About Staten Island and social media

February 3, 2010

Peter Shankman and Raeanne Rubenstein will always have Staten Island and Silver Lake. After hearing Shankman speak today at an event sponsored by PRSA Nashville and the Nashville chapter of the American Marketing Association, I may always think of Staten Island when I think of Peter Shankman.

Sorry about that, Peter.  For most New Yorkers, Staten Island is the borough they love to hate, and they’d be happy to cede it to New Jersey (if New Jersey would take it). It happens to be where both Shankman and Rubenstein grew up, and Shankman mentioned that as an aside during his remarks today.

Rubenstein spoke up when Shankman brought up his maligned stomping grounds and asked doubtfully whether anyone in the audience hailed from there. Looking stunned, he asked Rubenstein what neighborhood she had lived in on Staten Island. “What part of Silver Lake,” he asked. “My grandmother lived her whole life there.”

That moment is one of the memories I’ll take from today’s session. For a moment Shankman wasn’t a nationally known speaker in front of 200-plus people: He was one person relating to another, and it was a heartwarming example of why we value social media and why we love it so much. When social media works, it brings us closer together, and it helps us connect (or reconnect) with people who share our interests and our experiences.

Shankman had a lot of interesting things to say today about the semantic Web, whether pokens will catch on and why the spread of mobile devices means more than Twitter’s rapid rise in popularity. What struck me most of all, though, is that, despite all the Web sites and gadgets we all like to brag about, underneath it all we’re all people looking to communicate and connect.

The technology behind social media is impressive, but social media isn’t some magical fantasy land where all our dreams come true. It’s an over-hyped medium that helps us do things we never thought possible, but it also helps us keep in touch with people and causes that matter to us. And that’s what matters most of all.

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