The other night I went to a party. There were probably about 40 people in and out of the place the whole night. Oddly, I knew only about 6 or 7 of them (unusual for this particular circle). We had lots of fun, the wine was flowing, the food was delicious, and our hostess with the mostest was gracious as always.

At one point, I stood back in the corner to observe the scene, as I often like to do at such minglings. Something very odd struck me. Not one person was reading their Blackberry. Not one person was checking their iPhone. Nobody had a Bluetooth headset sticking out of their ear. And there certainly wasn’t a MacBook to be found in the place.

Lately, I’ve been going to a lot of social gatherings with other techno-geeky types. At these types of parties, the technology flows as plentiful as the wine. People are texting, Twittering, taking digital photos and posting them to Flickr, and of course, laptops abound. It’s just part of our culture. We’d never do these things in mixed company  (well, most of us wouldn’t), but don’t consider it rude or antisocial when we’re around each other.

It’s not that the people at this party were not computer folk – quite the contrary. I met IT specialists, communications and PR people, and programmers. It’s just that they aren’t necessarily as IN to all this social media stuff as I am. As you might be.

As I struck up conversations with people and got around to the inevitable “what do you do?” part of the conversation, people were interested in what I do with Web and video. I mentioned some video podcast projects we are working on. Another friend mentioned a social media consulting gig I’m working on with her. I got a variety of reactions, from the “Hey cool, we need to talk” to the sort of blank stare, polite, “oh, that’s neat”.

It made me realize something really important, talking to all of these people. I’ve talked about the social media bubble here before. I firmly believe that we get so caught up in all this social media stuff that we forget that there is a vast portion of the population that has no idea what we are talking about. It’s not through any fault of their own – in fact, it’s probably partly OUR fault that they don’t know more about it, or care more about it.

Here’s a couple of interesting observations I made through the conversations I had that night:

Social Media Ain’t for Everyone. One group of people got to talking about Twitter that evening (at no prompting from me, I might add!). One of the members of the group said “Twitter? Yah I’ve heard of it. I have no use for something like that.” She made an interesting point. Social media isn’t for everyone. And because it isn’t for everyone, we still need multiple channels to talk to everyone. And that, my friends, is the reason why things like TV and newspaper aren’t really on death’s doorstep as much as people inside the bubble like to imagine them to be.

Social Media is Still a Mystery. Of the people I had conversations with about technology and communications, several of them were interested in finding out more about how all this stuff works. The truth is, a lot of people out there still only use the Web for email and to find company web sites, and MAYBE some online shopping. Heck, I talked to one person who still uses dial-up because she “wasn’t online enough to justify the cost of high speed”. Not online enough? Does that still happen? 😉 My point is, if you are IN to technology, then social networks and blogs and podcasting and Twittering and such is second nature. You can’t imagine life without it. Truth is, life DOES exist without these things. This online community stuff is still a mystery to a lot of people. Does it mean that we need to go out there and evangelize till we’re blue in the face, “converting” everyone we meet? (Grasshoppa, follow me…I will show you the ways of the Interwebz…)

Absolutely not.

What it DOES mean, is we need to have REAL conversations with people about the things that matter to them. Then, and only then, will we see if any of this social media stuff would be beneficial to helping them to meet their goals. If I go to a party and an insurance salesman comes up to me and starts to immediately sell me insurance that I don’t need, I’m not going to spend much time talking to him. Same holds true for me. If I walk up to everyone I know and start pimping social media as the must-have, be all and end all of existence, I’m not going to make a lot of friends.

Don’t ever assume that everyone is going to care about social media. Some may very well care, and if helping people with social media is part of your business, you’ll definitely want to find another time to connect with those people on that level. But the truth is, some may not really care at all. But that’s okay too. You can still be friends. Because there’s more to life than social media. And those “offline” friends you have just might help to open your eyes to some things you’ve never noticed from your cozy spot inside the bubble.

11 Responses

  1. Interesting observations Suze. I too, attended a party this weekend where no one was tweeting, talking on a cell or toting a laptop. It was a lovely, real life reminder that Twitter is a microcosm. Mostly though, the desire to tweet away a social evening really makes me wonder if the keyboard has become an addiction or even a device to hide behind. At the end of the day, none of us on Twitter really know much about one another – the real life interaction is always what seals the deal.

  2. Question for you … How many people went home and put pictures and conversed on Facebook after? Also how many emailed each other and copied other people? That is Social Media whether we like it or not. I think you are implying that technology wasn’t present all around so you automatically assume there aren’t Social Media implications. I (assumingly myself) would hazard a guess that Facebook was told about the party you attended.

    You must remember that Facebook is it in Canada. Twitter is the current anomoly that early adopters are playing with and attempting to grow grassroots.

    Just my $.02

    Gabe Boisvert’s last blog post..Facebook Advertising Information

  3. Interesting. I know quite a few people who are not down with the technology and there are others who are on every site that exists. I can talk to either group of people for hours and still feel like we connect. As humans we tend to talk about our passions and our interests. Being that most of us have varied interests Its not uncommon that some of us can relate to the techy and non-techy folks. I never quite heard it referred to as the bubble but I can see how it can be seen as a bubble. We get so into the technology that we sometimes cannot understand how people we consider to be our peers are on facebook or twitter. I like your point about the real interaction. I have learned that people will listen to someone who is genuinely interested in the things that matter to them. I don’t find it hard to resist talking about twitter or facebook or myspace to the friends I have who are not down with social media. I would never try to evangelise my friends who are not into it to get on board with it. Its not my nature. Great post.

  4. You’re right on target! For those of us who live and breathe social media, we can’t imagine life without it. But there is still a large segment of the population (particularly boomers and traditionalists) who aren’t adapting any time soon, if at all. We have to be able to engage people on multiple levels in order to be effective at communicating our message.

    Well said!

    Cheryl Smith’s last blog post..Add e-Troductions to Your Networking Mix

  5. As one that often lives inside that bubble I relate to this. Even going to a work functio the most I’ll see is folks talking on their phone.

    Funny that at local blogger gatherings that very few of them focus on sharing via social network. They fall back to their blogs to share later. Many of them still instant msg over twitter etc and also sms over soc net share.

    I think one of the reasons this is though is that many are not thinking of their blog as being ‘out there’ on the net. They also can’t fathom why they would want to open up and share stuff w/a total stranger.

    Next generation will likely be differnt.

  6. I am the complete opposite – most days I spend around people who don’t know Twitter, Podcasts and who wouldn’t know RSS is if it bit them. All my “friends” who know this stuff are online. I guess that is due to the fact that i am currently on mat leave, and living in the burbs. I love getting out to events where I can say the word “twitter” and not have someone say “huh” and when I explain I see their eyes glaze over….

  7. While I am most definitly keyed into social media and technology, I unplug once I leave my house. My cell phone is the only technology I utulize outside of my bubble. That being said, I am not busy enough with work, yet, to need all kinds of gadgets; I don’t even get the internet on my cell phone (gasp!) At this point, I have no problem interacting with people that don’t tweet. But I’m still new at it, so I will have to keep everything you’ve said in mind over the coming year.

    Jennifer Larson’s last blog post..Keying In To The Proper Keywords For Your Blog

  8. What always makes me laugh when I’m on Twitter is watching the Tweets from ppl at tech events like CES. All these updates coming in from their iPhone or Blackberry – um, aren;t you actually watching the flippin’ presentation?? 😉

    Every facet of social media is different to each person – you know my love of the medium, Suze, but I don’t use it all. I hate Digg, for instance (very cliquish) – but others swear by it.

    It’s how we use the medium that makes it worthwhile, and if we can show real-life instances and correlations on how social media can benefit someone (with very little effort on their behalf) then that’s when the mainstream will hit (IMO).

    Danny Brown’s last blog post..Conversation Is Good

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