“I am constrained to remind myself that life itself, and particularly life for the human species, is the ultimate value against which all else should be measured. Without people, technology means nothing. If the world’s problems are to be solved, it will be by human beings, not by the machines; the machines are only here to help us. Technology is an inevitable result of mankind’s propensity to evolve outside his body. The record on this score is impressive, but it is now time for the human race to begin again to direct attention to human beings and the social institutions that make this technology possible. By focusing our attention outward, we have been diverted from the real task of life: the understanding and mastery of life.”
Edward T. Hall
I find this quote from Edward T. Hall, made in the mid eighties to be fascinating and I wonder what he might make of the reality of social media, and it’s impact on our culture, communication, and overall sense of self. Something I tell clients and also when I do professional speaking about social media is that the only thing that has changed about networking and relating to people is the technology. Whether you’re talking with someone in person or tweeting them, you’re still communicating with that person and your words will have an effect, positive or negative on that person.
We need to remember, with social media, that it is not the technology that owns us, but rather it is we own the technology. Many people will tell you that social media is inevitable, that we can’t do with out it, and to some degree that is true, but what each person and business must also realize is that social media as a technology is ultimately meant to enhance our connection to each other and as such how we use it is something we have some measure of control over.
It is our social institutions, our social connections, our desire to communicate that makes social media powerful, not the technology itself. It is the desire of the customer to be heard and respected by a business, the desire of friends and family to reach across the distance and connect, and the desire of people to learn more about something they enjoy that makes social media so powerful.
I make that point, because that’s what people really need to understand about social media. It’s not an end to itself, but rather another means of enabling all of us to connect. We can preach the technology, but what we really need to illustrate is the connection that occurs and how that connection allows people to build and maintain genuine relationships.