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Social Media: Are We Being Social?

When trying to fit the 12 (with the space) character word “social media” into a tweet I paused mid-word and thought, “are we social?”

Social media, social bookmarking, social networking and all of those other socials makes “social” the catchphrase of the moment. Here we are, bragging about how hyper-social we are, but I ask, are we even social?

When my friend Mark Hawker asked his Twitter followers to define Web 2.0 in five words, I responded, ” Web 2.0: social connectivity and responsibilty online.” There again is that catch phrase: social. But what is “social”?  And is social media, in the way we use it, social?

Social is:

marked or characterized by mutual intercourse, friendliness, or geniality; enjoyed, taken, spent, etc., in company with others, esp. with those of a similar class or kindred interests.

Social media creates niches and offers the opportunity for discussions. So why would I even wonder if social media is social?  If it’s not the medium, then it must be the users. Are social media users not being social?

I often am surprised at some social media users. His timeline is full of retweets or her Facebook is filled with apps and endless bar pictures. Where are people truly communicating? You know, sharing and exchanging ideas?

I find that with some users it’s all terribly one way. It’s shouting from a soap box, “Hello! I have pictures of my cat! I am no longer in a relationship! RT: Breaking News!”

At first the person draws an audience, but after a while we walk away disinterested.

You don’t want to take a breath and discuss how cute your cat is.  You don’t have time to keep me updated on the breaking news.  You just don’t care who knows when you’re in or out of a relationship.

That’s not an exchange of ideas; that is you yelling at me.

A part of being social is taking the time to listen.

Social is you saying, “I read this, what do you think?”  and you waiting to hear a response.

It’s an exchange of ideas. It’s inviting someone to be in a discussion with you.

Are you being social?

What do you think? Leave me a comment  – I’m listening.

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8 Comments

  1. Mojoscream

    I use social media, so I can pretend to be a good friend to the people I hardly know any more, by having it all remind me of the minutia in their lives and let me respond in kind.

    “Thanks for remembering my cat’s birthday”
    “No Problem” I say.

  2. LisaGay

    My two cats are in a relationship. It’s very cute. And social. I’m shying from social media right now because if I don’t keep up I feel like the weirdo at the party. Can’t find the right balance.

  3. Hi there. You raise interesting questions, some of which have been on my mind, too. I would expect more social interaction, more engagement, if my siblings and close friends used some of these media, but they don’t. The people I follow on Twitter tend to be writers, journalists and marketers because I am interested in how they use the media and in learning from them by watching — listening (lurking?). Some are very chatty and don’t seem to mind sharing all sorts of things with everyone. Others are more obviously purposeful in their tweets – promoting causes, websites, products, services. I don’t think they expect to socialize with me for the most part, and my expectations are about the same. When interests converge on occasion and we have a little conversation, that’s nice. Responses aren’t always direct, immediate or obvious, and that’s OK, too. Thanks for listening.

  4. Totally agree with everything you posted here, and from the comments. My cat is currently in the “It’s Complicated” phase, but if anyone’s is looking…

    More seriously, I see people day in day out who churn out reams about being an “expert” but when asked simple questions many hasten to reply. For me, that’s just being rude. I posted this tweet yesterday (http://is.gd/iKtT) which I think adds a dimension to your argument. I love my small worlds, but many just see it as an opportunity to market:

    “You could have the best product in the world. Unless you sleep with someone @RWW @mashable or @techcrunch you will never be heard.”

    Though, I do find myself suffering from the Spotlight Effect (http://is.gd/iKst) every once and a while:

    “Chances are, others aren’t judging you as harshly as you think, if at all.”

    Sometimes I think “why hasn’t X asked me this” or “why hasn’t Y said hello” but then again, how many times do I go out and say hello? The beauty of Twitter is that if people want to get involved, they will. I like sticking my oar into (metaphorically of course) social interactions, it proves I am human. Or maybe just some super-human robot who passes the Turing test.

  5. Hello
    I’ve often wondered how ‘social’ some of these applications are. How social is delicious? How social is twitter? During the week, @markhawker and I got caught up in a debate (again) there and a few commented that our tweets were swamping them. Should we have moved our conversation to a non-public channel such as email? Or did our open conversation allow others the chance of joining in? Were we too social for twitter?

    I like conversation. I ask questions on my blog and my conversation quotient on twitter is very high.

    I’ve started using a posterous blog as well to share ideas, photos and stuff.

    Thank you:)
    Anne Marie

  6. “Social” is acquiring a weird semantic dichotomy with Web 2.0. There are people who are “web” social but not “real” social, and vice versa. I consider myself both, and have become “real” social with many people with whom I was at first “web” social.

    Being “real” social and promoting a business simultaneously on these sites is clearly possible, and I’m trying to walk that line at this point. Hopefully I don’t fall off of it too often. Or too far.

    Please visit my web site. ;)

  7. I think every one of us is social enough, for me social is not only fb and twitter but also forums, blogs, websites and etc. However I see that the future of social networks is just opening, people love the idea of sharing information and reading information regarding different people without the actual person to know..

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