The Fine Art of Bemoaning Change

by Ken Mueller on August 7, 2013 · 12 comments

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Grumpy old man The Fine Art of Bemoaning ChangeWhen I worked in NYC as the Radio Curator at the Museum of Television & Radio, I spent a lot of time working with people who had been big names in the world of radio back in the 1930′s and 1940′s, during what many have called the “Golden Age of Radio.” They worked in radio dramas and comedies, and when television came along, most of them faded away. The ones I met in the 1990′s were an interesting group of people. Despite their contributions to our culture, many of them were not very comfortable in their old age.

There was one gentleman in particular who was a very big name producer who had worked with all of the big names on many of the biggest radio programs of the day. He was very bitter and angry at the industry for seemingly passing him by. He was still trying to get the radio networks to produce his programs, at a time when radio drama just wouldn’t fly on commercial radio. While he was a legend, I would dread the times I had to spend with him. Contrast this with my friend Norman Corwin who was even more of a legend, and older, and continued to create great radio content and drama on public radio into the 21st century. Rather than bemoaning the past, he accepted the change, and worked with it, and it showed in his personality, as he was one of the most charming, nicest people I’ve ever had the chance to meet.

Change happens. It’s not only a fact of life, it’s necessary. We must move forward.

Technology advances and we have to make adjustments. Most of those adjustments aren’t over night shifts. They happen gradually over time. More of an evolution than a revolution, though perhaps it is a more fast paced evolution than what we would like. We’re seeing this with most traditional media right now, particularly the newspaper industry which is really struggling to adapt. As President Obama said in a recent interview:

“What’s true in journalism is true in manufacturing and is true in retail. What we have to recognize is that those old times aren’t coming back.”

I think about this a lot because I feel like my Facebook, Twitter, and blog feeds have been clogged up lately with people bemoaning the evils of social media and how we are supposedly losing the ability to communicate with one another or the ability to read. I even see this from fellow marketers who are making a living off of people being on the internet.

I don’t get it. Change doesn’t necessarily mean things are worse. It just means they are different, and we had better adapt.

  • Social media doesn’t change who we are. It merely gives us a new and easier outlet for voicing our thoughts and opinions.
  • Social media doesn’t make us antisocial. In fact, there is solid research to suggest that the heaviest users of social media are actually MORE social than others.
  • Social media isn’t necessarily destroying our language. Language evolves. It always has. The dictionary we have today is filled with words that were new at one time, and many are variations of previous words. It’s just happening at a faster pace now.
  • Social media doesn’t bring out the bad side of people. It just allows us to see more of it more quickly in a concentrated space.
  • Social media isn’t making us lazier, nastier, more illiterate, or any of the other claims that have been thrown at us.

Guess what: social media merely magnifies who we already are.

If an employee is wasting his or her time all day on social media, banning social media isn’t the answer. They’ll most likely find other ways to waste their time.

Whining about change, particularly in relation to the internet, has become high art. I see more complaints about social media than I do about the people who use it. I see more posts about “digital detox” or digital fasts than ever before. To me, taking a digital fast would be taking a fast from my friends and the world around me (not to mention my job).

Our social habits change over time. People complain about how the internet is changing us from what is “normal.” But our normal today wasn’t the normal of yesterday. That’s why if you look back at the history and sociology of media, you see the same complaints being made about these newfangled things called comic books. And radio. And the cinema. And vaudeville. And television. Etc. Etc. Ad Nauseum. All of those “new” forms of media were going to be the ruination of life as we know it, and yet…we’re still here.

We need to stop our collective hand wringing and get on with life. The latest research from the Pew Internet & American Life study indicates that nearly three-quarters of online adults are social media users, and those numbers continue to rise. Social media and the internet aren’t going away. We can bemoan these changes all we want, but this is a part of life and culture now. It’s all a part of the evolution of how technology impacts our culture, and how we respond.

Change happens. We need to learn how to approach that change and how we’re going to let it change us or not. And from a business perspective, we can’t ignore the change, or we’ll get left behind.

It’s time we go old school and rub some dirt on it and walk it off.

Are you afraid of the change or willing to embrace it and tap into it?

 The Fine Art of Bemoaning Change
creativeoncall 1 Like

Ken, I generally agree, but feel you may be dismissing some of the more serious commentators along with the maybe-this-will-get-me-attention haters. 

Jonathan Baskin has a very thoughtful take (including excellent historical context) on what is lost or negatively changed in the requisite shift in social media to brevity and visuals in his recent book "A Thousand Words:  Why We Must Fight the Tyranny of the Brief, Vague and Incomplete."  

Nicholas Carr's argument in The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brain, written during the ascent of social media but hardly just about it, is still worthwhile reading, too (and was summarily dismissed as curmudgeonly Ludditism by my friends who were totally immersed in all things online at the time).   I don't think that embracing change requires failing to examine its losses and gains – for instance, I'd enjoy seeing more comment from you or others here on a key observation above: "social media merely magnifies who we are", as, while it is certainly a new lens through which we see and are seen, it's optical qualities may include distortion along with the magnification.

All that said, I do wish there were more thoughtful insights on the state of the social media mind and fewer facile attacks.

KenMueller moderator

@creativeoncall I agree completely, Chuck. I think we do need to look critically at things, and study the impact they have on us and our lives. But I feel like most of what I see is more kneejerk and based on nothing more than opinion or very small anecdotal evidence. This is not something that can be dealt with summarily. There needs to be real research before we make claims.

AmyMccTobin 1 Like

LOVE this post, because hating change is about fearing it.  I don't want to stir up a storm here, but often when I talk about tearing down silos I get the strongest push back from people safe in their own silo.

KenMueller moderator

@AmyMccTobin I agree, but I think it goes beyond fear. I think it also has to do with control. When things change, and change rapidly, people tend to worry about not being able to control them the way they used to.

samfiorella 2 Like

As I see it, the problem with change is the fear people have that they'll be left out or that they "won't get it."  Thus, their reaction to change is to criticize it. There's more complaining about change today because of the speed of change, we don't have the time to adjust to new ideas and ways of doing things that we used to.  However, I do think this might be temporary as Millennials are  growing up in an environment of fast-paced change, equipping them with the necessary mindset to accept - and even embrace - that change. 

bdorman264 1 Like

One thing you can certainly count on, and that is change. Regardless of your age, you can embrace it or get the heck out of the way. Now however, some of the change comes much quicker so you really have to pay attention. 

Well, this is the way we used to do it....:). 

KenMueller moderator

@bdorman264 Ah yes, the way we used to do it is always the right way. Now, where are the leeches?

Danny Brown
Danny Brown 1 Like

Amen, Ken. The amount of handwringing and navel-gazing is crazy. There's a simple solution - UnFollow, Block, UnFriend, do whatever, but stop your incessant whining and adding to the very thing you're complaining about.

KenMueller moderator 1 Like

@Danny Brown It's gotten pretty annoying, especially when done by people who make money in this space. They look for the "good old days," forgetting that our parents think our good old days are bad, and look to their own good old days. And so on.


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