The apple doesn't fall far from the tree

Updated: Feb 11, 2019

Practically everyone spends an inordinate amount of time on social media, most of us fancy ourselves experts on the subject. Even as an experienced communications professional, I've found it is very difficult to convince anyone that my opinion on how social media should be managed is any more valid than theirs.

The purpose of this blog is to contain my opinions about what should be done and why when it comes to marketing, communications, social media and related subjects. I'm going to do my best to explain the reasoning behind the things I do when I manage such projects and hopefully the readers will find some of that useful. Before that, I'm going to give you a little background on myself and why I think my opinion should be weighted a little more than your average marketing professional with my qualifications and experience.

It's not that I think I'm definitely right about everything, just that I have been in the business of using computers to communicate for a very long time. Whereas, your average American really only started to use the internet on a regular basis in the last ten or fifteen years. My opinions, such as they are, are informed ones.

Long before Facebook, before Twitter, before smartphones, before Google, the foundations of the internet were laid. The internet was built by programmers, engineers, and scientists...but right along side them were designers and communications specialists trying to figure out not just how to make it all work, but how it could be used by ordinary people.

I was born at the cusp of the age of the internet in 1979. Among the professionals trying to decide how to use the internet on the academic level were my parents. My father and step-father were experts in verbal and written communications and a graphic design respectively. I grew up in the halls and computer labs of the academic institutions where they worked.

While other kids were trading baseball cards, or whatever it is kids did back then, I had the privilege to play first with terminals, modems, monitors, and clunky 5 1/4" floppy disks and later light pens, scanners, Silicon Graphics workstations, NeXT machines, and of course, the ubiquitous Macintosh Computer. I wrote my homework in elementary school on a big green-screen UNIX terminal dialed into my step-father's university mainframe and turned them in printed out on dot-matrix paper much to the chagrin of my teachers, who expected everything to be done by hand and considered it unfair to the other students. I tinkered with the system settings, recorded sound with early primitive microphones, and audio editing software. I drew pictures in SuperPaint and PixelPaint, and later, Illustrator and Photoshop. I remember asking my step-father to use PageMaker and him sternly throwing down a thick manual and insisting I read it before I be allowed to touch the software...which I refused to do. I further annoyed him by immediately leaping right into the program and figuring out things he didn't understand.

Parallel to my life with my step-father, my biological father's career was one of academic research in the obscure field of Communication Studies and Rhetoric. He also was an early adopter of internet technology, being the first person to introduce me to the World Wide Web...back when it was a text only interface navigated with keyboard commands and consisting mostly of esoteric academic content. While under my step-father's tutelage I was being taught how humans interacted with visual information, typography, design, and semiotics...under my father's I was taught about language, rhetoric, constructing arguments, storytelling and ideology. All of it was connected to the same overarching goal of figuring out how to use the internet, trying to plan how people would relate to it, and trying to plan the purposes for which it would be used.

It is perhaps useful to point out to some of our younger readers, that while I had access to all this technology from about the age of four in 1984 onwards, it wasn't until I was in high school I started to meet other people who's families owned computers. I was around 19 or 20 by the time computers became common enough that most people I knew owned them. So while there are young people today, born around the year 2000, who have never lived in a world without ubiquitous computing...and while that world only spans half my lifetime I personally have lived in a world of ubiquitous computing for 34 years. Not only in a world of computers, but a world of computers being used specifically to communicate. I've been immersed in using computers for communication for my entire life and for as long as it has been possible to do so. Nearly all of my abilities doing what I do began with the tutelage and rich learning environment in which I was raised. I can't put any of that on my résumé.

One day, at maybe the age of 12 or so, after a discussion about design in which I was asking if I could be a graphic designer some day, my step-father told me, "Some people design graphics...some people design societies." To me, it has become clear that social media is shaping our society. I believe that it is vitally important that social media be managed as positive and intentional process.

I planted the seeds for this tree back in 1984, the tree is ready to bear fruit.

#socialmedia #graphicdesign #communication #rhetoric #design #marketing #UNIX #NeXT #Macintosh #biography #storytelling

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