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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Small Isn't So Small (Rural Social Media)

The conversation went something like this:

"Did you hear about Jimmy Smith?"

"Oh, my Lord, yes.  He has been in trouble his whole life."

"And can you believe that his sister is actually defending him?"

"Not surprising...she's piece of work."

"Well, I'm going to be keeping an eye on this one - everyone is talking about it."

This conversation takes place, not at the town square or even the local coffee shop or grocery store aisle.  Much like big cities, these conversations take place in living rooms, dining rooms, front porches throughout rural America while the participants are glued to their mobile devices or computers.  Technology has changed how we communicate with one another and this blog is but one of many examples of how rural communities stay in touch...when there's Internet, of course.

Through the use of social media, families can stay in contact with loved ones, watch the news and see what's happening around town.  Even local papers have created an Internet presence in the smallest of towns in the hopes of maintaining cultural relevance they once held.  Gone are the days of the local diner being the focal point of town gossip, trends and interactivity.  Rather, even these diners and coffee shops have wireless Internet and the person-to-person conversations are typically relegated to the exchange of money at the cash register for a beverage.

Recently, a horrific fire ravaged much of an area of White Salmon and it was the use of technology - the Internet largely - that kept surrounding residents abreast of what was taking place.  It was an excellent example of the positive aspects of both social media and the use of smart technology to keep people aware and safe.  Ultimately, it saved lives. 

Facebook has become much larger than even its founder imagined.  Ignoring the drop in stock value, Facebook has served to reconnect family members and loved ones, friends from youth and is now a pivotal aspect of rural life.  In some cases, Facebook serves as a town crier, a bulletin board of sorts where events are posted, videos are watched and conversations about hunting, fishing, jobs, politics and illness are learned of and resources shared.  Say what you will about social media, one thing is certain:  It works well in big cities as well as rural communities and the argument can be made that the impact is greater in rural communities than in areas with heavy population density.

It's exciting to see the changes in attitudes toward the use of social media, technology and how rural communities stay in touch.  At a recent Goldendale High School football game, the opposing team had set up a webcam, was broadcasting the football game via the Internet and providing play-by-play commentary.  While the negative side can be a downturn of real human interaction, residents of rural communities who perhaps were unable to attend could participate in their own way - from the comfort of their homes as they rest from a long day at work.  

Change can be a good thing and the growth of technology and the increased use of social media to communicate will serve to grow communities, to enhance the quality of life for many in rural America and as a consultant to the same, this development of technology has been an enormous blessing. I've had the opportunity to help others use social media to their advantage, to increase name recognition and give some insight as to who they are.  Businesses, candidates for elected office as well as folks like you and me can use technology to our advantage to share ideas, thoughts, promote business and communicate effectively and quickly.

We live in a great country.  That's all there is to it.