What’s In A Name?

At one of the panels I attended at SXSWi this year, there was an actual discussion on whether or not we should use the term ‘blog’ to describe, well, sites like this one. Kid you not, there was time spent on this. Today, I was linked to this post, discussing how we shouldn’t be using the term ‘multimedia’ anymore. I’ve also witnessed a number of conversations on Twitter, discussing how we shouldn’t call ourselves ‘social media experts’ or whatever other term was popular last year.

The problem I have with all of this stems from William Shakespeare, who of course had no idea what any of this was. ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.‘ In other words, it doesn’t really matter what we call stuff, as it has no real bearing on the various characteristics of that thing.

While chatting with my friend Antoine of MobileMinistryMagazine about this earlier, he made the observation that ‘naming = control = fear+understanding’, to which I agreed. The idea of renaming things constantly is part of what sets the ‘elite’ out. By constantly changing the name of things, we create a barrier of entry, making others uncomfortable and unsure of the correct terminology.

This is especially highlighted with ‘social’ media, which by its definition is focused on connecting people with other people. If we consistently alienate people by making them unsure of how to interact in the community, then we are being decidedly anti-social. I believe the main desire to change these names has noble intentions – to better describe a given tool, strategy, or social object. This of course makes total sense. However, it’s not something to be taken lightly, specifically when the goal of said tools, strategies, or social objects is to build, maintain, and/or improve relationships with others.

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