Sunday, January 17, 2010

Social Media - Y U B H8n?

You Tube, Twitter, many new online applications have been developed to help turn a scattered world into a cohesive population. But how are we to expect our peers to take full advantage of these when there is still such a rebellion against email in favor of snail mail and cell phones for land-lines?

We've all heard it.

"I got along just fine before cell phones were invented." or,

"If someone wants to reach me they can wait until I get home."

Well, that's fine if life as status quo is your preference. If you think your biggest risk is not being reachable in case of an emergency and you're okay with that, then you can disregard the rest of this blog. What these people don't get, the things they're missing out on are all of the millions of ways that the entire world is being offered to us, literally in the palm of our hand. There are many people who are put-off by the intensity of this information stream. I recently read an article by Peter John Lindberg in Travel and Leisure magazine, called "How Social Media is Changing Travel." It was very entertaining, I suggest you give it a look. In that article, Lindberg talks about the way technology is altering our vacations, saying (among other things) that it's robbing us of our serendipitous mistakes and spontaneity. I can see what he's trying to say, but think about all of the things that we're gaining. I, for one, missed my carefree and spontaneous years. I didn't travel at all during that time. Now, I'm a single mother of two young boys and I can't afford to be careless with my life or even with my time.

Take a look, for example, at the road trip I took with my boys (then 4 & 5) last summer. I would have been OUT OF MY MIND to attempt such a thing alone without the confidence of a constant connection. What if I had broken down on a deserted road? What if there were an emergency back home? What if Jack had an allergic reaction in the Painted Desert? That experience, the one that caused my boys to take interest in geography and helped us bond as a renegade group of explorers, would never have happened without my extra layer of protection in the form of an LG Versa.

Imagine if I had not had that phone. What would we have done when the van was overrun by ants and we needed to find a garden store that carried child-safe pesticide? Drive around LA for hours looking for a Home Depot while the ants climbed our legs? I don't think so! We looked it up on the phone and had Verizon's GPS take us right there. Problem fixed. Vacation saved.

What about my trip to China, in October '08? I was able to blog my experiences so that I didn't have to call multiple people (at $1.99/minute) to relay the same story over and over. I was also able to take advantage of Skype to see my children who I was over 5,000 miles away from for longer than I had ever been away from them before. Would I have gone on that trip if I didn't think I could be contacted in an instant if there was a problem with my babies? No way.

I use Dropbox to synchronize folders between home, work and school. I use Picasa to share photos of the boys with their grandparents. Google Calendar helps me keep several itineraries straight so I can share appointments with my mother and boyfriend. I watch TV on Hulu to save the $29.99 for cable and get my movies instantly online with Netflix. I keep up with friends via Facebook, sharing and learning things that I would have otherwise been unable to share due to lack of time. I tweet on Twitter (Twitter is a noun, not a verb) and...I blog.

Long story made a little shorter? The only reason I've been able to succeed on this chaotic, exciting path to improvement all by myself is because I'm never alone. Now, I challenge you to choose one application/technology that you've been avoiding and embrace it for a week. Then, let me know what you did and how it treated you!

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