When I first got onboard social media in a serious way, back in November of 2008, I thought the expression “social media” was stupid.
Media, in this sense of the word, are always, by definition, social, if by “social” you mean something like “involving more than one person.” To transmit information, at least two people need to be involved. Indeed, in the age of mass media, information often flows from some people to many people and, for awhile there, to almost all people.
Clearly, like assless chaps, social media is a redundant expression.
Or so I thought.
As a matter of fact, the expression “assless chaps” refers to a particular use of chaps — that is, when chaps are worn over clothing that have no ass and, generally, for fetish purposes. Yes, all chaps are assless but only some chaps are worn with no pants for the purposes of sexual titillation.
As more and more people embrace the expression “digital media” rather than “social media,” as more and more people use these online tools to broadcast to already existing and familiar audiences, and after finally consulting a dictionary, I’m reminded that there are important and relevant meanings associated with the word “social” that are usefully added to the word “media.”
Yes, all online tools are digital but not all uses of those tools are social.
Newspapers, once upon a time, were social. TV too. Publishing houses, academic presses, theaters, and universities. Yes, they were all social and, at some point, the social dimension was abandoned. Arguably, the people who controlled these tools even started using them in an asocial fashion.
Social media isn’t killing old media. The people who control old media are killing old media because they forgot something our ancestors understood and acted on every time a fire was lit to draw a crowd.
The real power of these tools — old or digital — is to create, organize, and inspire new and unexpected community. If you can’t do that, if you can’t attract new people, new ideas, new directions, you’re community is already dying.
Online digital tools can help you avoid this slow death, but only if you’re ready to use them socially.