Different Strokes for Different Coasts

I spend a lot of time talking to people about social media, thinking about it, blogging about it, etc. A frequent refrain that I hear is that here in Boston we’re playing catch-up with X (where X equals pretty much any city you can name, but most especially San Francisco). I wanted to share my thoughts on this and to get a response from people about some of these ideas.

First of all, I think that all individuals, communities, regions, countries, etc. have something valuable to bring to the table when it comes to social media. This is because all of them have something of intrinsic value to begin with and social media simply provides new ways for this value to be expressed.

That said, it seems that the number one means of measuring the contribution of social media takes the form of how many new or interesting companies are being spawned, or how many events happen on a given night. That certainly says something, but not everything.

Now I’m a New Englander at heart and I take seriously what that means. The main thing it means is putting up with shitty weather most of the year. I’m not being facetious. It’s cold more often than not and when it isn’t cold it’s wet or muddy or buggy or blazing hot. The result is that people here tend to spend more times holed up in doors than they might like.

Being stuck indoors a lot gives you plenty of time to think and dwell and obsess. You have more time to read. And think and dwell and obsess. Or watch movies. And think and dwell and obsess. We’ve got a pretty good track record of thinking, dwelling and obsessing here in New England and have even made it something of our stock-in-trade if you look at all of the colleges and universities in the area.

I also lived for six years in San Francisco and I loved every second of it. I was there from 89 to 95 – arrived just in time for Loma Prieta and left just before the whole Internet thing really got going. One of the first things I noticed about SF was that the weather didn’t suck. In fact, the weather doesn’t suck in most of California. And if you want bad weather, you can visit it like some kind of museum.

The absence of bad weather means that people don’t have to spend so much time holed up in doors. They can go out and do things! Do things with friends, hang out and do. And doing is something that people do really really well out in the Bay Area. Doing things, making things – awesome things, things the rest of us want and buy and use.

This isn’t to say that people don’t make and do things here in New England, or that people don’t think and dwell and obsess out in SF, just that there may be some impact of the elements on people’s character.

As for that “catch up” thing that people talk about here in Boston – let’s face it, we’re never going to catch up in the making and doing category. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all be trying to make and do cool new things, but simply that the center of gravity for making and doing is a few thousand miles west of here.

What we ought to be doing is celebrating our tradition and ability in the world of thinking and dwelling and obsessing. Much of what I hear about social media has to do with new sites or services, new ways of doing things, etc. What I hear less of is the why, the what it means, etc. Thinking about – and providing answers – to those kinds of questions is where people here have shined for getting close to 400 years and there’s no reason to stop now.

I’d like to know if other people think this is true. And all of you here in New England, how can we help focus our thinking and dwelling and obsessing in ways that will advance and support the idea of social media moving forward?

[tags]Social Media, New England, Boston, California, San Francisco, making, doing, thinking, dwelling obsessing[/tags]

One thought on “Different Strokes for Different Coasts

  1. I am still a newbie to new england, though my family used to be in the area so I don’t know if what you say is true. Boston is the second tech center in the country, so we must like some new things. That was one reason I came here in the first place. There does appear to be more of a sense of history here. That reminds me of the UK.

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