Special anniversaries, new projects with old friends, and the future for young people.
A lot to think about, and a lot fun this week at Grey Fox. Here’s what I’ve loved this week.
1. My 10-Year Twitter-versary
This week, I got a new Twitter notification that stopped me in my tracks momentarily.
It was an image from Twitter, celebrating ten years since I first signed up for the then new “micro-blogging” platform all the way back in 2008.
Twitter has been a big part of my life ever since. It’s made me laugh, and infuriated in equal measures. It quickly became the first place I would hear about anything noteworthy: celebrity mortality, every minute detail of every Liverpool match, and earth-shattering moments like Brexit and the Trump election victory.
When I think back over the past 10 years, Twitter was a huge part of my experience of some massive global events, for good or ill.
I remember staying up til 5am on the night of the 2008 US Election watching the States role in for Obama. This was my first experience of a live event unfolding via Twitter, and at the time it was exhilarating. I remember when Obama won a particularly tightly fought swing state, and asking the world “Given that California is next to be called, doesn’t this pretty much mean he’s won?”, and getting actual replies from actual people in actual America! It was amazing, and a really memorable night, and for me the first major event that Twitter was a huge part of.
It’s been the commentary to some sad and scary moments too. It’s been on Twitter where I’ve always seen the first details emerging of some terrible tragedies in recent years, then tracking their horrific aftermath in real time.
And coming full circle, I’ll never forget that graph that I tweeted at about 10.30pm on 23rd June 2016 that looked like Remain had just edged the EU Referendum. And I’ll never forget the sinking feeling I had checking Twitter at 3.30am on the night of the 2016 US Election seeing that Trump had just won Florida.
The criticisms of Twitter are real and, in many cases valid. It absolutely has become an echo chamber for political opinion; and it absolutely allows bullies and cowards to spout their hurtful misogynistic, racist, anti-semitic, islamo-phobic, homophobic nonsense from the safety of their bedrooms (or their mum’s basement). Sometimes clicking the “see other replies” button on a thread opens up a whole world of pain, you wish you’d never chanced upon.
But in spite of all this, and perhaps against my better judgement, Twitter remains my favourite social medium. I still find great value in it. I hugely value the friends and connections that I’ve made; especially the ones I’ve gone on to meet in person.
The comms professional community on Twitter is also a massive source of inspiration, support, and friendship - without which I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today.
I find something on Twitter that makes me laugh every day (though probably more things that make me want to face-palm).
I love the language of Twitter, and I love how the platform has evolved itself around the habits and needs of users.
There’ll be plenty of other blog posts out there that talk about the functional aspects of Twitter, the business model and its many pitfalls; but I remain a fan. Over the years I’ve reduced my Facebook usage massively, and I’m just not disciplined or artistic enough to be a big Instagram user (Listerine have yet to contact me about a paid collaboration).
So to Twitter. You drive me mad. You make me angry. I’ve wanted to quit you many times. But you also make me laugh. You’ve helped me make real friends in the real world. You’ve given me the platform and confidence to do what I now do for a living.
You’re still my No.1.
2. An exciting new project
This week I’ve had the great news about a new project I’ll be working on shortly, all about helping to keep children and young people safe online.
I’ll share more details shortly, but it’s great to be working in this really important area; one which simply did not exist when I was growing up.
And what’s more, it’s an opportunity to work with a good friend and colleague from a previous job!
This is one of the things I’ve loved about freelancing. It’s given me the opportunity to meet and connect again with colleagues that I’ve previously had great working relationships with.
When you work like this, there’s no limit or rules to who you can or can’t work with; and this freedom connects you to new and exciting concepts and projects that you never thought you’d get a chance to work on. And it also allows you to work with some of your favourite colleagues again, to reminisce, and to share in each other’s success.
3. Blog post of the week
Those pesky “young people” are a bit of a theme this week.
It’s not a piece about Comms per se, but Laura is a brilliant freelance writer from Liverpool, and it absolutely raises important questions and points that all communicators who aspire to work with young people (young people = those under 40 in this case) need to consider.
The post discusses the hugely changed expectations that todays 18-35 year olds have compared to those of their parents (most of whom can broadly be defined as “baby boomers”).
Home ownership, marriage, kids, leaving a financial inheritance for your offspring: Laura describes how these things (normal expectations of the baby boomer generation) are increasingly fictional dreams for this generation.
It’s led to a “lack of security and uncertainty” that according to Laura has “galvanized a generation”. And I think this is a really important point. I argued recently that treating “young people” as a homogeneous blob ripe for commercial exploitation and easily manipulated is a total misnomer.
Those under 35 are human beings with influences, hopes and dreams like any generation; but critically a particular set of social, political and economic circumstances that have shaped their experiences and expectations of life: none bigger in Laura’s (and my) view than the 2008 financial crash.
In many ways this has led to great creativity, with the flourishing of the freelance creative industry, but, as I’d argue that it has also led to a generational crisis of mental wellbeing (described in stark terms last week by NHS CEO Simon Stevens in his speech to NHS Expo).
This generational change is epoch defining. And it’s down to us comms people to remind our organisations and clients that the experiences and expectations of this generation are fundamentally different that theirs. It’s a huge challenge that we all need to be awake to.
Laura’s brilliant post highlights this change, and asks tough questions of us all.
Required reading. Give it the 15 minutes of your time it richly deserves.
4. Podcast of the week 1
Also in “Young People are Screwed” news this week…
It’s another brilliant podcast by The Native. Hosted by the brilliant Dave Musson, called: “Young People are Screwed - should your brand care?”
Dave talks to Founder of Hype Collective, the youthful Simon Lucey (he’s THIRTY!!) about a lot of the themes discussed in the blog post above, and how some of the brands he’s working with in the world of student marketing are responding to the challenge.
Really thought-provoking and useful listening.
5. Podcast of the week 2
Two awesome comms related podcasts to listen to this week. Enjoy.