In Praise of New York City
by Alex Shippee in Labels:

New York City is endless. It seriously never stops. When I returned from a week long vacation one day I was amazed that the massive, amorphous crowd still had the same nuanced looks of stress and hurrying on their individual faces. It was like returning to a city thousands of years later and finding all the buildings intact. Why doesn’t anybody slow down?

Commuting into the city isn’t the same as living there. You get to see all the massive buildings and hear the tangled conversations on the street, but you don’t get to enjoy it. You don’t get to stand still, with a whole day stretched before you, and do all those New Yorker things. I don’t know exactly what they are because, well, I’m not a New Yorker. I’m from a small town in Connecticut actually. Life is very different there. Instead, I get off at Platform 112 at Grand Central and take the 6 Train to Canal Street and walk to my office before I’m late.

For a few days in a row, I passed the same woman walking her tiny little dog who happened to have three legs. It broke my heart and, one day, I asked her about him (his name is Lick-Lick) and why he had only three legs (he got into a fight with a coyote) and we got to talking.

I told that woman about a farm cat I know, named Super-Cat, that also got into a fight with a coyote and lived to tell the tale. We agreed that that was awesome. Lick-Lick peed happily on a tree and it didn’t seem so sad anymore. I said goodbye to my new friends and headed off to work, smiling happily.

The thing is, I like people. And in New York there are more lives taking place, concurrent and intertwined, than I can even imagine. In just three months of working there I met a three-legged dog, debated Harry Potter with a mother of two, got into an argument at an Internet CafĂ©, and just, in general, enjoyed the busyness of it all . I don’t live there, but when I walk to work, I like to imagine the entire space of Manhattan stretched out around me; all the people packed homes, the dogged determination of the businesses, the melody of all those cultures mixing together and that strange swath of life it must look like from afar.

I hope we can agree that that is awesome.

I wrote a guest blog for one of my bosses a little while ago and you can find it here. Since then, I’ve been thinking about what I was trying to say and wanted to elaborate on it.

Social Media isn’t a place. You don’t really go to Facebook or Twitter or even this blog. You may navigate from one website to the other, but you’re really just sitting at your computer (or using your phone) and gaining access to a tool. If anything, the place is the tool.

People have been using different tools to reach an audience for thousands of years. If the average person, from any time period and place, was told to share a message with, say, twenty people, of course it’d be different. Somebody in Ancient Greece might travel to the nearest city-state and start talking to people. Somebody in Medieval Europe might post a bulletin in a public space hoping people will read it (providing they all could read). Somebody in America during the 19th century might send out fifteen telegraphs with the hope that a few people will share the message. Now, all somebody needs to do is send out one tweet.

The tools may be different, and Socrates and Martin Luther knew how to communicate their message given the conventions of the day, but there’s no substitute for genuine content and a relevant audience.