How Poor Vision Can Help You Gain Social Perspective


Sometimes, to gain perspective about how big the world is, and how small I am in it, I take my glasses off.. just to realize how blind I really am.

Let me back up a bit. I can't see 20/20. When I take my glasses off, everything goes awfully blurry and it makes me feel lost and confused. The sensation of not being in control, of not being being able to do simple things like reading a sign that's only a few feet away, can be really frustrating and intimidating.

When I was about 16 years old I started sitting in the front of the classroom to "see better." Eventually a teacher told me to just get some glasses already (as if it was obvious to everyone but me). After going to the optometrist and actually getting my first pair of glasses, I realized that I had been needing them for a very long time. I just thought that everyone saw things the way I did, blurry and cloudy and dull. I remember wearing glasses late at night, and the billboards looking so much brighter, so much more colorful and alive than ever. For the first time, I was seeing the way I was supposed to.

Taking my glasses off today really made me think about a lot of the things that are happenning in the social web. Two things in particular concern me, especially because we bypass them with all the excitement about "social this" and "social that."

The first is that people are becoming more and more self-centered. While we talk about a cultural shift towards sharing, openness, authenticity, and transparency, the shift sometimes has more to do with our egos. This shift should worry us a bit because if we keep calling "social" what is often anything but, we might end up with a bunch of anti-social narcissistic human beings who crave micro-celebritism and their own utopian so-called personal brands.

My second concern kind of ties in with the whole ego thing. For those of us working in online marketing and social media, the ego dillema translates into a mindset of "no one else gets it" and "we are ahead of the curve," as if we had discovered America or something.

The fact is that we haven't discovered America, and for the most part, most of us weren't even involved in actually developing the tools and technologies that make the social web possible. Social media are fantastic and I am very passionate about their incredible potential, but it's important to remember that this, whatever "this" is right here and right now, is only temporary. The excitement over social networking will one day wear off as it did for many other novel concepts and innovations. One day, probably not too far from now, the social web will just be the web, and Social Media Managers will just be Managers.

So instead of trying to separate those that "get it" from those that "don't get it," we should embrace social media for what it should be: the ability to know others and be known. And instead of trying to focus on how we can succeed through making brands out of ourselves, we should remember that "sharing" and "listening" are not really about us, but about building real relationships.

Human connections are starting to get touted as buzz words, ROI and KPIs in board meetings, as if we were talking about eyeballs without brains or hearts, but those human connections really truly are what it all comes down to in this life. Online or offline, at times it is necessary to take off our glasses, and remember just how small and blind we really are.

Copyright © Esteban Contreras. All rights reserved.