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War on Social Media

A friend of mine at one of Iowa's largest employers commented that he spent a half hour with hisBlog information technology people trying to explain how Twitter can be a business tool, so that they would unblock it.

Beyond blocking most social networking sites (including YouTube) some schools are lobbying for legislation to ban cell phones.The city of Waukee recently passed a resolution to "take any action necessary to prohibit the use of its name in social networking platforms" even against a Facebook fan page that asks "why is Waukee a great place to live?" Record & film companies are reluctantly accepting YouTube and filesharing programs only after years of injuctions and litigation.

The stories above are the battlefields in a war against social media, an invasion of digital foreigners against digital natives. Just like in many wars, the natives are seen as unsophisticated and must be taught how to conform to the more powerful invader or risk the consequences. However, just like the Romans and Christians, the Islamists and Arabs, or the Europeans and New World tribes, the natives' culture eventually penetrates and influences the invader's culture.

This war in social media is as much ineffective as the War on drugs, poverty or terrorism, except this war lacks the nobility of cause the others have. Rather than embrace the technology, resources are wasted on this attack, only for it to be eventually embraced. It is attacked because it's not part of the norm or it challenges the known and comfortable, it accelerates the natural order of evolution. So at the expense of  someone else's comfort, the medium and tools that a younger generation uses are stifled. Lame attempts to create alternatives are instead established and time passes by.

There was a time when television was the target, VCRs were taboo, and calculators were another item in the cross hairs. Look at the schools that today still use overhead projectors and PA systems; businesses that still use faxes and blast memos through couriers; cities that cycling through PowerPoint slides on their cable access stations and believe people still read their community tabloid. How much better would things be if these schools used cell phones to teach their students, businesses used Twitter to be more efficient and cities used Facebook to build and enhance community with their citizenry.

Many of these same institutions will say they do indeed embrace these things, but...insert excuse here. These institutions error toward the side of caution rather than intrigue and are quick to stop them before they seek to learn their full positive effects.

This war will continue until digital natives are given an opportunity to have equal level dialogue with the foreigners in places where decisions are made. While many of the natives are young professionals and many of the digital foreigners are of older generations there are peers in each demographic that can help negotiate the peace process.


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» The city that shall not be named between Adel and West Des Moines from Roth & Company, P.C.
From Isaiah McGee at IowaBiz.com: The city of Waukee recently passed a resolution to "take any action necessary to prohibit... [Read More]


Hi Isaiha,

It's Anne from New Jersey. A friend from Iowa sent me the link to your post. So there it is, an illustration of the power and good that can come of social media. I might not have stumbled upon your post on my own - and most likely never would in the non-virtual world. We have these experiences every day, meeting, sharing, learning and building relationships all over the world through social media.

To continue with your metaphor, I guess if Columbus was't a curious guy, didn't have the stick-to-it-iveness required to convince the older generation (i.e., the folks with the funding) that it would be worthwhle giving it a shot, or the willingness to experiment, he might never have left home.

There certainly are a lot of challenges that come along with social media - transparency, openess, willingness to take a risk that someone will disagree with you, security and so forth. We work with organizations to help them create a Web 2.0-Friendly Culture, kind of like the one you describe in your post.

I agree with you; the tide has shifted but not everyone has decided to get in the water.

Anne from NJ (www.leadersintheknow.info)

I agree with you on most of this. I need to be convinced that students' cell phones in schools are a good thing. I know how my kids have used theirs and blocked out face-to-face communication (until gently reminded). Now, the point of removing a city's name from social media? Wow. That is sooo 17th Century.
You're a great thinker and writer. I enjoy reading your work.

Doug let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, if students are overusing a tool, then, as you put it, they should be gently taught how to do things in moderation. the end goal must be in mind, couldn't allowing access to text messaging for instance, be a less intrusive way for the school to communicate with students or discretely quiz for understanding?

It depends on whether the text communication is meant to augment or replace. From my experience with teenagers, they will do everything they can to replace standard communication with more modern and impersonal communication to a broader group. If the schools have definite rules and abide by them, then it could work.

Great post, Isaiah.

The Waukee decision doesn't surprise me and is characteristic of society's general distrust of things they don't know or understand.

I have a friend who worked for IBM for a long time and told me they once did a study that every major technical evolution (desk phones, PCs, internet, cell phones, etc) tends to be distrusted and discouraged by the business for X amount of time until they realize the benefits of the technology to the business - when they whole-heartedly embrace it (can you imagine an office without the Internet, now?).

People will use social media to discuss the City of Waukee whether they like it or not. I think, in time, they'll come to the realization that it's better to embrace the discussion and participate it rather than have it take place unfettered and underground.

Wow, all the tax dollars at work fighting the name recognition battle in Waukee. Who knew?

I work for the same, or similar size, large company in Des Moines as your friend and have hit my head as hard against the wall as that person has. Lawyers, Marketing, and Compliance are the reasons why we cannot open up our exposure to social media while at work. It seems there is a risk of something being said that was not approved, through numerous channels and weeks, by the 'powers that be' and that something could go against the corporate agenda. I am as much a company person as the next guy, but it is about time they understand that opening up control of the corporate message will open up the conversations with their customers and work to cultivate more opportunities in the future.

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