Sometimes little ideas sit dormant until it’s time for them to awaken. Such an event happened this weekend while I was forced to endure an anti-Social Media diatribe. Although the target of the rant was Facebook, it could have been any New Media channel such as blogging, podcasting, online video, Twitter, Foursquare, or Google Wave. It’s not that I have a problem with critical views–heck, I have enough of my own–but I do have a problem with opinions that are prefaced with something like: “I don’t use Facebook, but…”
As I listened to the anti-Facebook rant, I remembered something from a college philosophy class: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.
Allegory of The Old Media Cave
The Allegory of the Cave is a mythical story about a group of people who are chained inside of a cave. Rather than being able to see directly outside, their vantage point only offers shadows that are cast onto the cave walls as things pass by the entrance. Limited to only moving silhouettes, cave-prisoners can only make assumptions about what is happening outside of the cave.
The story offers a perfect analogy for people with opinions about things that they’ve never tried. You know the type. They’ll tell you that they don’t like a particular food before trying it, will critique a book without reading it, or claim that they know how you feel without ever walking a mile in your shoes. And with regards to New Media, they’ll expound upon the value (or lack thereof) without ever participating in one of the channels.
Try Before You Cry
Whenever future clients ask me about using New Media for their business, I ask the following question, “Do you use the tools?” If they want to blog, I ask them to start reading some first. If they want to produce a podcast, I’ll make them subscribe to a few before forming an opinion. I dare them to spend one-hour per day for five-days using Twitter search. I push them to upload videos to YouTube, update their resume on LinkedIn, and to participate in at least two user forums.
Until people use the tools, they won’t be able to grasp the nuances of each channel. Until Old Media cave-dwellers actually peer outside, they’ll never be able to understand about the online relationships, camaraderie, and creative outlets that these channels offer to active participants.
Photo Credit: Pupil of Ganesha