the street. Some of my most meaningful friendships started online.  It’s likely that without technology I would have never met or even heard of many of my friends.  Social media allows us to connect with others who share our passions. That is a gift – not a curse.

Likewise, social media asks us to examine ourselves on a daily basis. Some might see that as narcissism (and in some people it may be,) but I believe that only good can come from introspection. Seeing yourself reflected in the eyes of social media makes you take a serious look at just who you are and what you believe. Seeing others argue against (or for) things in which you believe, makes you consider your own beliefs and that reflection can lead to a deeper understanding of those things you hold dear, as well as your own soul.

All technology – from the printing press to the iPhone – has had its champions, as well as its enemies. There are always going to be those who rail against change – either out of fear and ignorance or some mistaken view that all progress is the enemy of tradition.  It can be argued, if anything, that connecting with traditions, beliefs, and hearing stories from around the world only enriches our understanding of our own history.

After all, there is no faith in dogma and there is no knowledge in rhetoric. Saint Augustine wrote “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  Today that’s no longer true. Technology has opened the world to those who can’t travel physically and opened our minds to a world beyond our own small horizons. Only good can come from taking a step outside our doors – even if that step is virtual.

kitten mouse


As Seen on TV

grumpy cat NOIn case you weren’t aware, and it seems many people aren’t, life is not television and work is not a party. Sure, it’s great if you enjoy your work and you get along with your co-workers. You may even consider many of them your friends – I know I do. But you are being paid to do a job.

What that means, in simple terms, is that you are there to do actual work and not to “have fun.” The two don’t need to be exclusive but a lot of the time they are. No one likes compiling quarterly reports and they aren’t often a joy to read either. But they are a necessity. Reporting is vital to forecasting new campaigns and measuring the success of current ones.  If it makes the day go more quickly, then maybe you promise yourself a Pumpkin Spice Latte if you can finish all the quarterlies by Wednesday or that sweet pair of Frye boots you’ve had your eyes on for the last month.  We all need a little motivation now and again – although, hopefully, you’re as much motivated by your desire to do a job well as you are by a PSL.

The work you do isn’t about you. This is especially true in customer service. Being a CSR (customer service rep) is about the consumer – the person on the other end of the line or other side of the computer screen.  It’s about their experience and not about yours.  If the consumer decides to pretend to be a robot, then, you can roll with it. . .or not. . .as long as you provide them with good service and the information they need.  It is never, ever appropriate for you to pretend to be a robot, a Cyborg, a taco, or a teddy bear.  You may sometimes pretend to be in a good mood – but that should be the extent of your acting skills.  No one wants tech advice from a bear.  Seriously.  They don’t.

If you work at Radio Shack (or apparently Netflix) maybe your boss doesn’t frown on this sort of thing.  But in most cases management, your co-workers, and most of all, the consumer isn’t going to be pleased with you.  That’s because you’re a CSR, not a member of Starfleet as much as you’d like to be.  Leave your dice and RPG manual at home and do some work.  I don’t call Netflix to make a new friend or to hear your viewing preferences, I’m calling because need an issue resolved.  Do your job, do it well, and I’ll be pleased and you should be too.  You should be able to get through the day without pretending to be a robot.  If you can’t, then maybe you need to find a new line of work.

It’s baffling to me that so many people are praising someone that, frankly, should be fired.  You’re not making the experience “fun for the consumer” – you’re making it fun for yourself and that’s bad customer service.  You can crack out your Starfleet uniform in your off hours.  While you’re at work, why not try pretending you’re an adult?



Selling Hope


A long time ago I realized there are only two types of people in this world.  Those that make it a better place and those that make it worse.  Unfortunately, the latter outnumber the former ten to one.  Not because most people are particularly bad, but because they’d rather not get involved.  And believe me, I get it. 

I work with CRM (consumer relationship management) all day, every day.  Marketing is, in the end, about being conciliatory.  It’s about finding the heart of product or service that touches the greatest number of people.  You can do that by studying people and trying to connect with them through a brand or you can twist your product into the shape they’re looking for – whether it’s what they really want (or need) or not.  The first path is much harder than the second, but it’s also the only path that works in the long-run.  It’s better to have fewer consumers who are true brand loyalists than lots of one-shot sales.  Life is a lot like that too.  You can convince yourself that by doing nothing you aren’t hurting anyone and, at best, that may be true.  It’s been my experience though that minding your own business and accepting the way things are does as much damage as the people who actually go around lighting fires and kicking puppies. 

More than two hundred years ago Edmund Burke wrote “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one. . .” – a nice sentiment which was adapted into “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” which, from a marketing point-of-view, is a much better sound byte.  Regardless of what ole Edmund said or wrote, he had the truth of it.  A good deal of the terrible things in the world happen with an audience.  Case in point, a co-worker told me that she once saw a woman take off her shoe and beat her child with it.  The child was apparently in her car-seat crying, so the woman took off her shoe and hit the baby. 

My co-worker, who is often fond of telling everyone what a good person she is, called the police while this woman continued to hit a toddler.  With a shoe.  And she wasn’t the only person watching this scene, there were, apparently, a group of people who were outraged – but not enough to actually do anything.  This happened maybe ten years ago and it’s a story this particular person likes to repeat which infuriates me each and every time I hear it.  Life is just too short to wait for someone to come to the rescue.  Sometimes, you need to step in and do something yourself.

Doing something will, most likely, make you unpopular and will definitely earn you bad looks from your neighbors.  I take care of feral cats.  I try to find homes for strays, practice TNR for truly feral critters in the colony, and try to make sure that animals that already have a hard life don’t have a harder one.  I don’t expect anyone to praise me or give me a cookie.  I do hope that those who don’t want to help don’t actually try to stop me from helping, that they don’t shoot the cats, trap them and have them euthanized, or poison them.  My hopes often prove fruitless.  I learned a long time ago that you can’t save the world – all you can do is try to mop up the mess and apply a few bandages.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.  Sometimes a thankless task is more rewarding than one with guaranteed success. 

And, hey, sometimes you’re wrong.  Sometimes you may not save the world, but you save one cat or one person or change someone’s point-of-view.  That’s what keeps you going.  The poets have hope all wrong.  It isn’t delicate.  It isn’t a “thing with feathers,” it’s a thing with claws.  It scraps on even when all the odds are against it. 

That’s why no matter how tough things are, you can always have hope, and you can always convince others to have hope too.  Hope is hard (and sometimes bitter,) but apathy is like a plain oatmeal – cozy but bland.  Hope is the toy surprise in life’s box of cereal.  You may have to dig a bit to get it, but it’s always there – guaranteed.  And in the end, isn’t that what life’s really about – the toy surprise.  It may not be what you wanted or even what you expected.  But it’s the joy of opening it that makes it all worthwhile – that one moment when you, well, have hope that it’s exactly what you were looking for.  The world is a cruel place, but if you persevere it may just surprise you.

All the World’s a Tweet

I was struck by an article I read and the notion that social media is changing grief or probably it would be more accurate to say changing how people perceive national and global tragedy.  In the past, it was up to journalists to give a face to tragedy.  They made victims and survivors alike real to readers or viewers.  Police officers, hospital personnel and first responders may’ve seen real people.  You would certainly get to know someone during an investigation or throughout months of therapy, but to the average reader (or viewer) people were “a thirty-something brunette with sharp features and an equally sharp wit” or “a plucky blonde who worked the day-shift at Starbucks and volunteered at her local animal shelter.”  You were what the media tagged you as which may or may not have corresponded with who you really were or who you believed yourself to be.

With the advent of social media tragedies have real faces beyond graduation and CV pictures and quotes from friends of the deceased.  The dead speak.  You can read tweets, posts, and blogs from people who just yesterday were living and breathing and tweeting and posting.  Maybe they did a little trolling too.  Maybe they weren’t perfect or sometimes even likeable, but they were all utterly real.  Social media is telling like no other channel of communication.  It’s informal, it’s piercing, and it reveals the heart of things.  It gives us people’s likes and hates, their rants and raves, it shows us who they were and who they believed they were – which can be even more important.  It lets them define themselves with cartoon avatars and quotes from Monty Python and Mark Twain.  It’s all a glorious mad jumble a lot like life itself.

Shakespeare wrote “all the world’s a stage,” but perhaps if As You Like It were written today, Jacques might lament “all the world’s a tweet” or status update or blog.  We are mere players in social media.  Play being the optimal word.  There are no professionals even though you can make a good living at optimizing the written in digital and social.  It’s a sort of digital witchcraft.  How magical is it to unfriend the guy that dumped you and watch him disappear (at least from your friend list and your feed?)  There’s something more than the mundane about even the most over-used tweets and posts that keep us clicking like.  TGIF.  Like.  Another Monday. . .  I feel your pain, brother.  And to see those posts echoing from accounts that no longer have living posters is magic too.  It’s as if the account holders are still with us waiting for the weekend, reading our posts, and maybe liking a page or two.

I still remember a speech I heard when I was in high school.  A retired police officer was talking about responsible driving and vehicle safety and he recalled an accident he has responded to years before.  You could tell it was still real to him.  Maybe he saw it every night.  But I’m sure he saw it clearly each time he gave this speech.  The officer described the girl in the accident as being “blonde and blue-eyed and cute as a button.”  He went on to say that he hadn’t been able to save her and that if she had her seatbelt on she may’ve lived.  The part of the story that I’ve always remembered was his description of her.  I always wondered (as a bitter teenage girl) if the girl had been overweight and red-headed or brunette with acne if she would’ve found her way into his cautionary tale.  The fact is that we are how the world sees us to a great degree.  But because of social media the world sees us through what we post.

Our photos, tweets, shares, and posts make us real.  They live even when we don’t.  There’s poignancy in that.   After all, life isn’t about “the big events.”  Life is day-to-day.  Life is picking up kids from school, doing the laundry, and taking the dog to the vet.  Life is work and the weekend and being annoyed that Starbucks put milk in your coffee instead of soy.  I’m grateful to social media for reminding us of that, and for reminding us that at the heart of it all we’re much all the same.  There is more that connects us than that makes us different.  We all play our part and have our entrances and exits.  There is a great deal of beauty in that.