Thoughts and ramblings on tech, media, culture, and food. Plus some other stuff, I'm sure.

The Beauty of Social Media

I'm sure some, if not all, of this has been said before. Social media is so pervasive today that those of us who are serious about it don't much think about what we're doing online. And our counterparts get worked up over computers taking the humanity out of relationships.

I beg to differ.

There's a real-world meme that sporadically spills onto Facebook and other places, where some lonely person gets upset that no one bothers to call them anymore and all they get are wall posts or emails. They get all worked up over the fact that people are taking the time to communicate with them. Or at least try and communicate with them.

But I've found that social media connects us better with each other. It connects us with people we may never have had a chance of interacting with in the course of normal society

Facebook keeps me in contact with all kinds of people. Some of them are not my friends, but it's worthwhile to have a direct connection to them. My parents, when they left high school or college, were faced with a crossroads: Attempt futilely to stay in touch with their friends, or give in to the inevitable and sever ties.

But with the advent of Facebook, you can still stay in contact with people after leaving the same locale and without the work or cost of writing letters - and in almost real time. My kids won't have to make that choice. And that changes the entire landscape of how society as an organism moves and grows and acts.

Just like in real life, you choose how much emphasis to place on those different relationships. And it doesn't matter if you have a 'friend' that you aren't friends with! That's semantics. That's marketing for the service. Facebook is about connecting people, just like these other social services. It's not about creating meaning. That's YOUR part and has nothing to do with the service or its wording. So why are so many concerned with that? Yes, I try and have facebook 'friends' that I have at least met or have interacted with elsewhere. But not all of them are true friends and that doesn't matter.

Twitter. My new favourite. What I love about Twitter is that everyone is on it. I mean, I interact with @levarburton & @stephenfry on Twitter. That's cool.

On top of that, I converse all day with friends who live in other cities or countries or right in town, with celebrities who actually talk to people, and with colleagues at other schools who are totally up for helping solve problems and move our industry along.

While journalists and old fogey marketeers bent on keeping traditional media alive bemoan the loss of their jobs, they have trouble embracing and using the new tools. And that unwillingness, and even resistance, to the new is what is killing their jobs and making them irrelevant in the current landscape.

Then there are the phonies. There are the idiots who go on and create a "professional" twitter account with bios that say "marketer" and "social media expert". And all they tweet are links to their sales pitch blog posts.

One thing I've learned is that social media is about being a real person. About sharing what you're doing. About being genuine. Tweet a link to a great article you read today, tell me what you ate for lunch, ask a freaking question! And have it be real. I don't care if you've found the greatest way to reach people. I don't care if you have the secret to making money on social media. You obviously don't if you aren't communicating as a human being.

The reason Twitter and IM and social media in general connects to young people so well is that they're sick of the marketing, sales, promotional crap and want to interact with real people. Fake doesn't sell. Reality does.

And that's the irony. Rather than stripping us of humanity and making our relationships faceless, it introduces us to faces we never would have seen. How is that dehumanizing?