The Dangers of Distance: How to Get Grounded in Social Media

We are wired to learn more. From pre-school to grad school, we are trained to reach higher, dig deeper and get smarter and smarter until we become experts in our fields.

We are told that the journey is one of ascension — that pushing ourselves to mine gorgeous details and surrounding ourselves with like-minded peers is the intellectual Grail.

Such is the case within the discipline of social media, especially among the auteurs of Twitter for whom the Next Big Thing is already old news. They teach, they learn and they share, but they often look too far ahead and use the online echo chamber as the benchmark for broad change and adoption.

They – and I am guilty of this more often than I care to admit – believe they are in the lead and the “others” need to follow. They think the world thinks like they think, or at least should.

Don’t get me wrong — this is not arrogance. It’s not even ignorance.

The problem is distance.

Social media and communications people in general are so linked that they have become detached. In reaching higher they have grown further away from the very public they claim to understand so well.

Studies and surveys don’t help. If anything they foster this culture of distance, of segmenting those who “get it” from those who still (G-d forbid) watch television news, have AOL addresses or own a Motorola Razr phone.

The solution is simple: Stop reaching higher and, every so often, start over.

Every few months when I’m back in the Midwest, I make it a priority to visit a Wal-Mart. I go up to people and ask if they are on Twitter or Facebook. I ask how they get their news and if they’ve ever “liked” a brand or checked-in on Foursquare.

The answers are eye opening and refreshing. These are good people, smart people – but for them, there is no “social media,” no PR or marketing. They just want companies to be honest, news to be unbiased and privacy to be protected and respected.

These are the people we need to talk to (or “engage” with as the buzzword goes.) We need to stay close to them so we can learn. We need to connect with them so we can grow stronger as a culture. We need to close the distance before it becomes too severe.

The more grounded you are, the higher you can go.

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