I am reluctantly accepting my fate as a social media expert.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to call myself a guru in my Twitter bio or anything, but I’ve stopped rolling my eyes when people introduce me as their expert source on Facebook or Instagram (“Have you seen my Instagram?” I shudder, but I keep it to myself). At first, being introduced as a social media expert made me feel like my boss had just said:
“This is Julie. She likes wearing clothes in her spare time, so we made her our stylist.”
Then I realized that I have actually gained some experience over the past decade or so, even if my Masters degree is in Economic History, not Digital Future.
Or to continue the metaphor, most people are more naked than I thought.
As a student in academia, even at the graduate level, you are by definition an inexperienced person who has much to learn. But now I’m a young professional working with digital media, and suddenly older people see being young and inexperienced as an inherently good thing.
The logic seems to be: The less adult you are, the more in touch you are with how 13-year-olds are using Snapchat, which means you must magically know what the next Facebook is going to be. That’s why there are so many stupid tech articles where the journalist’s only reference is random musings of a 15-year-old who says Twitter is pointless.
Part of the problem is that the digital media landscape changes so quickly that it is hard to find or produce relevant research. But most of the problem is that there aren’t enough people over 23 who are willing to sit down in front of their computer and figure it out on their own.
On the one hand, being under 30 can’t be my specialty for more than another two years and seven and a half months. But on the other hand, I became an adult online – and that means people with decades of experience in journalism or PR listen to me. Even if they initially listen to me because I’m a millennial – and therefore an automatic Facebook genius – I get to tell them how to change their websites and who they should follow on Twitter.
I don’t want to be like those journalists who chat with their cousin for five minutes and think they’ve uncovered the key to online marketing success. I want to learn about digital media, not just by hanging around on Twitter, but by actively exchanging ideas with people who have experience I don’t have yet.
I also want to learn from the experience of my colleagues who didn’t grow up with websites.
During my first week at Burson-Marsteller, I asked one of my co-workers if she also felt weird about giving advice to very powerful and intelligent people. She said something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:
“Sometimes something seems obvious to you – not because it’s easy, but because you’re good at it.”
I still point out to people that they really shouldn’t rely on my personal social media advice, and that I haven’t studied digital media the way I studied immigration or fundamental problems of exchange. But then I remember that through this blog, Twitter and hours and hours of reading things on the Internet, I have learned things. I’ve earned the right to say that I know stuff now.