Many years ago, I could almost forgive people for not being as heavily into email as I was. Email was somewhat new. It was a bit technical to use. Sure, people who opted out using email made my life a little more difficult. They made it harder to coordinate group activities like parties, snacks for the Little League team, etc . You always had to make sure you called certain people on the phone to make sure they were in the loop and such. Still, you knew that not everyone “got” email. These days are long gone, though. Today, someone who doesn’t use email is akin to someone who doesn’t know how to dial a telephone. Email is now a basic life-skill — a basic tool in organizing our lives and coordinating and communicating with others.
Does this sounds familiar? It should. Social media — like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more — is now no longer something you can ignore. Opting out of social media is no longer an option unless you wish to ignore one of the most important career and life-enhancing tools available today. Sure, you can get by without social media, but ignore it and you are making a decision to stop progressing in your career. If you do not engage in social media, you will see your work peers and your family progressing far beyond you as they use these tools in enhance their lives. You won’t just be standing in place. You won’t be maintaining the status quo. You will be falling behind at an ever growing rate.
It is a harsh world
Does this sound harsh? Yes, I agree that it sounds harsh and a bit unrealistic. Surely social media can’t be that important? It is just a fad, right? It is important to remember that the train was just as fad. The telegraph was just a fad — the phonograph — the telephone — the “taking picture” — the automobile — just a fad — until it became an integral part of our lives. The Internet — and social media as part of that — is much the same. It is a fad until the point where it ultimately and dramatically changes our lives. Surely we have learned by now that there comes a time when a new technology ceases to be a fad and becomes a fact of life. For social media, now is that time.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t control your usage of social media. You still get to decide when, where and whom you connect with. Opting out, though, is not an option. If you try, you will be punished. You will place yourself on the sidelines. You will be less informed and less available to opportunities. It would be liked opting out of using the telephone, radio, computer, television or other useful tool.
Of course, even with my plain speaking about social media and the effects that opting out can cause, I often get a lot of push back from people. “It’s dumb. The people on social media are stupid. it rots your mind. It wastes your time. it has no value.” Say what you like, I think that social media has proven its effectiveness for me and others. Do people use it for stupid things? Can they spend too much time there? Do they annoy other people? Sure, but then again, people do that in the face-to-face world, too. Why should social media be any different? These are issues with the human race in general, not specifically social media.
Over the years, I have tried to gently bring people along on this crazy journey that is technology, and specifically the Internet. I have tried to show them the value and usefulness of new media, podcasting and social media. We have now reached a time though when one must be blunt. I must be direct, because you, or someone you know, needs to hear this message. Opting out of social media is no longer an option if you want to build the career you deserve. While there can be a few issues with using social media, the benefits to be had far outweigh them. At my own age of 47, I know I have decades of my career ahead. I know that I cannot ignore the power of social media any more than you can. For one final, over-dramatic flourish, opting out is like the caveman opting out of this dangerous new technology called fire. After all, it was only a fad.