That was what I heard tonight at a meeting at the San Francisco Library regarding blogs, social media, and our communities. It was very poorly attended which surprised me. There were a lot of chairs and only about an eighth of them were filled, about 15 people. I’m not sure if this reflects a lack of interest in blogs, social media, or the local community. Some guy in the audience observed that blogs are going out of style, that the future belongs to Facebook. Who bothers with blogs anymore? Well, I do, and I am not particularly fond of Facebook, in spite of the fact that I am on it. I think that is true of a lot of people that are on Facebook. So I think that guy has it wrong. Facebook is antiquated. It is a totally profit driven, ad driven machine which intrudes into our lives, whereas blogs are an opportunity to express ourselves more fully, and honestly, than Facebook can easily facilitate. Facebook is People magazine, blogs are The New Yorker. At least that is how I see it. I wish I had said it at the meeting. Only myself and another person, from the audience, stepped up to the microphone to say what we were doing blogwise in our community. I was enthusiastic and ignored the strong wind and sagebrush rolling through the room. I mentioned that it felt very strange to be having more of a conversation with somebody in Wales than the people living across the hall from me. But the friend I went with commented on the walk home, that it didn’t bother him at all that our most significant relationships in the future will likely be online. I imagine myself lying in a tube, hooked up to a machine, experiencing everything virtually, like in the Matrix. No thanks.
The meeting was interesting otherwise. Some people who had nonprofit blogs related to San Francisco were there. One was http://www.outsidelands.org which compiles photos and video about San Francisco history. It looked like a very fun website, fulfilling a good purpose. These guys did all this work getting this archival material on the web, without getting paid for their efforts. So much for my hope that I might get a job doing this sort of thing. I see a tremendous need to get the mountain of historical material sitting in people’s attics onto the web. This is a window onto the past which remains unmined, and we may lose it forever. I would like to see a linkup between cities, towns, and even countries to make this material easily available. Given that I love history, it would be an exciting project. But I need an income at the moment. I don’t really want to be a homeless volunteer. The other website represented on the panel was richmondsfblog.com which focuses on the San Francisco Richmond District, it’s history and it’s present. They talked about how they use Facebook and Twitter to increase traffic to their sites. I was still wondering how the organizers of this event could have increased the traffic to this physical in-the-real-world site. I was honestly surprised that in a major city like SF a meeting about blogs and social media would have such a low turnout. Are these topics that boring? Maybe if they had advertised that there would be cute kittens at the meeting, it would have made a difference.
There are all kinds of ways that bloggers can bring the events of their community to the attention of the world, or at least to the members of their community. But nobody seems to care all that much. I would like to find ways to connect with the people in my own neighborhood. There are times when we might just need one another and some guy on the web living half way around the world isn’t going to be able to check on you after you have gotten home from the hospital, or let you know there is a help wanted sign in the window of a local business. I eagerly offered some suggestions at the meeting, but afterward no one approached me about anything. Of course, as anti-social as I am, I mingled for about three seconds before leaving. I am not a mingler. I know that is very ironic, I knock myself out online sharing myself and can’t have a conversation in the flesh. What is wrong with me????
Nevertheless, there are all kinds of opportunies with blogs and social media which haven’t been explored. So, let’s brainstorm people!! We can do better than Facebook if we put our minds to it. And let’s see if we can leave our computers long enough to actually meet some flesh and blood people and engage in some 3-D social media, otherwise called ‘real life’.
In parting, I would like to share some interesting media regarding San Francisco history, as an adjunct to the previous post on the city. This is color footage of SF in 1940 courtesy of glbthistory.org