Keeping up with the Jones’s Status Updates

There were a couple of things that really stood out for me in chapter 3 of Socialnomics, by Erik Qualman.  First, email is dead, it just doesn’t know it yet.  And, second, if our friends have better status updates than us, we will get off the coach and run a 5k just to one-up them.

First let’s start with the horse-and-buggy that email has become.  Qualman provides the following quote from a director of Apple iTunes . . .

At Apple, we generally hire early adopters.  That being said, I was still blown away when we recently hired a 22-year-old and he had literally never sent an e-mail.  Via his iPhone he had always communicated with his friends either by instant messenger, text, phone call, or comments within Facebook.  I believe he is not alone and this is a trend we will continue to see with the next generation. (p. 47)

I’m almost twice as old as this kid–so maybe it is because I’m old–but I still use email at work all the time.  That said, when I think about my life outside of work, I’m not that much different than Apple-boy.  I text my family and friends, or post to their FB page, and I send private messages to their FB page if it needs to be private.  So, I can kind of see how a young person today could get through life without email, but what about work?   I think maybe work needs the formal structure the email provides.  If not, what is holding back the spread of social media inside of companies.  I bet that 22-year-old learned how to use email after he got hired.

The second phenomenon that Qualman described was about how constantly commenting (and reading others comments) on life causes us to live more meaningful lives.  He describes the case of an 83 year old man named Bill Tily who consciously examines all of his status posts (p. 51).  Then when he finds that he is wasting his time, he redirects himself to do more fulfilling activities.

I’ve thought about this myself, though not to the same degree as Bill.  More commonly, I see that my friends are doing something cool while I’m watching Wipe Out and I take stock and try to make some changes.  I’ll be honest, I have a couple of friends that are hard-core athletes: one runs triathlons and the other travels the planet riding in and writing about bike races.  While I admire their drive, I often find their posts incredibly annoying.  Things like, “Just completed a seven-mile run to 7-Eleven for a bottle of YooHoo”  or, “Sipping wine in Tuscany after a long ride.”   It just makes my life seem kinda dull.

But again, it does somehow motivate me to ask myself if I’m really making the most of my life.  Wasn’t it Socrates that said that, “The unexamined life is not worth living” ?   Could social media really be what causes us to shut off Farmville and live better lives?

Posted on September 23, 2012, in Social Media, Uncategorized, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I agree with your point that Apple-boy probably became acquainted with email right directly after his hire. That said, it is interesting that even you and I can relate to limited email use outside of a work setting. That is a pretty big change in my opinion. I hadn’t previously noted that, yeah, the email use IS shifting. Emails seem to sit and not be responded to, similar to voicemail’s fairly recent decent. Do any of us really want a a bunch of voicemails any longer? They are so time consuming. So is this the way emails really are headed? How does this function in a work setting though? Everything can’t be abbreviated to IMing and texting length… can it?

  2. I never thought about social media as being a motivational tool! However, I suppose it could work. If I realize all my friends are out doing “cool” stuff, I may want to go do it as well. Oppositely though, I may realize that all of my friends are just sitting around as well–will this cause me to continue to be lazy? Possibly so. When I was thinking about using social media as a method to record life events and then use it to analyze how productive we are–I wondered if we should record all the time we spend recording and analyzing our lives? Is this considered productive? I have never thought about social media so much, and it is really interesting stuff to consider.

    • Good point, Paul! I think my next status update to FB will be, “Posting status update to FB instead of actually doing something you’d actually want to read about.”

  3. I had a similar reaction when reading about how antiquated email is becoming. In my personal life, I don’t use email as much as I used to. Most of my friends communicate via Facebook or text message. (In fact, I don’t even have email addresses for a lot of my friends—even close friends.) So I can see where it’s being phased out for other communication tools. I struggled with the assertion on the professional level, though. I send and receive a lot of emails at work every day. As of now, there’s no technology that could really take its place at work. Let’s face it, if there isn’t a tool that’s filling the need in a more efficient manner, email isn’t going anywhere. I have a hard time seeing email phased out of the office (or at least my office) for quite a long time.

  4. I agree with all of you, that I don’t really see email vanishing in the near future from our workplace. However, a small example out of my (work)life. Most of my work I am fortunate enough to do from home. My boss is super busy and gets I don’t know how many emails/day. So once in a while it is really frustrating to me, if I get stuck with a task to not be able, get up from my desk and walk over to her and just ask her real quick – if she got time. But no, here I sit at home, send her an email, don’t know if she is currently in a meeting or if I could even give her a call. What do you do? I don’t want to be annoying, but I really still would like to get a quick hint so that I can proceed. That’s all it takes most of the time. Ugh. So finally, I asked her if she would be fine with signing up on any IM account – just for that purpose. Fortunately (again) she was all for it and now we just log on to Skype and whenever there is a small something to get clarified we start chatting. Thanks to the red flag, that works awesome. Nobody gets annoyed, it’s easy, it’s quick. Loving it. But I also know that works so well because I am one of a few she is that way connected to.
    Emails still won’t vanish that fast from the work horizon in my opinion. The main reason to me is that you can reach many people at the same time via an email.

  5. Goodreads is the social network that causes me to compare my life (in reading) to others. My sisters are constantly sending updates about what they’ve read and what is waiting on their bookshelves. I just can’t keep up. Every now and then I try to make a good show of it by plowing through a novel or two so that I can send an update, but in doing so I neglect essays I’m supposed to grade or coursework for my degree. Grrrr. Then I snarl when I see their updates in my inbox. Is that what social networks are supposed to do?

  6. Socrates did say that, but I wouldn’t think he meant for you to compare yourself to others. Believe me, in the academic game [especially in grad school], I used to find myself constantly comparing myself to others I would meet at conferences…worrying about whether I was posting enough to my research blog, publishing enough, or networking with the right people. But, even though I won’t feel the pressure is off until I get tenure, I do know there’s only so much I can do in one day AND that I really enjoy time offline too!

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