Once upon a time, when I was about 8 months into my social media “stuff,” a pretty well-known person called me up and offered me a pretty neat chance at something. I was rather shocked, as you might imagine, and while I didn’t tell a whole lot of people, especially in the online world, I certainly was excited in my offline world. I mean, I was still a social media baby and this was happening. It was rather amazing. As time dragged on (and on) however, it became clear that things were not exactly going to come to fruition. In fact, after my last attempt to say, “Hey…what’s up?”I was basically given the “Don’t call me, I’ll call you” message. As if that wasn’t enough, this person used some of the ideas I had suggested afterwards. Ouch.
Now, for people in my offline world who think social media is kind of…skeevy….this did not come as much of a surprise. “These people build their careers based on pretty much nothing,” I was told. “Also, you don’t really know them.”
All fair enough, of course, but I still believed that there were people in the online world who really did mean stuff that they said. So, I got myself into another situation, then another, where I watched people act one way in the online world and then a completely different way offline. People who tout themselves as great consultants missed meetings. I entered a contest to win a pretty well-known book, won, and never received the book from the author. After following up twice, I was again basically told, “Yeah…um, I’ll follow up with you, k?”
Sadly, I have gotten to the point where I find myself wondering if anyone in the online world actually understands or absorbs what they are saying in those 140 characters or what they are saying in those blog posts. The words are always right, but are the words understood by the author, not to mention the readers?
Book Smarts versus Street Smarts
There are a lot of people who study for 20 gazillion years in colleges and universities. They can quote any Shakespeare sonnet and can probably name you 17 chemistry equations in 5 seconds. However, they might not have any idea how to get places using the subway system. Similarly, there are people who might have dropped out of high school who manage to find a great deal of success based sheerly on what we might call street smarts or gut instinct. We differentiate between these two kinds of smarts. I’m thinking we might need to differentiate between “social media smart” and “people smart.”
Social Media Smart
What is social media smart? I would define it as being able to blog successfully, knowing how to navigate Twitter and Facebook, getting yourself on the speaker circuit and finding success there that then feeds back into your online success. In your public tweets and blog posts and Facebook updates, you know the right things to say to get yourself retweeted or “liked.” You know how the game works and you play it well. That takes skill.
People smart is pretty different. Just like a lot of “people stupid” things happen offline, a lot of “people smart” things happen offline, too. While breaking your word in one way or another is pretty darned “people stupid,” exceeding a person’s expectations in some way is rather smart. While quoting inspirational people can be social media smart, offering help or motivation to a person who needs it in real life is people smart. While retweeting a person may be social media smart, reaching out to a person who has been quiet lately is people smart.
How can you be “social media smart” but “people stupid?”
Ah, that’s the real question, isn’t it? In order to succeed in social media, you need to at least know enough to pay lip service to things like “give to get” and “it’s not about you.” To be people smart, you have to really understand what that means. Maybe the line is getting blurry for some people. For example, if a person tweets to you and says, “Hey, I found that offensive” and you just scoff or continue, that is being people stupid, even if it’s getting you a lot of social media attention. If a person goes quiet, social media smarts might indicate that that’s one less person to worry about or compete with. People smarts says, “I wonder if they’re okay.”
Are people getting so used to typing to unmoving avatars that we are forgetting that there are real people behind those screens? Do we forget that the person we betray in real life is that same person we’ve been talking to and friendly with for a year or three? Is Social Media simply a “revenge of the nerds” scenario where socially awkward people can game the system to win notoriety of some sort?
Is Social Media really that shallow and simple?
What do YOU think is going on here?
Image Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/142350