We live in a day when anyone can have their own broadcasting platform. Everyone is a star with a fan base. The armchair critic has an electronic megaphone, as does every trumpeter of a cause, every social activist, sports enthusiast and writer. Artists have online galleries. Every Christian has a pulpit. Even babies and children are at risk of infamy. It seems every aspect on earth has been brought to this one focal point: social media.
On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the commoner, the mega star, the politician, the rich, the poor, the entrepreneur and the scammer are on level playing field. People, with something to say, or sell, are no longer at the mercy of sponsors, publishers or advertisers. A musician doesn’t have to wait for a big break to become known. One viral video makes you an overnight celebrity. And many times it is by accident. Remember the older couple who unintentionally recorded themselves as they were learning to navigate their laptop? They were cute, weren’t they? In addition, even animals can have their own stardom.
Some have abused the tool. Some with good intentions misuse it. I have. Some promote fear, hate, and control. Many have a personal agenda. Some enjoy broadcasting items that uplift, educate and inspire…me. Some just utilize for casual personal use and hobby. In fact, some think it should only be used for personal interest, “Keep your political and spiritual thoughts to yourself,”, they say.
It has taken a while for the populous to learn about, and adapt to, this new reality of world connectedness. Every institution has been affected and must adjust to survive and thrive in the new climate. How does a higher learning facility with a large physical campus stay relevant in the wake of so many online options? Banks, industry….retail has probably been the most affected. It affects our political climate. Even churches are staining under the shift. And we all know that customer service has taken a dive.
As a practicality, I have all my news, interests, work and personal together on my FB page so that I can get it all in one shot! This works great for me; however, when posting from the same page, I often forget that I have a wider audience. After years of trying to categorize my audience, thru the precarious Facebook settings, I finally just set it all to public (there was a personal and spiritual reason for this). Any private correspondence with my close circle can be done in a different venue. Then again, in this age, what is privacy?
This emerging frontline of social networking has created a need for new etiquette and professional ethics. News outlets, with their drive to put out as much work as possible, have resorted to posting anything that gets attention. Some have at their social media helm, a staffer who forgets that they are not on their personal page, posting unprofessional or irrelevant articles. We still expect dependable, reliable and accurate reporting, but news outlets are not operating that way anymore. It seems most are driven by their own personal agenda. Ideologies are being delineated. Lines of thought are being refined and drawn tighter. A virtual Tower of Babel is being constructed, but that is the subject of another article. The old methods of acceptable hours to contact someone have gone by the way, as have established methods of greeting, inviting, RSVPing and thanking. Even serious business transactions take place on social media.
So what does all this mean? What is the big picture perspective and how does it apply to our everyday lives? Well, for us middle age and older Americans, life as we know it has changed forever. We forget that the younger generation has only known this version of reality. We may have failed to pass on our cherished ways and are now bemoaning our losses.
Look back at our grandparents. Mine were born at turn of 20th century. They barely had cars let alone super highways. This was the beginning, along with air flight and camera technology, of a dramatic and dynamic shift in the American panorama. A person born just after the turn of century would be around 100 years old at the time of this writing (2016). Think of what changes they have seen over their lifetime. I don’t know how the old ones are not walking around in a continuous shock and amazement at the modern technology. I know I am.
Do you think, back in that day, that some resisted that change? I know someone who wrote a thesis on the old western cowboys that failed to adapt to the advance of western settlement. How do you adjust from freely herding cattle across the continent to encountering barb wire, roads and towns? It isn’t just a job or lifestyle. It is a whole mindset, a completely different paradigm. The changes were enough to cause some to lose their minds. We sometimes forget that it is the same for us. We only see the subtle day to day changes without stopping to see how far we have come.
That is until that barbed wire slaps us in the face, as when we call our bank to get a simple, two second question answered, and instead, get a hold of a person halfway around the world that doesn’t understand or care what we need. (Why do these calls now take at least 30 minutes and end with me wanting to throw my phone through a plate glass window?!)
As with any social wave, many ignore, shun or even scoff the movement. I remember this happening when home telephone answering machines came out. To some, they were a rude insult, rather than simply a time saving tool. Even today, in the era of smart phones, some, at the frustration of family and associates who strive to connect with them, are still holding an iron grip to their flip phones, if they have them at all. The reality is that some people live for change, while some go kicking and screaming.
So much has changed just in the 20 years since my children were babies. Cell phones and email were virtually unknown. It required long distance phone charges to speak to far away family and friends. We had the heavy table top monitor and tower PC. Pictures had to be developed and mailed. Take a minute to contrast that to today’s continuous global connection. I have noticed that some of the 20-somethings are so burned out on this continuous contact that they just tune out, not responding to calls, texts or otherwise. Can you blame them? They have never known life without this. I cannot even wrap my head around that. I had corded phones and a handful of very child friendly local tv stations.
For us born in America in the 60s and earlier, these changes are exciting, but there are very dear aspects of our childhood, heritage and lifestyle that we have lost. They are gone and we are struggling with the weight of the losses. They come in the form of lost childhood innocence,safe neighborhoods, the sight and sound of children playing in the streets and yards, sense of safety, free enterprise, close family proximity, freedom of speech, customer loyalty, job security, honorable and loyal business dealings etc.
Friends, we are never going back. And I am not just referring to the internet and social media. All of the above is symptomatic of a drastic shift in life in America and worldwide. There are more adjustments to come. “The face of America is about to change.” Many are wondering, even worried, if the changes will be negative or positive. Well, the reality is both, but much of what we experience is dependent on us.
So, how do we approach this new frontier? Will we fade to irrelevance and indifference, not wanting to bother to learn and adapt, making do with the dated dinosaurs of our past? Are we afraid? Hoping we can hide away from the fray that threatens the security of our old identity? Will we be ignorant, so burdened by the everyday demand of the changes, that we are blind to the bigger picture? May I suggest that we be willing to jump in the game with both feet? Why not engage and embrace this new era? What choice do we have?
The best we can do is to first take a step back to grasp the big picture, to seek God for personal vision as to how we fit in to this new reality, look to understand how it will affect the thinking of our children and grandchildren and formulate a plan to wisely use this voice, this global access, to best affect our families and our communities for the next few generations. Then run with it.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016