It’s always entertaining when somebody of modest ability uses the example of a legend to illustrate a point about themselves. So that seems like a good place to start my first blog post.
Muhammad Ali reflected in the later years of his career on how much harder he had to work when preparing for a fight than when he was in his youth. Some things come to you easily when you are young and be it natural ability, fitness, speed or reactions what was once automatic and easy becomes deliberate and difficult.
I had the same experience this week when I attended a Manchester CIPD event with Ian Pettigrew of Kingfisher Coaching to talk about Social Media. I knew what the subject was ahead of time and felt pretty confident that it would be stuff I had head before – perhaps with a new twist – and perhaps the group could benefit from some of my own incisive observation and social (media) commentary.
What I actually learned is that the model of social media I had in my head is out of date – way out of date. I have never used Facebook but I’ve ‘done’ Twitter and LinkedIn and watched hours of YouTube. What Ian showed us though was a universe of social media most of which I had never heard of, what little I had heard of I had misunderstood and some of it, if I’m honest, I still don’t understand.
It wasn’t always like this. I’ve been technically minded for as long as I can remember. A computer user since the age of 6 (God Bless the Acorn Electron) I was programming at the age of 7 and online 10 years later. I was on the Internet when people used to complain not about slow broadband speeds but about the fact that “America had woken up” as the factor that slowed down your access to Lycos or Metacrawler. In the background I was becoming interested in Telnet, BBS systems and MUDs and accessing them on Linux and other UNIX systems (way before Apple saw the light and built OS X on a *nix system). I even went through a phase at university of wearing mirrored shades after reading too much William Gibson but the less said about that the better…
I think the thing that really changed it for me was Facebook – maybe the first of the great new Social Media monsters. For the first time the main face of the online world started to look unattractive – a place not for anonymous radicals but for social exhibitionists. Maybe it all looked too mainstream but there didn’t seem to be anything to get your teeth into. I did explore Twitter and LinkedIn and am active on both but there is something about ‘The Social Network’ in a broader sense that doesn’t quite work for me. I suppose it is for that reason that the evolution of ‘The Net’ and I started to go in different directions.
And in truth maybe we will go in different directions; I don’t buy the line that we are at different points on the same journey. I think there is something fascinating that might be about to happen in this area. It’s something to do with the fact that people are getting suspicious about Google, that BBM and ask.fm have an ‘under the radar’ chic that old school BBS guys would have been proud of. I think it’s got something to do with the resurgence in sales of vinyl records and the imminent death (please God) of the talent show obsession and ‘this week, somebody has to leave’ disease on TV. But maybe I’m straying into territory that deserves a blog post of it own.
Where this blog post ends is on a positive note. I need to do something positive to re-engage and to catch up with the social media juggernaut. It’s moving at pace, it has changed (almost) everything and it is certainly changing the world of work. It did take some reflecting after the CIPD event with Ian but as an HR practitioner I do need to understand it and what better way to do that than to start using it.
In the future I intend to post about the world of work and about the developing role of the HR function. As ever though, one thing leads to another so I will do my best to embrace that.