As Simon commented there was a lot of naivety in the early days of what we now refer to as "social media" - no one really knew what they were doing or where the road would take us. One thing is for certain, however, we didn't imagine we'd be where we are now.
When I switched from my old way of blogging to predominantly cover the social web in 2008 I was trying to work it out on the fly, trying to promote its use in the hope that a mainstream, connect social web would be of a benefit to us all. I got involved in a lot of good conversations with a lot of good people; it was just a shame none of us were really in a position to set the course or steer the ship.
We were just passengers carried across uncharted seas wondering where we would eventually make landfall, each with an opinion as to how things should progress, sharing our thoughts with anyone who would listen.
I replied to Simon's comment:
The gold rush of the old wild west is well and truly over and we’re now trying to live in the crowded towns and cities created during that period. Some have been abandoned but others have become grossly overpopulated and need careful management.
Our naivety was that we believed in the brave new world, that social was a panacea, a cure-all. We trusted the networks to do what was best, we trusted that they had the answers when, in reality, no one did. We convinced ourselves of their altruism, that they wanted the same things we did. Unfortunately, reality set in; they had to pay the bills, keep the servers running, and went for the easy money.
We went along for the ride, we had to - there were no other options, no alternatives. Those that tried to compete so often had their moment in the sun but shrivelled and died as quickly as they had blossomed. In all likelihood they would have had to follow the same path as the incumbents were they to grow and flourish.
So here we are, in a social world, wondering how to make the best of things, how to use the tools thrust upon us to best effect. The horse bolted a long time ago and there is no way of ever closing the stable door again - I think the door shattered and came off its hinges.
It's not just social networks but the "social web" as a whole - that includes email, blogs, newsletters, everything else you care to mention. That's where I am, looking back and trying to make sense of it all, trying to figure out the best way forward.
Still, one thing has changed, one hugely significant thing: I'm no longer trying to be a voice for the masses (that ship has well and truly sailed), no longer pretending that I could hold sway over any of this. Instead, I am just focusing on what's best for me, how I can use the tools at my disposal (and that's all they are) to have a presence I can be proud of, to work things out in my own mind.
That's something we forget - that all of these are just tools and it's how we chose to use them that really counts. Sadly the naivety continues and the use of these tools is chosen for many, cajoled and pushed along paths we they never have trod had everyone else not been ushered all too willingly along them, following promises of a better life, a better future.
SECRETS ARE LIES
SHARING IS CARING
PRIVACY IS THEFT
None of that is any longer my concern. I'm just learning to tend my little garden, which seeds to sow, which weeds to pull. I'm now willing to step back in to the gardens of others but will not tarry longer than I need.
They are tools, something to be used to achieve an end - not the end themselves.
It's almost post-social.