Friday, 21 June 2013

The unsociability of social media

This week I attended a conference centred around 'Investigating the Future of Social Media'. It ran over two days (work commitments meant I stayed a day and a half) and I think there may have been workshops on a third day.

I'm not entirely sure on the level of experience in the room, think it most likely varied from completely unsure of social media to pretty savvy so the talks also varied to reflect this. There were some great presentations, in particular I thought the talk by Paul Kellenbach, Partner, Minter Ellison Lawyers, on the very real legal risks and possible pitfalls of wrongly applied social media was valuable. Case studies on what not to do are always a good idea. (If you want to know more I tweeted during the conference and can be found under #web3conf)

There were some ways in which the event could have been improved, such as having Wifi that actually worked, making the conference hashtag available prior to the morning of, providing delegates with the twitter handles of the speakers especially if you are encouraging them to tweet at the event, try not to run an hour over time, have power boards on hand to charge devices throughout the day and perhaps ask speakers to provide their presentation on a usb to avoid stuffing around with laptops between talks. Given it was a social media conference I was surprised there wasn't more people tweeting it. This made me think that perhaps those in attendance weren't entirely comfortable with social.

Afterwards it got me thinking, I've worked in digital now for about four years at three very different organisations but of all the people I know I'm possibly the most critical of its impact. The other week I was going through some of my parents old photos in an effort to clean out their garage and realised that if I ever have kids they won't ever do this. I stopped printing photographs about ten years ago, opting instead to burn the images to a disk or put them on a hard drive and while this is a great space saver alternative what will I leave behind once I'm gone? CDs and hard drives won't work forever so is there a piece of technology I can store my life's memories on that will work in the next 10 years? The next 30?

Some of the most treasured possessions my mother has are letters written between her mother and father (both deceased) which she has preserved and archived. I feel closer to my Pop, who passed away when I was only 5, by reading his letters. I don't remember him but seeing his handwriting makes me feel comfort around the loss somehow. I stopped writing letters the moment I hit High School. Historically, letters and photographs are how we learn about the past, they're great indicators for social history and give an insight into how people thought and lived. Tweets don't last forever and Facebook pages are easily deactivated so what imprint will this generation leave on the ones to come? Is it that we simply don't think it's necessary anymore or we don't care? What will we leave behind once we're gone?

If history teaches us anything it's that we should learn from our mistakes. How will coming generations learn of the mistakes this generation has made? Indeed, is social media one of them. I fully acknowledge it's attributes, I am able to stay in touch and up to date with all my friends overseas and the physical distance that was once felt is significantly reduced. But what wouldn't we know about our history if previous generations did not write or print photographs. If soldiers in World War I and II did not keep journals of what life was like, if they had not written home. Interestingly in cases of war there are still war photographers and war artists so it seems that in some cases we do recognise the importance of keeping a physical record. 

Anyway, these were just some of my thoughts after a day and a half of nothing but social media talk. I know there are a lot of people out there that don't agree with me and perhaps by continuing to work in the digital industry I'm doing nothing but adding and abetting but I don't think social media is the be all and end all, it does not control my life and I do not live through it, that at least is a comfort.  
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