Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Social Media

Let's get the definition out of the way first, shall we. To what are we referring when we use the term 'social media'? Well, according to the trusty Wikipedia, social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. Simple enough concept really.

Or is it? Well, the concept is simple but believe me what goes on in technological terms to enable this post to be instantly accessible to you on your digital device, is nothing short of mind blowing. I should know - I work in the digital industry!

But to focus on and marvel at the technological wonders that enable us to communicate and interact in so many innovative ways is missing the point. No matter how much we rail against it, there is no holding back the tide of progress and therefore it becomes important to use the digital tools at our disposal to our best advantage.

Let me bring this down to the personal level and speak from my own experience. When we speak of social media, perhaps the two words that come instantly to mind are Twitter and Facebook (note - there is an awful lot more to social media than just these two behemoths). A mere half dozen years ago I hadn't heard of Twitter and had barely heard of Facebook. I was encouraged by some younger colleagues at work to dip my toe in the social media waters by joining Facebook. It was an uneasy start - all my 'friends' were work colleagues initially - all three of them. But gradually, I discovered I knew more people who had taken to Facebook and so the process of connecting and widening the circle had begun.

A few years later I heard of a thing called Twitter. Now that I was a social media junkie, I signed up. And for a year I had less than 5 followers and didn't really understand what a 'tweet' was and what you were supposed to do with one. I wondered would I ever reach the lofty heights of acquiring 10 followers. Almost 1,000 followers later and I think I've figured it out!

The naysayers hark back to the days when social meant face-to-face, because leaving aside the telephone (wired ones at that) being social invariably meant actually being there with people. The argue that the word 'media' is killing social. If you take a narrow view of things, then you might see that point. However, I see a glass very much half full. In my own case, I can say hand on heart that I would never have been inspired to take up blogging had it not been for the fantastic and very encouraging bloggers and writers I met on Twitter. While I would most definitely have taken up photography without social media, the reality is very few people would see my photos if it were not for the likes of Flickr and Facebook. And, let's be honest, it is nice to know that some people actually look at them!

I'll end on the point that some people make that by engaging in social media we are making ourselves too accessible. It's like an 'always on' environment. There is no switching off and therefore we are losing out on interacting with those who are physically around us. To an extent, yes, but like most things in life it is about finding the right balance for you. Again from my experience, if it were not for social media, I'd have missed out on interacting with (and meeting in 'real life') some of the finest, most talented, most intelligent, most kind-hearted, most humorous (add your own favourite superlatives) people that it's been my privilege to know. Now, that's too good an experience to miss out on! And when you think about it, it's really just a digital age equivalent of gathering round the water-cooler for a chinwag, and as my photo shows, occasionally there's wine involved!


  1. Glad to be a part of your digital water cooler gang, John - and thoroughly agree with all you've said :-)

  2. Great post and you are so right!
    btw thanks for mentioning so many of my attributes - shame you left out humble :D