Category Archives: Web 2.0

Study: Students Less Empathic Than 10 Years Ago (pause from news feed to feel surprise)

Hey, if you want some news that shouldn’t really surprise anyone, head over to Scientific American and download their 60-second podcast proving that today’s college students are less empathic than past generations.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone because today’s students — of any age — spend so much of their time online, at arm’s length, where it’s perilously easy to judge.

I’ve been pretty clear how I feel about anonymous comments: they bring out people’s inner stupid.  And meanness. But it’s become more than that.

There’s a reflexive judgment that occurs when you can view someone’s life from afar.   You have no context, you have no consequences; no intimacy or extenuating circumstances.  It’s sooo easy to judge: simplest thing ever.  What’s more, it’s forgotten in a second.  You’re on to the next post.  Your timeline/newsfeed has updated!

Living shallowly amongst many, with few consequences, will fundamentally change who you are.  Sometimes that can be fine; and sometimes not.

Take Formspring.  And I thought TruthBox was bad?  (Oh — and you’re right, awkwardtruth.com is better).

At least Facebook is a “walled garden.”  Formspring  is more like the vacant lot that everybody cuts across.  Once you set up a profile, anyone can see it and ask you anything — anonymously if they so choose.  In theory, you must answer.

Here’s how open it is:  when I was trying to explain it to my colleagues, I told them they could look up my son — though they’re not friends with him in any social media sense.  They were incredulous:  “We can really look up some teenage kid we hardly know?”

Creepers.  But I replied, “oh, yes.  That is the Formspring way.”

As it happened, that day some idjit chose to inquire about my son’s anatomy.  Well, about one part.  That‘s what my colleagues read.  And, that‘s why their eyebrows were somewhere up beyond their hairlines.  Thankfully he had thus far declined any specifics.

(Note, I did suggest to son that since it’s well-nigh university visit time, he might want to delete those sorts of questions, otherwise he’d never really know what the admissions counselor was thinking during that all-important interview…)

You wonder why he sticks with it?  Because he also gets the “I think you’re cute/hot/funny” genre of posts.

But beyond the idiotic, it can get serious.  Stories are accumulating about cyberbullying, to the point of two suicides with alleged ties to Formspring in recent months.  It’s something to have on your radar.  And I can attest that this is not just media hype.    There are even business models springing up around this — ReputationDefender will monitor your online presence and clean up nasty postings and photos for a nominal fee.

True, there are other reasons to lose empathy.  We are more divided than we’ve ever been — you don’t even have to share news with people you don’t like; you can only listen to/read/watch sources you already agree with.  So there’s no uniting around one human cause, forget that.  Well not much.

And in America at least, though the recession has gutted many lives and lifestyles, we are still more comfortable and self-obsessed than in many places where teamwork is required to thrive.

Back to empathy.  Do you agree that digital communications and social media are contributing to this lack of empathy?  Why or why not?

Leave a comment

Filed under Ethics, Science, Social Media, Teenagers, Uncategorized, Web 2.0

On Social Media (PR) Douchebags Who Don’t Actually Do PR

It’s terrible to come out of blog hibernation with a post about not just social media, but social media PR of all things.  Jeebus, as my friend Sue would say.

But there are still waves of hype crashing around us, and riding those waves apparently are some people who call themselves Social Media PR Douchebags — I mean, Specialists.

Nothing wrong with social media PR, as long as there’s, you know — strategy and thoughtfulness driving the program.  But lately I’ve had more calls that go something like this:

“I’m hoping you and your Agency can help me.  You see, we thought we needed PR, and ________________ told us s/he could help, and that we didn’t really need PR at all, what we needed was SOCIAL MEDIA PR, and it sounded smart and kinda cool so …”

(At which point I nod or murmur sympathetically; like a bobby on a BBC detective show, I know where this is headed.)

“But what _______ mostly did is introduce us at some parties; and you know, it wasn’t all bad.  We were a TC50 finalist!  But afterwards?  We realized s/he didn’t know anyone else — any writers or editors outside that particular crowd.  And then it turned out there was no follow-up strategy at all.”

How did your launch go?  I ask.

“S/he told us not to bother with news, that it’s all relationships so we didn’t  need to do releases or launches except for a party.  But here’s the thing:  we are dead in the water.  No one really knows who we are anymore.  We need other influencers, and funding, and like three other audiences that we’re not reaching.  Can you help?”

I resist the urge to say, “Tsk tsk tsk.”   Instead I say, “Sure.”

(Note to haters:  There’s nothing wrong with “social PR.”  There’s a lot wrong with “social” that doesn’t have really smart PR thinking behind it; or that occurs in a vacuum, as if all you ever needed was Yelp, FB and Twitter to educate the world).

Lest you think this is a new phenomenon fueled by Twitter or Facebook?   This has been going on for a while.

In 2006, one of my clients was lured by a Personality (who very much recalls Eminem’s “It feels so empty without me!”)  The Personality convinced my client to fork over a chunk of our budget — even though we’d been doing really well for them.  He promised to Move the Needle for them in the New Field of Social Media, Which A Traditional Agency Couldn’t Hope to Understand.  (Except that, up til that point, he had been marketing himself as a traditional agency…)

But actually, it worked the other way around.  They helped move the needle for him.  He hadn’t had many clients, and they had new media and cloud computing cred.  He leveraged their coolness to get invited to parties, share buzzwords, state casually that old media was dead (very endearing in some circles), and formulate a bunch of tips and aphorisms, sharable and linkable in 140 characters or less.  Not bad, really.

They got… well, I don’t know what they got, but after a bit they asked us to take them back and they reinstated all our budget.  We still landed them in RWW and TC; but also in those weird little pubs that they needed to reach IT buyers; and the Merc.  And the Times.  And the Journal.

The Personality is still Going Strong.   If I were him, I’d think I was on the right track:  He has a new book out.  He goes to parties and speak at panels, he makes pronouncements which are widely re-tweeted without question.  It’s working for him, why wouldn’t it work for everyone else?

But then there are the people that are calling me and my Agency; burned, if not by him, by someone who wants to be him.

So here’s the thing, people:

If you want to launch a company or a service, call me.    We will talk about who your audience really is, and which media  or tribes– old, new, pubescent — you should be talking with to get to them.  Maybe it’s AdAge.  Maybe it’s TechCrunch or Mashable or TIME, or BusyMom or GreebleMonkey.  Or Parents.   Or AARP (hey, don’t snicker; that is one powerful publication).

We will help you figure out what mediums to use to reach them.  Yes, you probably need short video.  Yes, a social media press release is a good idea.   Yes, we’ll figure out a viral plan, and help you put in place a community with a platform like GetSatisfaction.com if you don’t already have one, or something more sophisticated if that’s what you need.

And maybe you should go to a party.  Maybe you should launch at an Event — sometimes there’s a perfect critical mass of the people you need to talk with attending.   But sometimes events just generate noise, and we have to figure out realistically whether that’s your best chance to be heard.  We can do that.  Together.

But parties alone?  That’s just for Social Media (PR) douchebags.  And most likely, the only person who’ll make money is … well, you know.

Leave a comment

Filed under Media, Media Relations, Social Media, Social Media PR, Uncategorized, Web 2.0

Old/New Media: Bring Out Your Dead!

Every week, I come across another blog comment where someone says they wish that old media would just hurry up and die already.

It’s not just that they know it should be dead.  It’s that often they seem to have limited vision of what would replace it.  It will be… social media!  New media! Unfiltered access to press releases, each with their own take on the news!  A thousand points of light!

That “old media is dead” is often intoned by someone who is surfing around, reading content that someone took time to link to — blogs, news sites, possibly even the online arm of some terrible dead old media — like BusinessWeek or the New York Times or WIRED or Rolling Stone — allows me to — well, write them off.  Or at least roll my eyes.

So this week, when I read that comment from another self-satisfied, snarky, there can-be-only-one-true-Ring/media/blog/whatever Clay or HeWhoMustNotBeNamedsays — but in this case, it was from a journalism student — it at least got my attention. *

In theory, J-school students are paying good money — as I once did — to learn the ethics, and laws, and standards, and tactics…

… of a dying profession.

Someone in J-school should be thinking about how to morph this field they’re entering.  How to do what they love, as the saying goes, so that the money — some money, at least — will follow. So having a J-School student eager to pronounce “old media” dead reminded me of that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

“Look ‘ere, ‘e says he’s not dead!”

“He will be soon.  He’s very ill.”

(man) “I’m getting better!  I don’t want to go on the cart!”

“Don’t be such a baby!… Look, isn’t there something you can do?”

(at which point the cart driver clocks the older man on the head, and he’s laid — now presumably dead — on the cart)

This student pointed out that in the age of Twitter, we no longer need “old media.”  By the time they get to the news, he pointed out, it’s old already.

Wow, he’s going to be some reporter, eh?  Can’t get anything by him.

I don’t want to sound all naggy, but there are some things the New York Times does better than nearly any organization on the planet.  And many other “old media” that do really damn good reporting.  Including broadcast.

Just because they need to figure out a new way to make money, doesn’t mean the reporting is dead or even wrong — just the vehicle.  Suppose every time a car died, we shot its owner?  Yeah, that’s stupid too.

Every day, I read fantastic blogs doing great reporting as well.  And by reporting, I don’t mean tweeting that there was an earthquake.  I’m on Twitter.  I know there was an earthquake.

I mean making me aware of aspects of the news I hadn’t thought of, because I don’t have access to it.  The New York Times and its ilk can open doors that you and I can’t open — and that should be opened.  Westword, my local “alternative newsweekly,” has been doing great reporting for 30 years.

On a completely different level, a local newspaper (or blog, if everyone in the community has a computer) unites a community in a way that niche  blogs or multi-media cannot.

So put away the Harry Potter books, okay?  This is not a situation where one kind of media must die  in order for the other to survive.   (See: he’s dead Jim!)

Old media does have to figure out something new.  Not just “let’s make them pay for content,” though that’s a start.  The first step in innovation is usually incremental; and the next step will be more radical.

* * *

Gordon Crovitz, Steven Brill and Leo Hindery aligned last week behind a pay-wall.  Don’t know whether you’d pay for Gordon Crovitz?  Maybe you’d pay for others.  I probably would.  And the AP building its own aggregator?  They’re totally onto something: stop AP content and, in this magical world of downsizing that is contemporary journalism, you have just choked off 1/3 of most American news — papers and sites– at least.

Whatever we come up with, we’ll need the old media, new media, social media — and probably something that hasn’t even been labeled yet — plus  our brand new J-school peeps to deliver this excellent new model.

Something hopefully more imaginative than clonking old media over the head and throwing it on the cart.

3 Comments

Filed under Media, saving newspapers, Uncategorized, Web 2.0

FREE (from consequence) — or, Truth Box, My *!%?!

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. ”  Oscar Wilde

That’s the idea behind the Truth Box on MySpace. With anonymity, comes truth:  members can post to your “Truth Box” anonymously.  In theory, they can say they have a crush on you; or that they like your taste in music.

In practice, it’s more like the coward’s box.

In the same way that radio first gave away music without penalty to lure listeners and buyers, and that search engines and outlets gave away premium content without penalty to lure readers, we gave away the consequences of standing behind one’s opinion… without penalty.

Or in other words, in hopes of keeping readers glued — and returning — to web pages, we gave people the gift of saying things they would never ever have the cojones to say in person.

I bring it up because in one week I saw anonymous comments posted in a Truth Box that were made to wound, Iag0-like, without consequence; and anonymous comments posted on a news story about Detroit Public Schools that, had they been uttered in public would have possibly gotten the poster fired, put in jail or at the very least charged with racist hate speech.

Then I saw a review of a great little restaurant on Yelp; the review was so bad, I wondered: could it have been put there by a competitor?  But there was no way to know.

Oh sure, anonymity and the Dark Side of the Web are old discussions.  I tell my kids:  “don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.”  Right.  (In the case of the “Truth Box,” it wasn’t that hard to figure out it was put there by a girl who was mad at my daughter.  Confronted with it, she admitted it; but she looked like an idjit in the process.)

But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if anonymity is the same gambit as “free music” or “free content” — with a similar tangle coming down the road.  Even though we sense there are inherent issues (um, child stalkers, hate speech, short sellers, just to name a few of the more tangible ones), it’s a trade someone is willing to make — because someone will make money from it.

Print newspapers and magazines have discovered to their peril that giving away content without penalty for using it backfired — content was expensive to produce, cheap and easy to take.   Musicians, writers and artists are still figuring out how to manage content on the Internet, with many of the same issues.

And in the meantime, We the People expect to take what we want, listen to what we want, and say what we want, when we feel like it — without penalty.  In fact, a recent case just protected anonymous comments from libel charges (it’s under appeal).

Websites like Fairshare track your content across the Internet and can tell who’s taking and using it without your permission.  And Lunch.com, a new startup, won’t let you review anonymously.  They say non-anonymous postings add credibility.

I’m NO advocate of BigBrother type following.  Stephen Baker’s well-written book and articles on the subject make me physically ill (if you haven’t seen them, go here and here).  But as it becomes easier to see who has been on your blog with tools like Lijit (not available yet for WordPress.com), or commented, or Yelped… maybe we should dispense with anonymous comments completely.

Yeah, it would take the fun from visiting some sites.  We comment now because we want to be heard: but do we want the world to know we said it?  We might not, if we knew someone was listening.

But here’s the thing: they are listening, anyway.    There’s not much privacy on the Web (see: Bank Intern and Facebook).  And there is content that is free and easy to share — legally.

So just to strike a blow against cowardice (and, heaven forbid, in favor of that vague term people call “personal branding” — of course, it’s tricky if your “personal brand” is a closet racist) maybe it’s time to go back to:

  • paying for something we really want, if it cost a lot to make
  • saying what we mean and standing behind it.

3 Comments

Filed under Ethics, Tech and hype, Uncategorized, Web 2.0

O..M..G… They can’t be in our Social Media Club! Gosh!

A few weeks ago, I attended an event where Kara Swisher referred to the whole social media scene as the “social media self-reflecting echo chamber” and some of its stars as “assclowns.”

There was some uneasy chuckling at this — it was, after all, a panel called “Is Social Media Killing PR?”  But mostly people knew exactly what she meant.    There has been much, much sucking up and self-referencing going on lately.

I could have left it at that, until I read a post on an otherwise usually very thoughtful marketing/buzz blog.  It warned all you unsuspecting innocents out there how to tell if your Social Media Consultant is really a carpetbagger.

It carried a breezy video comment with a young pup smilingly declaiming that there are actually people who don’t know what the Cluetrain Manifesto is, and knowing what it is should be a test (I am actually quite fond of the Cluetrain Manifesto, in the nostalgic way some people might be of, say, Goodnight Moon or their first love; but some of my more acerbic peers refer to it as the Common Sense Manifesto).

You know, it was harmless.  Maybe they just were trying to be cute. He was contributing.  And yet the combined effect reminded me of an endless string of cliche movie scenes: the stepsisters make fun of Cinderella:

The Socs make fun of Ponyboy:

The Mean Girls… well, you get the idea.

Some of the insights were fine.  You should be wary of someone who doesn’t listen.  Or whose first suggestion is a Facebook group.

But as one Twitterer told me privately, “the tone [of that post] made me cringe.  It was so smug.”

Yah.  We’re smug — because we broke the code, and we got here first.  Or more first-ier, anyway.  We know things these noobs don’t know.   (insert comment calculated to suck up to Michael Arrington).

I have nothing against Michael Arrington.  He’s great at what he does.  In fact, leave him out of this.  It’s the whole wink-wink say-no-more, you can’t be in my club thing that has sprung up lately.

Sidebar-With-A-Point: You know who got me into Twitter?  @micah (Micah Baldwin) and the late @mochant (Marc Orchant).  Two incredibly different men; two very different approaches.  About a year ago, at deFrag.   Marc started telling me excitedly about Twitter after Gnomedex; it was a “breakthrough” for him.  Micah laid out his arguments for Twitter completely differently.  But clearly, simply.  Not once did he say, “you’re too old,” or, “you’re too new.”

Both guys were amazing that way.  Brilliant, kind, open — natural teachers who had been at the social media game for a while.  They were and are symbolic to me of what makes the open web succeed: you give people the information, explain why it’s useful, and see how they connect with it.

Micah could have given me, you know, that half-smile that kids reserve for people over 40 when they see them dance, when they’re embarrassed for them.

But instead he was just straight-up.  “No, Twitter’s really cool.  You should do it.  Here’s the value for me:….”   He laid it out, and he made sense.    I was on Twitter that afternoon.

Yeah, several months after he and others were on it.

Maybe it’s the economic downturn — in a recession, some people want to make just that much more sure that someone knows that we know what we’re doing and knew it FIRST before those  new people came in and started LIKING social media and trying to USE IT and making it all, you know, social and useful.

And yes, the blog post had a point — because there’s money to be made in brandishing phrases like “personal brand” and “social media consultant,”  it helps to have some insights.

But part of why I didn’t get on Twitter earlier was because of a guy who was in some ways the opposite of Micah and Marc.  A blogger/social media personality who trails little odorless puffs of hype behind him like the low-carbon Highlander Hybrid he started driving after he saw it on Project Runway.   He is smart, he gets ironically and mildly underexcited about everything, he blogs about everything, people love to say they know him, he claims to know everyone.

I suspected that for him Twitter was the solution to that old Eminem song:  “It feels so empty without me.”  That was how I saw it — microblogging a tech raven’s life as it flew from one shiny object to the next.  So since he was excited about Twitter two years ago, I felt forced to hate it, even though he didn’t know and wouldn’t care.

I was wrong about Twitter.  I avoided this cool thing, just because he was annoying.  (But haven’t you done that?   Maybe it was a book, like The Tipping Point or Tuesdays with Morrie, that you avoided just because people flocked to it in droves and formed well, Facebook Groups about it.   Or a movie that could not have possibly lived up to the hype.  Or even Ron Paul, or Barack Obama.

But you give in –  read the book or see the movie, or listen to Barack Obama talk.  You  concede that though the hype is annoying — well, there’s something there.)

The whole social media self-referencing echo chamber is getting annoying.  But there’s still something there of value for people that are willing to walk past the posted insults of the  Socs, or the whispered taunts of the Mean Girls, and make their own way towards the amazing resources to be found.

My husband works only tangentially with the tech world.  He’s starting to find the value in Twitter as a tool for conversations with customers he didn’t know he had — just the way the Cluetrain Manifesto would want him to — and he wouldn’t know how to find the manifesto if it bit him in the …a**clown.

So please let’s stop the code words, do our jobs, follow our curiousity and trust that it will sort itself out, for the most part without having to act like Closed Web Snobs.

18 Comments

Filed under Ethics, Tech and hype, Technology and PR, Web 2.0

How to Save Newspapers; or, lessons of the Giant Water Bug

How do I feel about the newspaper business these days?

I’m reminded of a scene in the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, where the author Annie Dillard describes watching a frog that seemed fine, placidly sitting on a creek bank.  As she watches, and within seconds, he is “shrinking before my eyes like a deflating football.”  He contracts, as if all the air and fluid has just been let out of him, “like a kicked tent.”  In a moment there remains only a bag of skin floating on the water where before there had been a healthy being.

It’s an unforgettable image.

Dillard later discovers that the frog was the victim of a giant water bug, which paralyzes its victims from underneath, then sucks the lifeblood out of them — literally, blood, muscles, bone and tissue — and departs, leaving just a sack of skin.  She uses the incident to set the tone of the book, that there’s this wild interplay of prey and predator going on around us all the time, but we’re too busy and distracted to notice.

Sucking the life from traditional media?

Sucking the life from traditional media?

Newspapers… lifeblood being sucked out… you see where I’m going with this.

You might have noticed that your local paper is roughly the size of a Watchtower pamphlet (or a Home Depot circular, don’t want to offend anyone).

But if you wonder whom I might have cast as the water bug in this metaphor, I’ll spell it out for you: the i-n-t-e-r-n-e-t  s-e-a-r-c-h  e-n-g-i-n-e.

I’m not a hater, though.  I mean, here I am — linking away.

I am having a “wish I’d thought of that” moment — because in spite of all my personal worry and angst at seeing friends and colleagues laid off — I tweet about a website that tracks journalist layoffs, of all things — leave it to a journalist to put, elegantly and concisely, just what needs to be done.

To save newspapers.

And I don’t mean recycling.

I get a lot of news online.  But I get a lot of news offline, too.  And as I said below, there are things online journalists and bloggers can do unbelievably well — and some that, say, the New York Times does better than nearly anyone on the Planet.

Which doesn’t make it more pleasant to discover that Sergei Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) could buy every newspaper in the U.S.A and still put away $12 billion for their next acquisitions.

What does that mean?  Well, do you want all your news to come from one place?  Do you want your news at all?  Because, someone has to write it.  And it would be good if that someone got paid, was trustworthy, or at least was trying to adhere to some code of ethics.

This crossed my mind when Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher last week put forth his own water-bug control idea.  He writes:

US newspapers didn’t realize GOOG is a media company until it was too late. Google was able to scrape its content virtually for free, from newspapers and other web sites, and sell advertising around that content. Newspapers spend huge amounts of money to create their content.

Newspapers, and other media companies, have allowed Google to commoditize content, and retain the value in the aggregation and distribution.

Yet the technology for aggregation and distribution is a commodity — content is not a commodity.

Newspapers and other media need to rally around their content and not let Google or any other search engine scrape it for free.

Or else, Foremski continues, “the media will be the next big bailout.  It’s too important to fail.”

Amen.

Of course, how to do that — make search engines pay for the content they scrape, while making it available to consumers?  What are your ideas?

Figure it out.  It’s got to be better than just waiting for the water bug to finish sucking out your guts.

5 Comments

Filed under Media, Technology and PR, Uncategorized, Web 2.0

Cancer, Social Media, and the Meaning of Small Things

On a crisp September day in 1995 — long before there was such a term as “Social Media” — I sat at my computer with my 28K modem, sobbing as quietly as I could, trying not to wake up my 3 month-old son. And I typed this question:

“I need to know how to help a young Mom with cancer. She’s only 30, she has three young daughters and not much time. Please, can anyone help me?”

In 1995 I had no MySpace, no TechCrunch, no Twitter; no Cluetrain Manifesto. @Scobleizer was probably just a mensch working at Microsoft. Bill Gates was a minor celebrity; people shook their heads about Apple’s tiny market share. AOL and Netscape were king, and when you loaded a website, you had to watch a blue bar while it loaded — long enough to grow a whole new hairstyle sometimes.

In short, I didn’t have the power tools we have today — the myriad complicated ways we celebrate of connecting to each other – our widgets, our followers, our networks.

What I had in 1995 was an amazing friend named Sabine with a buoyant smile, three young daughters… and terminal cancer.

What I also had in 1995 was access to AOL‘s chat rooms. Yep: chat rooms.

I had found the one that said, “AOLMoms.” I entered, waited for it to load, and typed my question.

I typed that question again and again as the chat scrolled down in front of me. And then suddenly:

“I can help. I am a Mom who has had cancer. I have survived it three times. What do you want to know?”

It felt like a miracle. Her screen name was MS_Tylee, and I’ve never forgotten her.

“Anything,” I typed back. “What would help?”

MS_Tylee asked me what stage cancer my friend had; told me about what kinds of foods would upset her stomach given the type of treatment she was getting; what kind of help would actually be helpful — laundry, little errands, child care and maybe meals on days around her chemo treatments.

I was so grateful. What she did was small for her — a few moments’ typing at her desk — but it was huge for me.

I printed off everything she said. Then I helped organize people who were glad to do anything they could. If you’ve ever dealt with cancer first- or second-hand, you know: you feel helpless. There’s this war going on at the cellular level, and you’re not really even allowed in the ring (even if you are the ring). So every day you figure out something you can do.

It turned out I’d need that knowledge: that same month, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. And then another friend — Dale, also a mother — a month later.

Sabine died the following June. She was one of the first people in my circle to have three kids; I learned so much from her about how to handle it. She was also one of the first people in my circle to have cancer, and I guess, to leave those children so young. As I grieved her, I just determined that I would take something from this loss; that I would help people the way that MS_Tylee had helped me.

I totally got it — long before there was Community Building software — about the Internet’s power to pluck just the right help, seemingly out of the air.

I also got that small gestures — things that don’t take much time or money — can make a humongous difference to a person who needs them. Offering to fold laundry or cook a meal. Or just taking a moment to call, even when you’re scared of what you might hear.

I learned to do what I could: sometimes it would be a lot, other times it would be small.

But it would be something. Because with cancer — or AIDS, or a sudden death, or a disaster — there are, often, no mulligans. No road back if you regret your inaction.

It’s what you can live with, you’ll pardon the expression. Or not.

A few years later, a friend and children’s author was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer – with no health insurance. She fought hard, and eventually lost — but not before she and her family saw tremendous love and support, quite a bit from people they’d never met.

I bring this up because I have read and heard lately, several clarion calls – some, like Jeremy Pepper’s, really eloquent — for Social Media to quit its navel-gazing, its fascination with hearing itself talk, and actually do something besides vid-cast itself on Qik for a change.

See, it is pointed out, what you could do in the service of good — you with your thousands of followers; or you, who has made millions talking about the Web’s ability to connect. Or you — take a break from your videocast to shill for someone who needs help.

So true. But I’m not waiting for the Social Media stars or anyone else to make huge gestures – though it would be nice.

Instead we could do what the Web has always done best: a bunch of small gestures that people can live with.

The Web makes it easy for us to be outward, to have those moments when we shine outside of ourselves and afford someone else the benefit of grace — whether it’s of not feeling alone, or sending the equivalent of an overpriced cup of coffee via PayPal –because we can. Because both literally and figuratively, it adds up to more than it could possibly mean to us to put that actual cup of coffee in a cupholder and drive somewhere.

It’s your call. Maybe you click away from this page, shudder and never come back. Or maybe you click through to a link — read a story, send a good wish or small contribution, or put someone’s story up on your blog.

Or maybe you do nothing to help the people here, but instead take a minute to call someone who would just appreciate being remembered.

That’s all I’m sayin’. Just find the courage. Or the compassion. But it doesn’t have to be huge.

For me, I do this for Sabine. For my mother. For MS_Tylee. For all the many people we have lost to cancer and other illnesses, and for those who are still fighting. For Marc Orchant. For my friend Steve Koloskus (and believe me, he is a whole ‘nother story, and merits his own post sometime). For anyone who’s ever shown me kindness when they didn’t have to, through the Internet or otherwise.

Everyone has someone whom they know, in whose memory they are their best selves — cancer or no cancer.

And I will create a separate page to link to people who are waging these battles. You can decide whether to help. I’m starting with Lisa and Tricia.  And, though it’s not about cancer — eMOM.

The Internet was about connection long before it was about Friends lists. Or maybe I should say it was about Friends before it was about lists.

But either way, it was always about 1s and 0s adding up to something much bigger.

18 Comments

Filed under Media Relations, Tech and hype, Uncategorized, Web 2.0