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Off-Topic (But Not Really!): Why Social Networking is Important to the Running Community & Society At Large

Posted Dec 23 2008 12:57pm
I'd like to reprint the recent comments I left on Coach Adam's blog, Racing with Purpose, because both the original topic of the post & related commentary are something I feel really strongly about, as they have something to do with the "big picture" ideas of what the running community & many Twitterers (& other social networkers & social networking groups at large) share in common & also, I think, what both are striving to accomplish:

To read the original post, please visit this link. That'll give you a context for the below commentary:

Hi Coach Adam,

Kudos to you for encouraging others to join the Age of Technology & social networking culture! ;-) I’m right there with you; we need more forward-thinking people to promote the idea of democratizing tech & making it accessible for everyone.

Of all the social networking groups out there, I believe that Twitter & Facebook are actually some of the more pertinent & useful networks out there. Their real value lies in in their effectiveness in seamlessly connecting people & communicating information. They also provides an easy & efficient means of staying in the loop with the goings-on of one’s family, friends, coworkers, & business associates, etc. These tools can also help you expand your existing social and professional circles in profound & life-changing ways. I’ve seen it happen & have personally experienced it myself.

These tools can also help you keep current (with regard to news & events) & also keep track of your contacts in a centralized, real-time way.

And for you skeptics out there, no, these tools are not just for wasting time! You can make these tools whatever you choose them to be. It’s really up to you. And the possibilities are endless.

In general, I really do believe that social networking tools can become anything that you want them to be; they really don’t have to be time-wasters. It’s all about how people use them. I think that the real trick is to make these tools work for you as resources versus feeling apprehensive or overwhelmed by them.

To create new technology takes imagination, vision, passion, & dedication, & a little bit of persistence to realize these ideas & see them through. And as a result, new societal structures or modes of behavior often spring up around these technologies to accommodate and support their continued development. Of course, this is not something to fear; it’s something to embrace.

To continue living life as we always had before is to reject our own growth trajectory. And that is really not an option if you think about it. Either we move forward or backward; there is no standing still. (Well, actually standing still is really moving backward in a way.) “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” The way forward to progress is acceptance of chance. It’s as simple as that.

Technology is only as good as the people who are using it. And that’s the key word, “people.” It’s the connective thread, & we can’t forget the various social realities that govern human nature. Better that we recognize our limitations at the outset to help overcome them, & evolve our thinking and problem-solving abilities as a species.

I believe that certain social networking tools — like Twitter & Facebook — have a lot of inherent value, (even if that value isn’t initially recognized or realized by many people at first), especially when they are used as resources to communicate information and create community.

Social networking is inherently significant & relevant as a larger societal trend, & is not likely to go away anytime soon. It’s important for people not to prejudge these concepts, since we are on the forefront of emerging technologies that can take us into new & as-yet unrealized directions. I find the whole area incredibly fascinating. Many facets of these networks have already turned out to be much more useful than people originally anticipated or even intended.

People might roll their eyes, but a lot of those same people are the ones I’ve gotten to sign up for sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. ;-)

To quote Shakespeare, “Me doth think the lady protests too much.” ;-) It’s often the ones that scream “No!” the loudest that are secretly unconvinced of their own positions on the matter.

It’s like the Gertrude Stein quote about the way in which society works & how it accepts/assimilates new ideas/paradigms into its existing framework: (I’m paraphrasing here….) “At first people say no… and then all of a sudden, they say yes.”

It can take time for some people to accept & adapt to fundamental technological changes that alter the very fabric of society, but I believe that we can all do out bit to help ease people into the Digital Age; we can all help to change hearts & minds about the benefits and transformative positive power of technology in our lives.

I certainly applaud your efforts towards this end! It’s the “pay it forward” principle, and it could very well be as simple as doing a “retweet” in twitter. 8- )

I’d even go as far to say that it’s a civic responsibility of those with technological savvy to help show others how new technology can add value to their lives. And of course, these efforts are crucial for our development & advancement for our future as a nation, both economically speaking & educationally speaking.

My not-so-secret agenda is to get more and more people to integrate technology into their lives and to use it as a positive social catalyst and force for good. Slowly, I am working on this, one person at a time. But it’s not just about individuals & their value as separate entities. Much of the value of social networking tools lies in group interaction. And of course, helping people to connect to each other is not only a great way to facilitate new ideas that come out of a collective, collaborative effort, but is also important for people developing meaningful bonds with others and feeling like they are part of something larger than themselves. We can bring out the best in people this way, as they begin to recognize the altruistic value of such contributions.

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