Social media never sleeps; therefore PR is a lifestyle not a profession. This pushes responsiveness to the top of the priority list.
In my heart of hearts, I believe this is true, but I’ve also come to believe that social media is entering a period of normalization. It’s something akin to Gartner’s Hype Cycle, where expectations were exceedingly high — beyond possible — but are now starting to normalize. And normalization is sorely needed.
The compulsion to respond immediately with top of mind thoughts is slowly ceding to responding in a timely fashion, but with greater consideration. Social media can wait.
Last week, I just left traffic court (unfortunately, I have a heavy foot, one of my many faults). I’m stopped at red light that is malfunctioning and traffic is backed up in a serious way.
I’m late for a meeting so was literally calling my boss (on a hands free device of course) to tell him I wouldn’t make it. @JayBaer, @DannyBrown, and @MorganBarnhart had a Twitter conversation going that mentioned me and so my iPhone was flashing alerts with seemingly psychedelic colors imploring me to pay attention to Twitter. Meanwhile, some crazy old guy, impatient with the light, bumps my fender trying to squeeze by in a space not nearly wide enough to fit his vehicle (remember: I was stopped at a light) and then proceeds to drive off — leaving the scene of an accident.
It all happened at once — and what did I feel? I felt like I needed to respond to Twitter first. Talk about misaligned priorities! What is wrong with me? Probably nothing; rationally, I know I’m not the only person in the world that feels like this sometimes.
Now that said, I’m not stranger to pressure either. I sort of thrive on it; and generally, perform well in a cooker. Always have. It’s like a runner’s high or an adrenaline junkie’s fix. It’s both a strength and a weakness. And to be sure, I’ve been in far more dire situations.
Try spinning ridiculously out of control at 8,000 feet while falling at 120 mph out of a plane — it’s amazing how quickly that needle on your altimeter drops altitude. Just don’t pause to admire it too long.
My chute opening on that jump was so violent it litterally popped my helmet off my head and was claimed forever by a farmer’s field somewhere in central Virginia. I knew it was going to be a rough opening when I pulled the pilot — twisted lines like a telephone chord from 1996 — but good grief, I loved that helmet. It was my first skydiving helmet. OD Green with my last name on the back. Strong, baby, that’s me. B+ if I ever need it and there’s still a vein intact enough to get the flash.
Or try this one — stopping perilously close to the first IED my team almost rolled over not far from Tikrit, Iraq in 2006. Again, training kicks in and our eyes go immediately scanning the surrounding area looking for a potential secondary device — and next and rapidly scanning the the buildings nearby concerned the bad guys would be covering the obstacle with PSAF — precision small arms fire. I remember that moment like yesterday. Indeed, I’ve dreamed about it more than once. I’m lucky: the event didn’t ended badly and neither do my dreams.
My instincts in these situations were dictated by muscle memory. Autopilot. I’ve done it a million times in training. The moment from cognition, to recognition, to action, happened in a blink of an eye. Repetition counts. Experience matters. When we see a sitiation evolve that we’ve seen before the synapses in our brains trail a beaten path rather than blaze a new one. Fractions of a second mean a difference between living and dying.
I wonder if my prior training is actually what feeds the overwhelming desire to respond in social media. Because I feel so passionately about my work, because I view myself as the defender of the corporate reputation, because I believe our products do add value, it somehow triggers a part of my mind to be responsive. Immediately. I can hardly bear the thought of an email, a tweet, or a comment that calls for a response.
Still logically — and I’ve studied Aristotle; I can converse in syllogisms — I know this is ridiculous. It can wait. As mentioned before, I know I’m not the only person that feels this way. I know I’m not unique. I know my training has nothing to do with it.
Need proof? Just put your mobile phone in your trunk while you drive to work one morning as an experiment. Watch the traffic around you. It is endemic — and its absurdly dangerous. People are literally dying over tweets. People are littterally putting their lives at risk to answer emails. Are we kidding ourselves? Really? Over Facebook? Over Tweets? Over an email?
Ladies and gentleman, social media is NOT that important. Social media can wait.
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