Recently I was asked to do a seminar on the value of social media, a common topic for me to speak about. When I came off stage one of the attendees came up to me nearly out of breath and emphatically exclaimed to me, "I don't know what else you do with your life, but social media is a vortex. If this is all you do you're going to miss out on life. How old are you? Life is really short - social media will make your life pass you by. I hope you do other stuff with your life."
Then, without giving me the chance to answer - the attendee walked off. I was hoping to reply that I understand the value of life, in fact, I'm a cancer survivor. I also understand the power and energy of social media - that's why I teach developing countries how to use it to grow their economy and impact their social issues.
I also understand being involved with activities outside of social media - that's why I run Hope For the Arctic, mentor young business owners, and travel within the northern portion of the 70th parallel of the globe as often as possible.
But, this attendee will never know. Why? Because social media is a big negative time suck. One that you enter into and four hours later you emerge angry and empty - having left your energies inside of the vortex. If this is what social media is to you, that is a choice you have made.
To me, social media has become a source of inspiration, income and connection. Inspiration and connection being the most important in that list.
Social Media Inspiration
April 6th - Youth Movement, Cairo, Egypt - Culminating in Hosni Mubarak's departure - when a group of inspired young Egyptian men and women decided they wanted a new Egypt, a fair government, and their voice to be heard. They took to Facebook and Twitter to organize. With more than 70,000 organized voices, they eventually saw their dream of a free Egypt come true.
I had the unique opportunity to talk with Waleed Rashed (one of the original organizers of the movement and now a professional speaker), and one of my favorite things he ever told me was that he is "Part time Waleed, Full-Time Dreamer."
There are many, many stories like this. People use social media to change the world for the better every single day.
Social Media Connection
Thanks to social media I have been able to meet some of the coolest people on the planet - just by reaching out. Whether through Skype or in person I have met with Steve Wozniak, Waleed Rashed, had breakfast with the Founder of TEDTalks Richard Wurman, and countless others - all which happened via a tweet or a post.
So, I guess social media is a vortex. It is a vortex for whatever is within you. If you want to search out political posts that are going to make you angry, or photos that will offend - you can find them - by the millions! But, if you want to search out stories of people who are receiving support, love, and encouragement via social media, you can find that too - you just have to search a little harder.
Sometimes finding the positive in life is tough - almost always. But finding the positive is always worth it.
When I speak to young people across America about the power of social media I don't waste too much time on how scary it is - but I do invest a lot of time sharing with them how amazing it is that they are growing up in a time where there is a tool that is the great equalizer. You can connect to anyone you want, read anything you want, and learn as much as you want. You know, it's almost like a vortex...A vortex for good.