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On Socia Media & Life: Lessons from New Orleans

Recently, I had the good fortune of visiting the city of New Orleans for a conference. Among the “work” I had to do was to go on a tour of the city to view some of the areas most heavily affected by Hurricane Katrina and visit with some of the nonprofit agencies who have played a role in the city’s recovery. Our tour’s wonderful guides clarified many misconceptions and untruths about Hurricane Katrina, the levees, the human cost and the future of New Orleans. After the tour I got to thinking about how much of what I learned applies to the work I do with social media, and even life in general, among those lessons:

(Re)Building takes time
Unfortunately, there are some who view New Orleans five years after Katrina as a failure, believing that five years is enough time to rebuild a 300-year-old city. Having been abandoned by its city, state and federal government; with about 80% of the area affected by flooding and with 5,500 lives lost, the scope of the damage was on a massive scale never before dealt with in US history. Adding insult to injury, the government has continued to be slow in its response, homeowners have faced massive red tape from their insurers in obtaining money for rebuilding, and many were and are left with psychological scars. How often in life are many of us ready to throw in the towel when the results of our endeavors do not appear as quickly as we would like them to?

Have faith
Despite all that, the people of New Orleans have tremendous faith in the ability of their city to recover. There is a great sense of hope that so long as people keep believing and working hard, the city will be as great, if not better, than it once was. Glimmers of hope were found in the face of devastation from the sense of community that shared loss can create and ordinary folks coming to help from all corners of the globe. It can be easy to give in and overlook, or outright dismiss, those small indicators that clear skies really do lie ahead of us.

Appreciate your DNA
As much as New Orleanians look forward to the day when their home will be fully recovered, they plan to do so while maintaining what New Orleans has always been about. New ideas and technologies designed to prevent damages on the scale experienced following Katrina have been embraced with a nod to maintaining much of the history and character of the city’s architecture and design. Technology can make life simpler and more efficient but is sometimes best wielded when we remember the importance of who we are and why we do what we do.

As excited as I was to visit New Orleans I was even more humbled to really get to see the city and hear so many first-hand accounts of life immediately following Katrina and now. I knew my eyes would be opened by my tour of the city but never could I imagine that I would have been moved so deeply or learn so much.

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