No social in communities?

Tonight after a great class (I’m course assistant for Creativity, Madmen, Geniuses and Harvard Students at the Extension school), I learned about a professor who teaches a psych course–at a different Boston college–about communities and networks. He is apparently a total Luddite and wants nothing to do with social media and doesn’t consider it important in his classes.

I was shocked.

Now, I can understand that there is a particular psychology when it comes to how people interact and build communities in person. But, in my opinion, to ignore the impact that social media has on communities is pure folly in this day and age.

For example, I’m going to Social Media Breakfast Boston #24 tomorrow. While I haven’t been to these in recent months, I am confident that I’ll know who several of the individuals attending are before I get there simply because I follow them online. I may recognize their face from their profile photo or I may recognize the Twitter handle on their nametag. Regardless, it gives me an instant discussion opening to be able to say “I follow you” or to have someone say the same words back. Even better if I can talk about something that they have recently posted and have an opinion. In my mind it makes the interactions richer. Additionally, the touchpoint with the one I newly met will possibly go far beyond the initial in-person visit.

Quite simply, social media has changed the very nature of these in-person communities. The way you interact with people is different. Discussions begin beforehand and may continue afterward. The psychology of how people react to you is very different. People may have a preconceived idea of who you are before they ever talk to you and it may color the entire meeting.

Photo by Flickr user jbuhler

I felt sorry for the students who may have to take the man’s class. How frustrating it must be to not be able to explore the impact that social networks are changing in-person communities, or to be able to partake in research about how the psychology of interaction has changed. Or, to discover how cognitive thinking differs when working with people in person vs. collaborating online.

There are very few people in my life now that don’t partake in some online social community. For the most part, the only ones I can think of are my in-laws who don’t own a mobile phone or a computer. Their communities are the same as they have been for years. They meet up with their bocce and bowling teams every week with friends.  And yet…now their friends talk about photos their kids posted online or the last online Scrabble game they played with each other.

It’s all changed. Even those old-fashioned communities are colored by social media.

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  • Ruthslotnick

    Given the brevity of our discussion on the said topic, you hit the nail right on the head my friend. Send me those links! And I love the picture above of the old folks on Los Rambles tossing balls.