For the last couple of days I have sat through session after session of panelists pleading with the attended crowd to embrace digital citizenship and let go of the fear of ‘getting it right’. I listened as people remind you that the current crop of kids, my kids, the kids now called Generation Z, are tech innate. I am told that traditional college degrees are not enough but digital credentials are so in flux that the currency of applicable knowledge rides a wave not so dissimilar to that of the Bitcoin. Everyone wants to learn but no one ever has the needed support, choice, or voice in the matter. I am told that regardless of what I think of my self worth, I have an online brand that is defining what my value is. All this makes it seems as if the digital world is a flood that you either learn how to swim or do nothing and drown. It is a reoccurring theme and SXSWedu sounds like a downer but really it is not. At the end of the day, the human element is still there.
Between the shouting for the need to embrace social media, the endless slides of data reminding you that your digital skills are becoming antiquated by the day, and professionals claiming they know why you suck, I picked up a subtle message. It was hush, almost a whisper at times but it was definitely there. Regardless of all the digital ways people are connected, we still need to physically meet and talk. I listened how panelists who are now co-championing a solution started off not liking each other based on what they read online, or the lack of. It was only when they met and shared about what worked and how they were perceived did real collaboration emerge. This seems obvious but sadly it is not and has become my ‘aha’ moment. There are so many tools out there that gives you data on social media tracking, search engine effectiveness, and web intelligence that we become dependent on them exclusively. Engagement then seems cold and calculated, or worse create a solution that leads you in the wrong direction. With such rapid changes to the social frontier it is imperative that we share our experiences with people around us more readily then ever before.
Regardless of how well you think you understand the use of social technology, its effectiveness will never be realized until you test it against people that will give you unbiased feedback; people you actually meet in a place where you can share a meal, a drink or a classroom. It is only then can you know for certain, your exploration is headed in the right direction.