For travellers visiting Europe in years gone by, one of the great means of moving around was by train using a Eurail train pass. This pass entitled the user to unlimited travel by train and was a popular way of travel for baby boomers (just like me!) visiting Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, especially before the advent of heavily discounted airfares between European cities. This fixed price pass continues today and is generally bought in the traveller’s home country prior to arrival in Europe.
The Eurail pass opened up many options and opportunities for seeing different countries and cities. Moreover, it provided the opportunity to experience a journey of exploration. Some journeys were a straight point-to-point experience, such as travelling direct from, say, Paris to Frankfurt. But the Eurail pass enabled travellers to truly explore and see places in a different sequence, or indeed to come back and visit a place multiple times. The Paris to Frankfurt trip could well meander via Strasbourg, Stuttgart, and Koblenz, and could also involve faster or slower regional trains along the way. This was very much about the journey. Yes, there was always a sense of destination, but the excitement was as much about the experience of the journey, the places visited, and the friends made along the way.
It brings to mind that quote from Robert Louis Stevenson “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
Social media as a journey
Similarly, I look at my experience with social media through the lens of a journey that has taken many twists and turns along the way and also involved some backtracking. It has been far from a straight-line experience. It has embraced major social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as broader activities, including blogs and chat rooms.
But social media is not just about the use of some neat technology. It is about real social change. In fifty years’ time, when writers are casting the spotlight on the period from, say, 2005 to 2014, I suspect they will highlight social media as one of the great social phenomena of the time. I expect they will draw attention to the social impact it made across the globe, across different languages, and across different social divides. This social change is about both the personal and business aspects of social media and how these are blending together in ways never thought possible just a few years ago.
Yet social media is still an evolving experience and is shaping and reshaping itself for both personal and business application. It has some way to go to come of age, although many believe that it will never come of age in the traditional sense. Rather, it will reach further levels of sophistication and use.
Think about the social change – not just the tools
In the mid-2000s, I was well aware of social media but did not really understand it. At the time, I must admit it seemed like a bit of huff and bluster. The younger generation seemed to be obsessed with their friends via Facebook, but friendship as I knew it hinged around personal contact and real conversation. These features seemed to be slipping out the door thanks to social media, and I found this somewhat discomforting. It seemed that very personal and direct means of contact and communications were under serious challenge, but with little to replace them other than a computer screen.
But one day someone said to me that we should be careful not to focus too much on the tools and instead look at the outcomes. Sometimes when we receive gratuitous advice, we can take it personally and feel some resentment. But on this occasion, something caused me to ponder the advice further and think about the real message. I thought long and hard about it and came to the realization that I had to lever open my mind to focus on what social media was doing and, more importantly, what it could do in the future. The tools were far less important compared to the underlying social change that was happening.
- Has your social media experience to date been a frustrating “toe in the water” or an enjoyable journey?
- Do you look forward to your next steps in social media with trepidation or as part of an interesting and fun journey?
The above is drawn from material contained in Matt English’s book Grasping Social Media available online at https://www.createspace.com/4678871