Social technologies and The Benjamin Button Paradox

by Jeff De Cagna on January 28, 2009

Yesterday at ASAE & The Center’s Technology Conference, I kept hearing association staff leaders make the “our members are older” argument for why they aren’t yet using (or still just dabbling with) social technologies.  Sometimes, the argument is presented in generational terms.  Either way, when I hear it, I feel a little bit older.

I feel this way because of what I’ve decided to call “The Benjamin Button Paradox,” which I would summarize this way:

We want our older members to be younger and our younger members to be older.

The former will never, ever happen, no matter what you see in the movie.  So why are we waiting for them to change their views?  We’ll never give them a reason to see things differently until we give them something worth seeing, and it must be something that will matter to them, which means it must be something we create for our own organizations.

The latter will surely happen, but not nearly fast enough for us to wait.  And the danger with each passing year is that once-younger members will grow older and focus on other things that matter to them.  We will have failed to make a lasting connection when they were most open to it, and they will be fully committed to co-creating their own networks and communities without us.

Associations simply cannot afford to be trapped in The Benjamin Button Paradox.  Let’s stop making excuses.  Let’s start taking action.

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