My 86 year old dad taught me everything I needed to know about social media. And he’s never used a computer.

My father was a huge reader when I was a kid. The local paper, the Economist, Time magazine, industry journals, you name it.

As I grew and became interested in the world, he would share things he thought would interest me. Back in that day, before computers could be found in every pocket, he did it with something he called “clippings”.

He kept a pair of scissors within easy reach on the table, or beside his chair, and was always ready to extract some nugget of interest from whatever paper based media he had in front of him.

“That raucous new band you’ve been listening to. ACDC? They’re coming to town next month. Here’s the announcement”

“Did you know we’ve got a new Prime Minister? I didn’t think so—well here’s a Time article on him”

“There’s a Monet exhibition coming to the art gallery downtown. I know it’s unlikely you’ll want to come with me, but here are some images from Canadian Art that might entice you.”

It went on like this. Week after week. In my teenage years I’d awake at some obscene hour of the day and come down to the kitchen to a small pile of clippings on the table for reading over breakfast.

As I grew more and eventually moved out of the house, there would be a week’s collection waiting for me at our family dinners.

And when I really few up and moved across the country and started a family, the bundles of clippings were delivered once a week via post.

So what did this old guy without a computer teach me about social media?

Relevance. He taught me to pay attention to what others are interested in. No clipping came my way that did not have some relevance to my life.

Consistency. He taught me that consistency builds expectation. Even if I rolled my eyes occasionally at yet another pile of clippings, my sub-conscious was always awaiting their arrival each week.

Context. Scissors were not his only tool. He would scribble notes along the margins of articles, or attach a small piece of paper with an explanation. “Went to this show last week, excellent”…”Your mother works with this guy”…” I always knew why he was sending something, even for the more obscure things.

Sharing. Receiving a pile of clippings came with a responsibility to continue sharing these nuggets of information. Nothing pleased him more to hear that I had “retweeted” one of his clippings to a friend.

So when the digital world of social media came along, it all seemed so familiar to me. Other than a few new buttons to click, my old Dad would have been right at home in this new online world.

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