In Search of Normal


July 31, 2010

Today I’m packing for a trip to Chicago.  A trip where I am wondering if I’ll find “normal”.

Every day, I wake up before the rest of my family.  I typically grab coffee, or other suitable caffeine, and the first thing I do is log into Hootsuite to check what’s going on with my friends on Twitter.  Next comes gmail followed by GoogleReader and my own blog.  It’s like ritual by now.  I also have all these things set up on my phone so I can be informed throughout the day in case anything comes up that I just NEED to know about.  Do you do this too?

I read post after post telling the world that we all need to be this way.  We need to incorporate social media into our work and our personal life.  There are tips and tricks offered, stories of success that can come from doing it, and promises of gold at the end of the rainbow.  IF we all jump on board and eat, sleep, and breathe social media 24/7.

BUT, what if we’re all wrong?

What if all the non-adopters are the ones who are right?  What if all we’re doing is stirring things up that will eventually just die down and wither away instead of revolutionizing work and home?  What if THEY are the NORMAL ones and we are not?

I don’t have the answer.  But, I’m headed to IL SHRM conference this weekend to find out.  It will blend those of us who drink the social media Kool-Aid with those pros who are not using it.  I’ll be on the lookout for meeting as many practicing HR pros as I can and asking them what “normal” should be and what it is to them.

So, what do you think?  Are we normal, or are they?  Weigh in with a comment.


  • I think getting out to an event like Illinois SHRM is a great way to get a better feel for what kinds of issues are impacting HR professionals day in and day out. I think you are touching upon something that I have been thinking about as well, that too much time spent focusing on the small, kind of insular community of folks that blog,tweet, etc. about HR and workforce topics can be detrimental to your overall understanding of what is really happening inside HR and in organizations. I think it is easy to ignore the possibility that perhaps we are not at all as influential as we would like to think. Have fun at ILSHRM!

  • Fortunately Trish you will pass through NORMAL on your way to ILSHRM 10. But it won’t be long and then you will be going away from NORMAL.

    If you like/love what you’re doing and you are passionate about it, then you can’t be wrong. In your case I think you are and it shows in everything that you do.

    Now it does do good to get out or your own world, whatever that may be and see how the others live from time to time. So hopefully all of us can do that this week, and perhaps the people that think your lifestyle is a little nutty can give that a second look.

    Looking forward to seeing you this week. 🙂

  • Truly a concern of mine as well as of late. It is the main reason I took 2 weeks off from blogging in July….I was thinking, is this normal? what is this for? is this blogging community creating an advantage or creating a detriment? (repeating Steve’s words)
    As it is, after some downtime, I realize that it is as normal as anything else, it’s as normal as we make it and if anything blogging should primarily about creating value for ourselves.
    It feels good to write. It feels good when it’s noticed too. But I realized something during my hangtime that because of my blog and the connections it’s created, I’m a heck of lot smarter than I was a year ago. I feel pretty good about this (and normal).
    One last thing: everyone creates their own normal.

    • @Steve- Thanks for the conversation that inspired this post. I think it’s “normal” for us to question this. For me, the reminder is to continue to spread the word about the benefits of social media use to other professionals, both in HR and other industries.

      @Dave- Love that you say “it won’t be long and then you will be going away from Normal”. Hilarious! Seriously, I do spend a great deal of time talking with other people who at least use social media in some form, so it’s good to continue to talk to other HR pros and hear their concerns about it. My goal at IL SHRM 10 is to demonstrate that these social media platforms are really helpful tools in the day-to-day of someone practicing HR. Look forward to meeting you too!

      @Paul- As one of your readers, I definitely missed while you were not blogging in July. You touch on a couple points worth emphasizing. First, writing is something that feels good. It’s self development that can sometimes help other people develop too. It’s a great way to collaborate and to give a piece of yourself to others. Like you, I am definitely smarter than a year ago and it’s my social media contacts, like you, who put me there. thanks!!

  • I don’t think we are not normal, but I have been looking forward to attending a conference where I don’t know many people, just to see what experience feels like again. Plus, there are some speakers talking about social media and labor relations that I have not heard. Variety is the spice of life!

  • Trish, I never, EVER want to be labeled “normal.” It has a personal finance focus, but Dave Ramsey says that he strives to be weird. “Normal is broke with a 200k mortgage, two car payments, and a student loan you’ve had around so long you think it’s a pet. Be weird. It’s good for you.”

    🙂 I think I can hang with that in my career as well.

    Normal is sitting in a job and going through the same motions day after day for years, never challenging yourself to be and do more, and acting like a drain on the motivation of others. Be weird. Do something you truly enjoy, because it will radically change how you think about work.

    🙂 Rant over.

  • I have never been normal, never will, and am very proud to be associated with non-normal persons!!!!

    Trish- you’re abnormal in the best possible way!!!

  • love the post and comments – like most of the comments, who defines normal? think of all the people that comment, blog, post etc. about sports (and dont really play sports), politics, religion – and we can assume they have a some what insular community that bounces the ideas and debate around
    my only observation about the “normal” post is that the community of people that post, blogs, vlogs, tweets, etc. about HR and talent could use more people that are active practioners – the debate and content could be made more rich and real time relevant – but that is just my opinion
    as time marches on and the people in their 20’s move big time into the work force – who knows what normal will be – my son will never have a land line and does not use email as his principle way of communicating
    Trish and those that posted – thanks again, great comments

  • Love the post Trish! Don’t worry, every early adopter of anything has had to go through this self questioning…from Rock n Roll to Facebook, from the fax machine to the personal computer, the early believers have been made to feel like misguided zealots!

    I’m with Mike…there’s an age group entering the workforce that won’t use the traditional phone or e-mail, and will expect to communicate and get their information from social media, blogs and from interactions within their communities and networks.

    I read an interview with Clay Shirkey recently, and there was a great line in it. He was talking about print newspapers, and how 25 year olds don’t buy newspapers but read their news online…then he said ‘no medium has ever survived the indifference of 25 year olds’ which I think is so true.

    Work is changing and it won’t go back. I doubt any change linked to emerging technology will suddenly stop and reverse.

    Look forward to catching your updates from Chicago!

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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