Remember the days before social media? Heck, do you even remember the days before email? Yes? No? No matter. Before I go off on a nostalgia-fueled bender, I’ll dispense with the diatribe opining the virtues of putting pen to paper—mostly because I was never very diligent about it. I’d write my grandmother a card now and then or send a note to my girlfriend when we were apart at college, but otherwise I was no great correspondent. But now, with the digital age upon us and a sea of friends, family, and even strangers literally at our fingertips, it’s all too easy to stay in touch (sometimes too in touch) with the world. Irrespective of your thoughts on the subject, social media is an omnipresent force in the daily lives of most people. And as the plugged-in noose tightens around the neck of the “me” generation, I’ve noticed a growing phenomenon with regard to communication. It’s probably something akin to what the generation that came before me felt as email replaced snail mail. I’m talking about “Instant Messaging.”
Now, before you go calling me an old fart with his Polident in a bunch, hear me out. My criticism is based on the logistical limitations of trying to interface with our readership through this new medium and not in any dismantling of social mores it may represent. We (the Source Interlink magazines and editors) maintain brand and personal pages on Facebook, Twitter, and many other social media forums. It’s a necessary evil these days (if you want to look at it negatively), but it’s also a fun way to stay plugged in to what we’re up to behind the scenes and to stay more closely connected with our readers. Truth be told, most of us enjoy it. The only real downside I’ve noticed is that we’re receiving fewer emails and more social-media messages. Messages commenting on stories we’ve run, suggesting stories you’d like us to do, photo submissions for Jeep Shots or Sideways, letters for our Mailbag column, and so on.
So what’s the problem? Why can’t we just pull the messages from Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus and carry on? For starters, it’s the medium in which these messages are hosted. As our fans/likes/followers or whatever grows into the six- and seven-digit size, the host sites simply crawl depending on the amount of traffic chatter. It often takes an unrealistic amount of time to open and read even a couple of messages. Also, most of these forums resize digital photo attachments. That’s great for getting them to load fast on your computer or mobile device, but it often makes the image too small to use in print. So sharing your buddy’s bitchin’ rollover, hot Jeep chick, or sweet Jeep build from your Facebook photo collection unfortunately does us no good. And organizationally, there’s no comprehensive way to disseminate the various messages into categories for later use. With an email, we just toss it in the “Sideways” or “Mailbag” folder for easy access later to forward to our freelancers or production people. But social messages just kind of sit there jumbled and tangled amongst spam solicitations or links to phishing sites. Finally, there’s the uncertainty of who you’re going to reach with a social media message unless it’s one of the editors’ personal pages. Jp’s social presence, for example, is moderated by about a half-dozen people—so there’s really no telling who is going to open and read your message and no guarantee that it’ll reach the recipient you want.
So the final plea? Keep contacting us any way you want. It’s always humbling to me whenever somebody cares enough about what we do (good or bad) to take time out of their busy day to write us. However, if it’s a pressing matter or a letter or photo submission you hope to have printed, email it to us. It’s the surest way to reach the person you’re looking for, get the answer you need, or ensure your photo submission will be used. Just check the byline at the beginning of each story for the correct email address. Or, you can reach any person at Source Interlink by firstname.lastname@example.org.