I have a friend who likes to introduce me to new people at our Rotary meetings as “the Queen of Social Media.” I’m flattered she feels that way, despite the fact that I don’t really consider myself an “expert” in the field. I was early to embrace the digital revolution, to see how social media could be used for business, and to start a marketing company that has narrowed it’s focus to working in this arena for marketing and business development. I love the constant change, the dynamic nature of online conversations, the astonishing amount of information, and the serendipitous nature of discovering new things every day through people on the web. “Evangelist for New Media” might be more descriptive.
It’s ironic sometimes how things can come out of nowhere and bring us up short in our own beliefs. As enthusiastic as I am about the power, breadth and depth of the web experience, I discovered today that I am not willing to give over every experience to it. I found that there is a line in the sand that I do not want to cross. I discovered that line existed when I was asked to give up something that matters to me: the Smithsonian Magazine.
I pulled the magazine out of the stack of mail today, and the white paper cover stapled to the outside asked me to consider going totally digital on my subscription in exchange for 2 extra months. I was flabbergasted. (Yes, I am using a term not often used to describe magazine subscriptions!) Give up my PAPER MAGAZINE? I couldn’t believe it!
If you don’t get the Smithsonian Magazine, you might think I’m a bit off my rocker, but please let me explain. I don’t get a lot of magazines, but I read religiously the ones that I do get: the Smithsonian, Fast Company, BusinessWeek, The Rotarian and Prevention. And I have a confession to make about that: I mostly read them at my kitchen table. It’s a confession because I do as an adult what I was never allowed to do as a child – read at the table during meals. Now mind you I don’t do it when eating with others (generally) but with three grown kids in the house, we don’t always eat at the same time. So the kitchen table serves as sort of . . . um . . . a library.
Okay, I will never be the woman my mother was – not as a parent, homemaker or hostess. I am more an absent-minded professor than a Martha Stewart. And I love to read. My kids love to read. I discovered early on that if I leave BusinessWeek sitting on the table and that’s all that is there, the kids read it while they eat a bowl of cereal or a sandwich. So we have gotten very casual over the last six years about leaving reading material on the table. You can do that with a magazine. You can’t do that with a digital article!
I had no trouble giving up newspapers – none at all. It’s mostly text anyway and the headlines are all over the Internet the minute you log on. People email, post and tweet links to all the best articles, saving me from having to sort through what’s what myself. I like that system and so far it’s free!
As for BusineesWeek and Fast Company, I read a lot of those articles online for the same reason as the newspapers – people send and post them. I follow Fast Company on Facebook and what I don’t see in the magazine first, I see there. If I had been asked to give up any of my other paper subscriptions, I would have been reluctant, but for the sake of the planet and reducing paper waste and postage, I could have done it.
I just won’t do it for the Smithsonian. I totally understand that the reasons are financial. The Smithsonian Institution has been hit hard by the recession and they don’t just publish a magazine, they operate the world’s foremost system of museums which are free to the public! I’ve seen and heard their pleas for financial support from a cash strapped public and I know I should be doing my part to help them stay viable through this. But give up my magazine? No.
People do not regularly twitter and post the beautifully written and researched articles from that magazine. I am often the one who posts Smithsonian articles for my various networks online. And the photographs! Seeing a little photograph on a computer screen does not compare with the full color photo layouts on paper. The photography is breathtaking and glorious. It would not be the same on my laptop. I would not be able to read those articles over breakfast in the morning at my kitchen table.
I feel guilty of course. I know there are people who are more deserving of the paper edition than I am – long time contributors who have given way more than me; older subscribers who don’t even use a computer; the waiting rooms that provide the Smithsonian as an alternative for thinking people who are stuck there. I know, I know. How could I be so selfish? What happened to my concern for the greater good? For the environment? For the financial health of one of the greatest institutions in the world? How could I not agree to this very simple request they are making out of necessity?
They can’t have my Smithsonian Magazine! Someone else can give up their copy. I’ve gone paperless every way I can think of – I do online billing and banking, I registered for the “stop the junk mail” website (which works by the way), and I recycle my magazines and paper refuse on a weekly basis. I won’t give up my paper copy of the Smithsonian until they pry it out of my cold stiff hands. Or until they no longer publish it – which I hope never happens.
What more can I say? Turns out there is a limit to what I am willing to do online versus “in real life.” Who knew until today?