So, one of my goals for this year is to read more books, articles, etc. within my areas of professional interests such as social media, LGBT issues, and higher education. So to kick it off, I decided to start with the book Writing on the Wall: Social Media The First 2,000 Years, by Tom Standage, a digital editor for The Economist. I’m only about half way through but I’m really hooked. However, while the chapters are really interesting, for me its the general concept of the book itself, that has me really re-evaluating social media, or at least how I relate it to society and it’s role.
The basic premise of the book is that the concept of social media is as old as language. It’s just the platform that is taking our society by storm at the moment. Now sit and think on that.
(PAUSE FOR DRAMATIC THOUGHT PROCESSING)
From the first moment we were able to communicate we were “friending”, “liking”, and sharing information between each other. In the early days of language we communicated orally. We shared personal stories and ones we had heard from friends and neighbors. We retold these stories verbally and committed them to memory so that we could retell them another time.
Then as the written form of language began, the Romans took to heart this new platform of sharing information. They would “share” letters they felt were key to the Roman social structure or politics and, according to Standage, would copy and forward these key letters to each other with their own commentary.
Perhaps you had already had this perspective, but if you’re like me, this really put social media into a whole new perspective. Social media is not new. The only new thing is the platform we utilize and perhaps the speed of the communication. The desire to share, like, network and communicate are all the same, just like back in the early years of language.
We focus so much on how to utilize these platforms that we are missing an opportunity to teach our students the other ends of social media such as why it came about, it’s history (beyond the digital platforms) and how to effectively use it to communicate and express themselves within this context of old habit, new platform.
Standage’s book is excellently written and I can’t wait to finish it, but I thought I’d share a new perspective I have for social media and how to better teach and work with students and colleagues within its parameters.
Until next time!
Peace, Love and Pandas!
Standage, Tom. (2013). Writing on the Wall: Social Media The First 2,000 Years. New York, NY, Bloomsbury USA.