Social Media is a lot like Las Vegas. At first.

I just returned from a week in Las Vegas for Con Expo – billed as the largest tradeshow in the western hemisphere and drawing over 120,000 attendees. Think about it. That’s larger than many decent size cities. I stayed at the Cosmopolitan – the newest mega hotel on the strip. Everywhere you went was a visual and sensory feast. The lobby columns changed frequently. Even the parking garage was decadent. Glitz on steroids. But that’s Las Vegas. It’s big. It’s loud. And totally superficial.

It’s excess to the max. Fun for a day or so because it’s such a spectacle, it eventually leaves you feeling empty. It’s too much of too much. Take the Cosmo. On the one hand it’s a darn nice place to stay. The rooms are luxurious. The restaurants upscale. And then you have the very seedy side of Vegas. Everywhere you turn.

Social Media is a lot like Las Vegas. There are always new tools – more than anyone can effectively use. There are unlimited opportunities to connect with people just like Vegas has unlimited opportunities to extract cash out of your pocket. And it can be very superficial. If you just skim the surface, you’re going to find yourself losing a lot of time without much to show for it. There’s also the very seedy side of Social Media, with predators looking for a way to make a quick buck. It’s easy to be someone you’re not. You have to dig to find the heart of Social Media. You have to slow down and not let yourself be sucked in to the hype. You have to be aware of your surroundings and know when to move on.

But move beneath the surface and that’s where social media parts ways with Vegas. Las Vegas isn’t built on a human scale. It’s all about masses of people. Social is all about personal connections. It’s one to one. Not many-to-many. And there’s a very rich heart. Look at how people connected during the Egyptian and Iranian protests.  It’s about helping others by engaging. I have yet to find the real heart of Vegas. If there’s an aspect that works to benefit society, I haven’t discovered it or it’s the best-kept secret.

Social Media is not about chance. It’s not about luck. It’s the place where you can make an immediate impact on someone’s life. David Armano’s effort to help Daniela leave an abusive relationship is still one of the most powerful examples of social media for good.  He set a goal to raise $5,000 and raised $16,880.  Think about how hard that would have been before.

Las Vegas has reached its peak. It doesn’t take long to see the abandoned mega structures intended to continue ratcheting up the excess that crashed with the economy. On the flipside, social is really just getting started. We’re just starting to explore the potential for forming connections and changing the world.

Vegas is win-lose. Every casino banks on your losing. Social Media is win-win.

As they say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But with Social, keeping secrets doesn’t fly.

Social media doesn’t work if you make it all about you. Vegas thrives on self gratification. You have to look outward. It works best if you’re not helping people to make you look good, but if you genuinely want to do something good for someone else. Regardless of the payback. However, you’ll often find yourself richly rewarded. Because doing good changes you. It opens you up to the bounty that the Universe provides.

So dig beneath the surface. Discover how you can change someone’s life – or a whole community. All you need is the desire, your mind and an internet connection. The odds are in your favor.

This post is part of the #UsBlogs weekly topic for March 27: Social Media for Social Good.

One comment

  1. Patrick, I am continuously amazed at how different all of our takes are, every week on these #usblogs topics. Even so, I think it’s interesting that the platform lends itself to metaphors so much. Las Vegas is a great comparison. Social media has a lot of that same glitz and emptiness that you point out. I love it.

    Thanks again for the supportive retweeting of my own post, earlier. I love being part of this project, and community.


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