I was attending my daughter's college orientation (the parent part anyway) last week when I had an epiphany. Well, more like a Significant Thought. The Thought was brought on by what appeared on the surface as a very inane question asked by one of the parents. We were in a session about the high school to college transition, when a woman asked, “With all of this new technology like the Facebook and instant messaging, how are you [the college] planning on making sure that my child doesn't spend all his time in his room? What are you going to do to make sure he gets involved in college social life?”
At first, I dismissed this as an uneducated parent who didn't get the vast potential of these social media outlets to connect people together. I mean, my daughter had already connected with a dozen other freshman who will be attending the school this fall, and has started to create a circle of social kinship before she even steps foot into her first classroom. And with the power of these tools she can stay in contact with her high school and hometown friends more completely as well. However, the more I mulled it over, the more I realized the logic of this woman’s concern.
Consider the sheer scale of these platforms. If you read the statistics page on Facebook, the numbers are shocking: 500 million active users, 900 million objects (pages, groups and events) and over 30 billion pieces of content. And according to the Twitter statistics page, there are over 140 million tweets sent per day. And in the last two years, the record for tweets per second jumped from 456 to almost 7,000.
Cool numbers and all, but where is this Significant Thought?
If social media is to be a single pane of glass for both social and business interactions, how can we expect our workforce to segment their time and energy appropriately? When in “social mode” should they ignore updates from the business connections? When in the office, should they sift through the hundreds of updates and only pay attention to work-related posts? Work is no longer a four-walled office in a different town or city.
Think of the above example: you send your son or daughter off to college, where first and foremost they are to receive an education that will prepare them for their careers. Of course there is the additional “education” they will receive in new social experiences, new friends, and a network of connections for the future. College is a breeding ground for both social and business connections. But the interface for the majority of these connections has merged with the advent social media, and herein the challenge. How do we reap the benefits of a more integrated business/social ecosystem without losing the focus necessary to successfully participate in either?
Maybe this newer generation will have the skills necessary to effectively participate in both worlds at the same time. If so, they will probably build those skills early on in their college or workplace experiences as they transition from predominately social entities to hybrid socio-business users.
Perhaps this particular student is just ahead of the curve.