Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

Social Media’s Longterm Viability

In Social media on December 30, 2006 at 10:29 am

Li'l Frankie Bacon on Social Media
Francis Bacon, “I heart social media.”

Jeremiah had a post which made me think. In it he reports the inevitable progression of a new media, though in an accelerated age, it’s come a lot quicker than novels or the theatre. I’m talking about “The Death of X,” of course. Give X the value of “social media.”

In the post, Jeremiah says, “I promise you, Senior Management at many Fortune 1000 companies still lack awareness, strong belief in Social Media or resources a large percent of budget.”

That got me to thinking about the longterm viability of social media. The field is full of Belief, as you’ve probably noticed. And some belief (see what I did with that capitalization? I know, clever-writing), is necessary. If you’re not attracted to the possibilities, why sacrifice your time to it?

Well, as to whether social media has a longterm future, I am on the fence. I know from experience, as well as personal inclination, that a conversation is more powerful than a lecture or a stint of monastic rustication for most things. Sir Francis Bacon spoke to this point in his excellent essay, “Of Friendship.”

His wits and understanding do clarify and break up in the communicating and discoursing with another; he tosseth his thoughts more easily; he marshalleth them more orderly; he seeth how they look whan they are turned into words; finally, he waxeth wiser than himself; and that more by an hour’s discourse than by a day’s meditation.

(Anyone, by the way, who doesn’t understand how the full scope of human literature through history is valuable to us in the present day is just not paying attention. Bacon, writing in the early 17th century, has presented us with a series of thoughts that have a direct bearing on our discussion of communications, technology and business in the early 21st. G-d I’m glad I got an English degree.)

So, the things which social media offer – conversational discourse, insight into readers, feeds, ability to customize, ease of use – these things have clear benefits, not just to the individual but to businesses and other organizations. They are also, I think, in harmony with who we are as a species. (Throughout history people have chosen more efficiency over less and interaction over solitude.)

But the question is, will social media remain a separate discipline, so to speak, or will it be absorbed into the greater body of communications tools, much in the same way that Imagism was absorbed into the greater body of European poetry. I think it will be absorbed. Already elements like feeds are starting to be found on everything from the online iteration of newspapers to search engine results. But I think Jeremy’s right. I think there’s a long way to go before we need to worry about that. I also think we should not presume. Because these technologies are proliferating with such speed, we are in the process not just of deciding what to use, but what to reject. And it’s really hard to say, before we have a large group of experimenters, what’s going to be sustained and what will be rejected.

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