There’s a popular expression, a cliche, that says time is money. However, time isn’t money. Why?

There is no such way to intermediate time. There is no coinage for time, no way to purchase time back that you have spent. If time were actually money, you could buy back that missed softball game or child’s first play. You can’t.

In fact, when you think about it, time isn’t money, but money is time. Money represents a store of value in classical economics terms, and value is time and energy spent on something.

Look at all of the things that function as money or precursors of money. The Pequot tribe had a certain kind of seashell called wampum. Multiple civilizations used gold and other metals as coinage. Why? Because these items were rare. Finding them, prospecting them, and refining them took time and effort.

Consider money as a store of time and energy, then. How long does it take for you to mine up a nugget of gold? Let’s say as a skilled miner that takes you two hours. How long does it take to harvest an ear of corn? For a skilled farmer, probably a few minutes at most. Thus, that nugget of gold is a time equivalent of two hours for a skilled tradesman. If you can harvest 80 ears of corn in two hours as a skilled farmer, then your corn is worth two hours of your efforts – or a nugget of gold, or whatever other store of value you choose. More important, as trades specialized over millennia of human history, it would take far longer for the miner to skill up his corn harvesting than it would for him to simply pay for the corn itself.

Time + energy + skill = value.

This is the basis of money, the raw foundation of money. Money stores value, and value is time, energy, and skill combined.

Consider what this means for social media and new media.

What things are you investing your time in, building skill, so that you’re creating value?

When someone starts to talk about monetization, exactly what value are they placing on your time, effort, and skill? More important, what value do you place on yourself?

This, by the way, is why so many folks in social media object to monetization – not because money is bad, but because any new field inevitably has two extremes: those folks willing to value themselves for a pittance (thus devaluing everyone else) or those folks who pimp and sell at obscenely high prices far above the value they create, thus undermining the entire community’s reputation and devaluing everyone else. After a field matures and the low bidders & snake oil salesmen are washed out, a balanced perspective on value is usually achieved.

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