Will Social Media Save Us?

Driving to WordPress Camp – Columbus, I heard a story on NPR about more victims of the economy. Dan was a L.A. based photographer who hadn’t booked a job since December. His wife, Caitlin Shetterly, was a freelance reporter for public radio. And then there was the baby and the dog.

Caitlin spoke about how they forfeited their apartment, shuttered the business and moved back to Maine, to live with her mother. They crossed the country in a car too small for all their belongs, or at least the ones they hadn’t opted to leave behind. With two adults, a restless baby and one 90lb. dog, her husband had worried that the back end of the car was riding too close to the ground. Arriving safely, they found her mother had decorated the guest bedroom with photographs of Caitlin as a young girl. Her father was just glad to have them home.

As a writer, who also works with photographers, the story hit home.
Given the current economy, I too have considered the possibility of returning home. But for today, I was attending WordPress Camp.

During the first presentation, a woman in the back of the room began calling out comments. As this continued, I began to think of her as the WordPress Camp’s heckler. Any comedian will tell you there’s one in every crowd.

Later that morning, I learned that Lorelle VanFossen was no heckler.
In fact, she was one of the first sixty people to test drive WordPress’ software in early 2000. She’s a walking warehouse of blogging knowledge and had come from Portland, Oregon to share the WordPress love.

As she walked through the audience, microphone in hand, she called out
the question – What has WordPress done for you? I was too busy taking
notes to realize she had zeroed in on me. I looked up to see the mike stuck in my face.

Well, I stumbled, I’ve only been using WordPress since Monday.
She stood over me, her finger pointed down toward my head and yelled –
Virgin! The audience laughed. She had gone from heckler to comedian.

Lorelle moved across the room, placed the mike in front of a man, roughly in his early 50’s and asked – What do you do and what has WordPress done for you? He replied – I used to be a journalist. Used to be? My heart sank. The Columbus Dispatch had recently let go a batch of writers – perhaps he among them. Our used to be journalist was also new to WordPress, and was just hoping to keep his writing skills honed.

Displaced creative types are becoming a theme in my life. A photographer I know was recently shadowed by a high school student wanting to become a photographer himself. The optimism of youth. For those who have spent a lifetime in the creative field, we wonder if there is a future in the wake of this economic downturn, or at best, what that future will look like.

Months before, this same photographer had commented that social media
platforms, like LinkedIn, would become the new marketing forum for photographers. I wonder about the L.A. photographer, now living in Maine. Will social media save his career? Will Caitlin’s blog save hers? Perhaps we’ve all been riding along life’s highway too overloaded and a little too close to the ground.

As we look to a President, who built his campaign on social media, to fix
so much that’s wrong, perhaps like Obama, the best we can do for now is just keep the conversation going in an attempt to keep moving forward.

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