Once upon a time, there was a great civilization that we now know as the Anasazi. Sadly, this name, in the Navajo language, means “Ancient Enemy,” so that’s not a great way to be remembered. Regardless, this civilization, which flourished in the 1200s BC, was a magnificently rich and interesting culture. They were great basket weavers, they were great architects, and it seems they had a complex religion and society.
All well and good, certainly. There have been lots of great civilizations over the course of human history. But the really interesting thing about the Anasazi is that it seems they one day just decided to up and leave their high cliff dwellings and their busy cities, which were located at the “Four Corners” area of the US, where Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico touch. This isn’t like the Incas, who were killed off by Spanish conquistadors. Although there is some evidence of violence and warfare, it doesn’t seem like the Anasazi were necessarily booted out of their city. They just up and left.
Now why would they do that?
Answers to the mystery
The explanation as to what happened to the Anasazi has been haunting archaeologists for centuries. This 2008 article from the New York Times summarizes a lot of the hypotheses that are out there. There was a big drought. There was a “Little Ice Age.” Maybe the soil got worn out from too much farming. Maybe all of those things combined with pressure from other societies made the Anasazi decide to move. Of course, unless archaeologists find an ancient note left behind explaining what the deal was, this will likely forever remain one of those unsolvable riddles.
Are you inexplicably abandoning your social media communities?
Now, let’s fast forward a few millennia or so to the modern day. People are building communities not out of cliffs but out of little pieces of the digital world. Some of these communities may exist on a person’s blog site. Some people build really solid Twitter communities. Some people try to build their community across all platforms they find themselves on. People put a lot of time into these communities. Think about a blog site. You design it. You slave over what your homepage will look like. Will you have black font against a light background or will you reverse out and have light copy against a dark background? What commenting system will you use? How will you entice people to share your content? Lots of questions. Lots of complex relationship-building with the people who visit you.
And yet, if you scan the web, you come upon a lot of Twitter accounts, a lot of blog sites, that are just randomly abandoned. Sometimes it seems like the person was going at a pretty good pace, posting 2-3 times a week (or more) on their site or tweeting pretty darned regularly, and then *BOOM* all of a sudden there’s just nothing.
What happened to them? Archaeologists of the future may have just as much of a hard time figuring this one out.
How can you avoid the Anasazi fate?
We all, I think, come upon times where we sort of would like our blog sites to die. These guys are so demanding! We all, I think, long for the days when we weren’t so “plugged in.” It’s tempting sometimes to think, “Well heck. I’m just going to abandon all of this and do something else.” The problem is that if you are using social media for business purposes, those abandoned sites can raise eyebrows in addition to questions. Is your company still around? Are you still with that company? Why did you stop? Were you not getting a good enough response? Did your business really pick up?
If archaeologists are right, the Anasazi did what they did because of two primary factors – their resources got depleted and they got pressured by other people. Those same exact problems can cause you to abandon your online outposts. So how can we tackle and prevent those problems?
Before you create extravagant plans for your online existence, whether for you or for the company you work for, make sure you have people who can do all of the “stuff.” Make sure there is enough time so that nobody feels overwhelmed. Make sure there is a plan so that you know when your resources are getting depleted versus when you are in really good shape. Make sure the online climate, which changes as much as the real one, it seems, doesn’t make you sway to and fro. Have a mission, plan for it, and then stick to it.
Ignore the pressure and keep your eyes on the prize
As for the pressure from other folks part, as hard as it is, you have to learn how to let that go and do your own thing. Keep making those beautiful baskets.Keep building your cliff dwellings. Keep doing what you want to do. There will be people who embarrass you because they are so complimentary. There will be people who will try to tear you down. There will be people who seem to be immovably indifferent to you. Carry on. Easier said than done, but don’t let those external pressures inspire you to abandon your network. That’s a bad trade.
Don’t be like the Anasazi. Don’t melt into the ether of the online world, leaving evidence of your presence for other people to figure out. Stick around. Keep building. Hang in there.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/trevorvangorp/49857496/ via Creative Commons