A guest post from Jim Massey:
I made a comment on one of Martyn’s earlier Blogs about Social Media becoming the new “Town Square” and he has given me this opportunity to explain a bit more about what led me to feel this way, the implications for Martyn’s clients, and more importantly for those of you who aren’t yet!
I’m a great fan of Naomi Klein‘s books, one of the themes that she has developed from “No Logo” through “Shock Doctrine” is the privatisation of public spaces, where instead of having open or common places to meet, we now have shopping malls and coffee shops which are branded and controlled. These do not offer places to meet, socialise, discuss freely or become engaged in social and volunteer activity. (try putting up posters or having a meeting in a Shopping Mall without prior permission and vetting of the cause). I also think in the UK that local government spending cuts are reducing the availability and standard of community centres and a predominantly secular society has moved away from a lot of faith based activities.
Membership of local groups and associations is declining, from the Boy Scouts to Golf clubs, (though there is an increase in centrally organised bodies, where you can log in and register for a cause rather than physically join. e.g. I give donations to MSF rather than get actively involved locally). This decline in social cohesion and group activity has been going on for many years and has been blamed on television, computer games, home computing/internet etc. I even found a reference back to the beginning of the 19th century where people were concerned that the mass availability of printed novels meant the youth of that period were too busy staying inside reading books rather than going out and getting involved in things like defeating Napoleon!
So what does this all mean? Social cohesion is just as common place today as it has been in the past, it is just changing its nature as technology has enabled us to interact and do business in different ways, railways, penny post, telegraphs, telephones, radio, television, internet and now social media. The game has changed, social media has become where we meet, where we exchange ideas, where we discuss things, where we bind as communities, where we do business…. its bigger than just “word of mouth”.
So if you are not there, in the new town square, involved in these communities then you are missing out completely; if you are there but don’t fit in, you could be actively damaging your image, which is worse; and if you are new in town and don’t have a friendly guide to help you, you could get lost very easily.