Keys to Being Social: Humanity

“Open the pod bay doors, Hal.” Dave

“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Hal

This iconic scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey resonates with us. Why?

The truth is we are consciously or subconsciously both in love with and afraid of technology. Will it someday overtake us? Has it ruined our relationships?

We’re the revolutionaries – the defenders of our culture. How so? It’s up to each and every one of us to retain, protect, and demonstrate our humanity in this digital age.

At what point does automation deprive us of the natural, spontaneous, if not serendipitous, moments of human connection?

Internet Paper Dolls:

As a kid I had the Holly Hobbie paper doll and I loved it. She had the cutest paper doll clothes. But she was more limited than a Barbie. You couldn’t brush or style her hair, only fold over a paper hat. And for sure Holly Hobbie couldn’t go with you to the beach.

When your social posts revolve around one topic, you are two-dimensional, like a paper doll.

Add a Third Dimension:

Is this really necessary? Sure, small talk makes the world go around. Talk about your pets, vacations, and favorite sports teams. Relationships are built this way every single day around every water cooler on this planet.

That said, revealing a little bit of our souls: hopes, dreams, ambitions, or fears is how we deepen these relationships. Vulnerability is a very powerful thing.

Celebrating Humanity:

Windsor Castle in Modern Times by Edwin Henry Landseer
Windsor Castle in Modern Times by Edwin Henry Landseer (Bridget Willard 6/2/14 at the Festival Preview Night)

Laguna Beach is famous for the Festival of Arts Pageant of the Masters.

Every summer they have a theme where a team of experts paints backdrops, fabricates costumes, and applies stage makeup to live volunteers in order to recreate a famous painting. The two-dimensional art becomes three dimensional mimicking the two dimensional. It’s a trip for sure.

I was invited to attend their media night this year; the process is quite remarkable. Works of art are recreated with people. They call it “tableaux vivants” or living pictures. What a great way to celebrate humanity.

But I digress. (Or do I?)

Is Automation Bad?

No. It’s not bad. I’m not one to go back to pre-Industrial Revolution times. But social media isn’t a computer doing math problems to make our accounting systems more accurate. Social media isn’t a coffee maker that wakes you up with a fresh cup by your bed.

The purpose of social media is to give us a platform with which we can meet new people and develop relationships. It’s really that simple.

See: Relationships are the ROI (18 minute presentation)

The Hybrid Approach:

Go ahead and schedule your tweets for the day. Install an app to tweet out your old blog posts. Make recipes. Join tribes. That’s fine. That automation is only supplemental. You need to add more of “you” in your stream.

We connect over commonalities – the minutia, the trivial information about our lives: dogs, yogurt, sports teams. There is just no way to automate that.

Automation is Risky:

This is up for debate and I’m sure I’ll be denounced by many of my more technical peers.

The question is this: at what point does the time saved by automation make our account less interesting to follow? That is a true risk. Pure automation is akin to a RSS feed. That’s potentially helpful, but not social.

The biggest risk is the set-it-and-forget-it mentality which is the original allure. It puts you in a position of only responding to mentions (and often not in a timely manner) unless you actively spend time in your lists and/or home feed.

Another risk is over exposure. Automation often includes cross-posting to multiple platforms at the same time. It’s easy but not as effective. You run the risk of saturating your market and loosing followers on one or more platforms. Who wants to see the same posts on five networks simultaneously? I don’t.

Another risk is expenditure of your social capital. This is built by reciprocal behavior. If you’re automating, you’re most likely not spending time on the network of choice and sharing other people’s content.

Automation puts you in a reactionary state, not a responsive state.


“Automating tweets is like sending a mannequin to a networking event. Stick a post-it note on it, and roll it in, to multiple events around the world! Think of all the Chamber of Commerce mixers you could cover! Different time zones! Let the relationships winfall begin!!! Boooyaa!!!” Scott Stratten

“When you are being human, it doesn’t always involve business-talk.” Tess Wittler

“The most important thing is for you is to be a human being.” My answer at Digtial Influence Q&A

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