Not to be over critical of my blog post title, but a title like “The Social Generation” has an almost pretentious ring to it. It sounds like the name of a book that's desperately trying to get your attention and perhaps sell you on the idea that social media is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
But as it stands, it was the best title to describe my last day at SHRM’s Annual Conference. If you were there, you would know that the idea of social media was pressing itself to not be denied. There were signs in prominent places throughout the conference noting how to follow on Facebook or check in on Foursquare. Plus there was a large area called The Hive devoted to helping folks catch the social media bug or wave or whatever you want to call it.
Coincidentally, the idea of sociability was my biggest reason for attending this year’s conference. I’m fortunate to know a good number of folks attending the conference. Many of them friends. Many more are like-minded acquaintances. Thus, the conversation only ended if I voluntarily wished it so. Considering the last couple of stressful months, I looked forward to spending the time in their company.
Hence, it was a challenge to pull myself away from colleagues and think about the agenda of speaker sessions. But a benefit of attending a conference is to get away from your comfort zone of friends and colleagues and explore a different world of people. Isn’t that the best way to combat complacency and conformity? Isn’t that true sociability?
With sociability we can determine the landscape of our environment. We can determine where the lines are drawn. We can determine who has talent and who doesn’t. We can determine who we should trust and who we should not, and who we are comfortable with and who we are not.
Jim Collins (author of ‘Good To Great’) presented the opening keynote at SHRM Annual on Wednesday morning and spoke about the idea of being stranded on a mountain with your work peers. I thought seriously about this. Would I want to be? Fortunately for me the answer was a resounding yes. In fact, I can’t think of any replacements.
But this didn’t happen overnight. This was process of sociability. This was a long process of working with each one of them, getting to know their strengths and weaknesses. It was time learning what it would take to climb any mountain and to know if tragedy struck, they would extend the effort to pick up my slack and make the team succeed. They also learn that I would do the same.
So when we speak about the social generation, I think it’s commonplace to speak only of those who were born with a Facebook silver spoon in their mouth. But the truth is we communicated very well before social media came along. So the Social Generation is not just folks between the ages of 20 and 35. It’s everyone between the ages of the newly born to those who about to pass away.
Social media is just another outlet for us to develop our sociability. For many it's essential outlet. For some it may never be. For others it may become essential in the future.
Thinking about Ted Fishman’s wonderful presentation on Wednesday based on his book, “Shock Of Grey”, I noted that Fishman’s portrayal of the world’s aging population was missing one factor: social media. This was by no means an oversight or dismissal. It was clearly the next link in his discussion that he hadn’t bridged yet.
Nevertheless, it was obvious that with a global population that is growing older because of life longevity and decreasing birth rates, fewer people in the future will grow up with siblings, or cousins, or other relatives in the same age group. Instead there’s a better chance they’ll grow up with grandparents and great-grandparents. Thus their families are becoming deeper instead of wider. Because of that lack of width, there is a need to seek out more non-relatives of the same peer and age groups. Hence, this is where social media becomes the logical extension.
As a society, we strive to be social. No matter what the preference is. Societal changes in demographics and family structures will play a large part in the future construction of the social vehicles.
From the HR stand point, the social impact cannot be ignored. The changes in society directly affect the workplace. It’s good to see that SHRM as an organization is beginning to recognize social media, embrace it and share its benefits with its membership. Being social is who we are as people. No matter what form it takes, this will never change.
We are, always have been, and always will be, the Social Generation.
This post reminded me of this song. Make of it what you like, or just enjoy ...