To bring things full circle, I'll just point out that if you look back at ancient human history -- before 2006 (when Twitter launched) or before 2004 (when we got Facebook) -- people had plenty of ways of engaging with brands and content. It wasn't as simple as it is now, of course, but it wasn't terribly difficult. As long as any of us can remember, there have been toll-free numbers on the back of cake-mix boxes, letters to the editor at print publications, and call-in shows on TV and radio.
One of my fondest memories of early social/interactive media dates to my days at Milwaukee magazine. Fresh out of college, I worked as an editor-writer at my hometown's glossy, and part of my job was doing radio. Fellow staffer Jim Romenesko (who later gained fame as the ur-media blogger) and I would take turns making on-air appearances at a local station to discuss Milwaukee magazine stories and talk to readers calling in.
One day, the DJ announced, "Next up, we've got Ron on the line." The caller sounded breathless: "Si? It's Ron Fieber! Mr. Fieber -- your high-school history teacher! Remember me? I heard you on the radio and I just had to call in. I always knew you'd make something of yourself! Si, I'm proud of you. ..." And on and on, much to the DJ's delight and my embarrassment.
(I can't remember my stammered response, but for the record I want to state that Mr. Fieber was a life-changingly brilliant teacher and just the loveliest human being. He's retired now, but if he were on Facebook, I'd totally fan him.)
Like Damian Kulash's seventh-grade teacher, my high-school history teacher felt a compelling need to "engage" and interact with some content.
Most consumers of media will never have reasons as good, or as heartwarming, as those Mr. Naples and Mr. Fieber had. But, hey, that 's OK.
As for the 99% of humans who aren't engaging with media and brands? Maybe it's time we accept that they might not be engaging through social media because they choose not to. And, hey, that 's also OK. Or to put it another way, maybe passively consuming content is just the way that most people choose to engage.
OMG LOL SRSLY?
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.
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