Bringing us Closer to the Past, Present and Future

The end of December marks my nine year anniversary with Reed Business Information. As I look back at the past decade, I see it through a lens of RBI’s evolution, of B2B media, and of the exciting changes that we have lived through. In considering how media has shifted, I can’t help but feel that we have gained more than we realize:

  • We are More Connected to the Past
    Because of social media and Web 2.0, I am now connected to most of the people I grew up with, am endlessly amazed at who each has become, and really enjoy seeing the holiday photos of them & their kids. Those people I sat next to in the fifth grade are now lawyers, roadies, artists, producers, retailers and parents in their own right. Funny how things work out.

    In addition to reconnecting with long lost friends, I am also turning loose connections into strong connections, such as the many people I have met in the past 10 years: colleagues who have long since moved on to new jobs, people I have met at conferences, and family members who I had a great conversation with 4 years ago, but not seen much of since.

    By using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, these momentary connections have become lifelong relationships. And yes, relationships are built on sharing silly updates about food, pets and shopping.

  • We are More Connected to the Present
    Consider how we experience news and events today, in real-time, thanks to social media. Whether it is the untimely death of an actress, national news event or communal activity like sports, we turn to blogs to Twitter and to places like YouTube to experience them more quickly and with more personal affect.

    Likewise, our experience has expanded beyond the confines of not only our own personal space, but beyond what mass media defines for us. For instance, I can follow The Swell Season on tour through fan-posted videos on YouTube, through Twitter updates, from posts on fan forums and photos on Flickr. That is a process that I define and use multiple networks to create the experience.

  • We are More Connected to the Future
    Twitter has evolved as a business tool to meet new people and connect with those who share similar passions and goals. What this means is that the person who provides your next client, partnership, job or idea could likely be someone you connect to via a service like Twitter.

Overall, here are some of the effects of being closer to the past, present and future:

  • We are More Knowledgeable (or at least – we should be)
    The answers to the most simple questions are answered in moments via a Google search, connecting us to millions of websites and resources. Oddly enough, complex questions are answered just as easily, via that same search. Perhaps that answer will require more time to comb through forums or longer articles & sources, but there is little information that we cannot easily access with a well constructed query.

    What’s more, top universities are sharing their courses online – for FREE! Perhaps you can’t go to MIT, but you can take their courses and connect with others online to discuss the topics you are studying.

  • We are More Aware (and hopefully, less ignorant)
    This speaks more to cultural divides than overt knowledge and data. Things from outside of our normal circle are passed into it more easily and with more context of familiarity (being shared by a friend instead of NBC.) When international incidents make the news, they tend to hit Twitter first, and we are offered the views of primary sources – citizens on the ground, not just mediators who decide which stories to tell and when to tell them.

  • We are More Empowered (if we choose to be)
    Never before has it been easier to connect with someone in authority or far away. Never before has it been easier to create your message and distribute it to the world. Never before has it been easier to start a company. Again and again we see examples of how this empowers young people to be creative and create a positive identity for themselves as they are rewarded for their creations. From uploading a video to YouTube, selling handcrafted items on Etsy or commenting on a New York Times article – the only thing that limits our development and influence is our will.

And each of these things means that we will be more likely to have a better 2010 than 2009, and a better decade beyond that. As I look ahead, the opportunity I see is for businesses and individuals to properly leverage these networks – not just to blast out their message, but to build communities, to shape ideas and to help people achieve their goals.

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