Erik P.M. Vermeulen

@erikpmvermeulen

Staying “Ahead of the Curve” in a Digital Age

Don’t Let Snobbish Criticism Get You Down

Do we have a good understanding of how emerging digital technologies (think artificial intelligence, blockchain or robotics) are affecting society, business and education?

I am fascinated by this question.

What we know for sure is that these technologies oblige everyone to re-examine all aspects of what they are doing. Everyone has to develop strategies that enable them to make better choices in a fast-changing world.

Yet, finding answers to this question is tough. Knowing what to do exactly can be difficult, if not impossible.

In order to get a better idea about possible strategies for a digital age, I used to focus on traditional research with input from established “experts”. I would disseminate this research in academic books and articles and preferred to give presentations at “high-level” conferences.

But a year ago, some of my Millennial students convinced me that better results would be obtained when these ideas are developed in an open environment through a dialogue with the “crowd”. And this meant getting out of the “ivory tower”, opening myself up to the new media and new platforms that dominate our digital culture.

So, I started to learn from social media (YouTube, LinkedIn, Medium) and soon decided to create content and experiment myself.

Don’t get me wrong. Traditional content may still have its place and role. But there is so much more out there: new opportunities for both consuming and creating.

Now I share research, personal stories and other insights on social media. The idea is to have a dialogue with as many different people (from different disciplines, geographies, etc.) as possible.

And the experience has been amazing. The instant feedback (in the form of comments, questions, shares and likes) is extremely useful and often provides a fresh view on the tech questions and strategies for the digital age. Particularly, when you respond to comments/questions in a new piece, you really have the feeling that you’re learning and building something new together.

This experience provides direction. This way of working puts creativity (and “co-creation”) in a different light.

But . . . Social Media Isn’t Always Taken Seriously

Writing, creating, experimenting and sharing content in this way is wonderful and provides lots of energy.

But I have noticed one problem.

There is a particular snobbishness towards social media, blogs and online content. When I refer to online content in talks, we sometimes (particularly when a more traditional crowd is being addressed) end up with the discussion that online content isn’t “serious”. It is viewed as “light” or “trivial” and is quickly dismissed.

And this seems to be a common “problem” with social media and computer-generated content.

Recently, I watched a late-night show where the host asked a successful vlogger when he would become more “serious” and try to develop his own television show.

Of course, you shouldn’t get bogged down by these questions and criticism. So many people still don’t understand how social media works and why content is created.

They don’t understand the power of speed, transparency and accountability that is generated online.

Yet, you sometimes wonder why you should continue to consistently write, create and share content. The negativity (and not being taken seriously) can easily drain the energy out of you. It can make you question what you are doing (and why you are doing it).

Why Sharing Online Content Is Important

But, I am convinced. Online content and social media is important (and will only become more important).

What I find particularly interesting is that the online content attracts tremendous interest. At least, online content outlining strategies for a digital age is so much more appealing than the “traditional” resources (think academic papers, newspapers, television shows).

And what I found out is that it is not only younger people who consume this new content.

Many of those people dismissing such new platforms for not being “serious” are more and more interested in what is happening. Recently, I begin to suspect that their dismissive attitude reflects a fear about the future (“Will I still be Relevant”), rather than a genuine belief in the lack of quality of this new content.

For this reason, it is clear to me that in order to stay ahead of the curve, you must create online content and become active on social media.

A “shorter” and more accessible online story that is shared and initiates discussion and dialogue forces better thought and understanding than traditional output. Also, the chance that people will notice it, read it, get inspired by it and may built on it increases significantly.

My experience so far with creating and sharing online content is encouraging. It provides the speed and transparency necessary to answer questions about our future. Remember, the pace of technological change is accelerating, the innovations cycles get shorter and new technologies are adopted at lightning speed. Social media and online content are currently the best way to engage with the co-creation activities that are necessary to build a better future together.

And, this means remaining active. You have to maintain a dialogue. You have to persist. No matter what the content is or how the content is being received, you always learn.

Thank you for reading! Please click the 👏 below, or leave a comment.

There is a new story every week. So if you follow me you won’t miss my latest insights about how the digital age is changing the way we live and work.

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