A dubious “hmm” was my response to seeing Coleman’s new campaign claiming that a Coleman Campsite was the original social networking. Curious, I went to their website to learn more. I clicked on the image of a lantern and the invitation to “see how we gave birth to social networking.” That linked me to the campaign homepage and this statement: “At Coleman, we’ve been helping people get together to socialize and connect for as long as we’ve been making lanterns and stoves. All we wanted to do was create gear for camping. We ended up creating some sort of movement. Folks call it, “social networking”. A hundred years ago, we just called it a good time with friends. You can read about it in our advertising. Watch it in our commercials. Or better yet, grab your Coleman camping gear, your friends and see for yourself.”
Now, I will admit that I am not Nature Girl, and I do not enjoy camping. However, I will do my best to not let that bias affect this post. A current print ad for the “camp”aign questions what W.C. Coleman would say if “he learned that his lantern was the inspiration for millions of people connecting, instant messaging, and giving constant updates on social networking sites.” I hope he would say, “Hmm, seems like a bit of a stretch.” I also think that our early ancestors — the cavemen — would take offense to this. After all, is fire not the original lantern? And were cavemen not gathered around it, swapping stories of who hit what with a club that day and how? So really Geico should claim to be the original social networking site…
But I digress. The main difference between camping and social networking is that people are actually physically congregated and interacting for one and can be continents apart for the other. Camping is seeing, touching, smelling togetherness whereas social networking (while fabulous) is an interaction via an intermediary — the computer, iPhone or web cam. It lacks the intimacy of face-to-face and is limited to that which can be sent online. A virtual poke will never cause the squeal or gasp of a well-placed real poke. With Coleman’s claim, virtually any event in which a group of people gathered together could be considered the origin of social networking. I disagree that nature lovers everywhere got back from their campsites, missed hanging food from trees, and created “some sort of movement” that linked people to people via computers, what we now know as “social-networking.”
Use social networking to arrange your next camping trip; don’t claim that camping started social networking. And remember: you don’t have to shower for days while social-networking either.
(Image from http://www.coleman.com/coleman/social/default.asp)