Ah I see; NOW I get it

Social media is not a development that I have grasped with enthusiasm.

In particular I view the folk who post things online that they wouldn’t dare utter face-to-face as an affront to evolution. And generally social media attracts mutants like the Moon attracts moths.

‘Why We Post’ an anthropological study led by Daniel Miller of University College London has just been published. It has changed my perspective.

Every time something new comes along in the field of communications – think trains, telegraph and the personal computer – sceptics and critics are to be found tut-tutting and wondering how it will all end. It won’t end, is the point. It will change, evolve, and so will the users. Including me.

Mostly I choose to communicate over morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner. And I like to do so when I think you have something I would like to hear or I have something I’d like to tell you. In a recent development, I now post here on LinkedIn.

Eventually, of course, we all adapt and even accept the new. If we do not, all the available evidence indicates that eventually we shall lose our foothold on the planet and die. Sooner or later the latest disruptive technology will arrive. Some of today’s social media users will reject it, of course, and become tomorrow’s sceptical critics in turn.

So what are the key points in the study?

First, what works in the UK doesn’t necessarily, for example, work in Brazil or China or Chile. And what works for teenagers doesn’t necessarily work for their parents. We’re fundamentally the same human beings and yet we all engage differently.

Second, social media does not make us less human. In fact, found Dr Miller, social media users are “…attaining something that was latent in human beings.”

That latency is our desire to communicate – to engage in person-to-person to-and-fro over all sorts of areas: thoughts, knowledge, feelings and emotions – the human gravy that makes the dish of life more palatable. As The Economist put it: ‘The medium is the messengers.’

And that is what led William Huskisson MP, distinguished politician and previously President of the Board of Trade, to cross the new-fangled railway line to greet the Duke of Wellington. He was struck by Stephenson’s Rocket and died. He should have heeded the warning to always look both ways before you get involved with new tech.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn on 8 March