And say, children - what does it all mean?

It's always interesting to read about SXSW , go to mixers/events in San Francisco, and listen to the people talk.

And, then go outside and walk around the City, and look at the graffiti that's creeping into my neighborhood, and see the homeless people on the streets.

This came to me last week, when I was walking to Supernova Mixer, and listening to Jeremiah Owyang speak on social networks. As usual, Jeremiah had a great presentation and interesting points.

And, he engaged the audience and had them interact on what people think the future is going to bring, and had good discourse and disagreement: is the Valley too male and old to think of what the kids are doing? How big is mobile going to be? What are the future aspects of social networks going to be? Is it air, as his colleague, Charlene Li says?

And, for us in technology and social media ... this is relatively important stuff. But, it also shows that the digital divide is probably worse in the Valley/Bay Area than other parts of the country when someone in the session says "No one shops at Walmart".

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No, just no one you know ... and you should expand your social universe to find out what real people are doing, or what they are like. An elitist position like that is the big difference between success and failure, IMO.

As we are entering a slow-down in the economy (or correction, or whatever you want to call it), it's a good idea to take a step back and see what the real world is doing, and how it is doing, and how will what we are talking about have a real impact on the real world. And, by the real world, I mean every day people that DO shop at Walmart. Or, the people that are worried about money to the point that they are sharing a meal when they go out to dinner, as I saw last week (and this was a middle-class looking older couple). Yes, I like to go to the mall and watch people - it's my own way to focus group, and see what people are doing / thinking / reacting. Plus, the fact that the mall isn't that busy says a lot also.

Now, we can all have fun in our world discussing the Sarah Lacy / Mark Zuckerberg interview at SXSW ... but it just doesn't matter.

Now, we can all have fun in our world discussing what is going on on Twitter, or what the latest app you gotta have is on TechCrunch, and what is launching and why it might be better than X or Y ... but it just doesn't matter.

What does matter? Well, to the general public, the fact that the Young and the Restless just celebrated its 1000th week win ... that is big news. And, well, as a PR person, I'd love to get a win like that and get a client's product on the show (product placement rocks).

What does matter? The work that people and groups like Beth Kanter, Britt Bravo, TechSoup / Netsquared, Geeks Doing Good, BlogHer (among a lot others) are doing - this is work that might have a larger affect on our world, and is admirable. Heck, even Facebook is pushing people to give blood because of the crisis in the US right now.

What does matter? Well, opening our eyes and seeing what is going on in the world, and not so much in our own bubble. And, no, I'm not talking about the presidential race (because, well, that sure is spun and not real), but the neighborhood or the city you live in.

And why should this matter? If we continue to live in our social media worlds, we might be leading in some technology way, but we are also in danger of missing what is happening in the rest of the world - the real world - that might have more of an affect on our products, our clients, our jobs than we want to admit.

Go outside and watch how real people interact with one another, not just how geeks/techies interact. Learn about how what we do in social media can and should have an impact on the digital divide, and if we are making the world a better place.

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14 comments

  1. "No one shops at Walmart".

    Sounds like Yogi Bera ... "No one goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

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  2. To continue Robert's quote theme, "Moderation in all things" is a good rule to live by. (http://tinyurl.com/3a7ubq)

    That said, everything does matter, depending on from where you are looking. Within our professions, trends and incidents in social media, as well as the broader marketing view are important.

    In life and living, not so much.

    Professionally, I did more good for society during my 4+ years as a newspaper reporter (such as series on SIDS and adults sexually abused as children) than I've done in 13+ yrs in PR and communications.

    If we simply keep perspective on what's important from various vantage points, we'll be okay.
    -Mike

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  3. I follow quite a few "coastals" in my RSS reader. And of all those in the NYC-Valley-Boston triangle, I know of only ONE who has stepped foot in a Walmart. He actually brags about going on the road, because he can load up on cheap jeans.

    Those who live in the bubble are less able to recognize its existence - and the most prone to damage when that bubble pops.

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  4. I like what Michael has to say: "If we simply keep perspective..."

    There is such an abundance of information coming at us from all directions that it becomes more and more difficult to sort the wheat from the chafe (to use an earthy metaphor). Figuring out what is important to YOU and when it’s important…that’s where the "real" world needs to fade a bit into the background in lieu of self-focus.

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  5. Nice job Jeremy. Important words. Let's hope rational thinking catches on.

    - Amanda

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  6. Just FYI the reason those "middle aged" people were sharing a meal is everything is served "super-sized" these days, our generation has to cut back on consumption SIZE and we think it's wasteful to leave half the food on the plate, so we un-guilt about that by sharing!

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  7. @okiej - I watched them for about 15 minutes. They shared a three-item meal at Panda Express, with one drink - but first walked around the food for 10 minutes, and talked to each other and looked at their cash-on-hand.

    It isn't some portion conspiracy. They shared for economics, as far as I could tell.

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  8. Is it no one you know that shops at Wal-mart or no one who will admit it?

    I live in a gentrifying neighborhood, and when we got hit by a flooded creek swollen with construction dirt a couple of years ago, we used my blog to fight the county, who was trying to bury us and deny culpability. That blog effort resulted in the Washington Post picking up the story, and helped with a law firm taking our case pro-bono. We go to trial this spring.

    I know there are exceptions to the rule. And maybe this is one of them, but I also see non-profits using social media for great good, too. It's something we as the social media community need to embrace more.

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  9. What a thoughtful piece - beautifully done.

    I have to remind myself periodically that I live in a world where only one person in five has a college degree - yet ALL of my friends do. As a marketing consultant and researcher, how "in touch" can I be?

    I need to work every day to focus upon the things that DO matter, and to help be sure my clients do not lose tough with their population of customers.

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  10. Food for thought, Jeremy. Thank you.

    I shop at WalMart *and* I shop at an even more "blog PR scandalous" place: Target.

    We all need to get a grip.

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  11. Wonderful post. As a midwest-born SF transplant (working in tech PR, no less), of course I find myself caught up in the so-called bubble, the mindset that social media is the end-all-be-all but you're right: at the end of the day, what matters is how we interact with the real world and how we treat each other. Thank you for taking a step back to reflect on reality. :)

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  12. "what does it all mean?"

    That social media can't help the world in favor of the poor.

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  13. I'm 100% with you on this.

    1/3 of paperbacks sold are romances. How many marketing/pr/social media execs have ever picked one up?

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  14. Puts some perspective on the social media bubble. It was great to see so many non-profits and associations (and you) at BlogPotomac. I'd challenge the social media superstars to take a step back and find a non-profit who needs your expertise. It will be agonizing and frustrating and at the end of the day...more rewarding than you can imagine.

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