In the early 1970s, when I was a student at the University of Alabama, one of the original Gemini astronauts came to speak. Someone asked, “Does it trouble you that space flights are getting so common we hardly notice them any more?”
His answer startled us: “Not in the least.”
He went on to explain that we really don’t get the best use out of new technologies and innovations until they become a routine part of our lives. In short, they disappear.
And that’s when we really get the greatest benefit. We’ve seen it over and over. We were all excited when the first personal computers came out. Now, they’re just how we do things and we never think in terms of “computing.” These days, everybody’s talking about tablets, but pretty soon they’ll disappear too — at least in terms of how much we think and talk about them.
I can’t prove it, but I get the sense that we’re approaching the disappearance point with social media. When Twitter and Facebook first appeared about six years ago, we spent a huge amount of our time talking about … Facebook and Twitter.
We even blogged about blogging. Now? Not so much. I’ve been realizing lately that I don’t think of social media as its own thing. I use it, and show clients how to use it effectively, but for me, it’s just part my day-to-day ecosystem.
And increasingly, it’s integrated with my real life. Sure, I have Twitter followers and Facebook friends I haven’t met in real life, and I’ve been weeding some of those out. But the ones that matter are the ones I know as flesh-and-blood people.
It works better that way. I’m know a lot of people who first jumped in three or four years ago, gave themselves cutesie names like “SocialAnimal45,” and started either posting an endless stream of self-promoting tidbits or giving us trivia about their eating habits or annoyance with traffic jams. They threw up their hands and said “It’s just not working for me.”
Now, they’re drifting back in, because they’re surrounded by it. And folks are starting to see that talking to somebody on Twitter isn’t so different from having a chat with the guy on the next Stairmaster at the health club.
Social media is disappearing, and we’re ready to just get on with life.