Are social media still social?

…here’s a quote from lead educator Jean Burgess. Jean considers how Twitter has changed since 2006 and reflects on her own use of the platform in the context of changing patterns of use. In response to the suggestion that Twitter is a dying social media platform, Jean states that…

“…the narratives of decline around the place at the moment that have to do with a certain loss of sociability. And to those of us for whom Twitter’s pleasures were as much to do with ambient intimacy, personal connections and play as they were to do with professional success theatre, celebrity and breaking news, this is a real, felt loss: sociability matters.”

Some social media platforms have never felt as social as others.  I was really excited to get an invite to Google+ many years ago and, if I’m honest, I don’t use it fully.  I use it to find the locations of my immediate family, privately share photos with the family, and until the photos app became separately I used it to back up all the photos I took in my phone. Occasionally I’ll drop into some groups,but not very often. So, no, for me Google+ was never about being social.

Facebook, love it or loathe it, is about my personal social life.  I manage and participate in groups for my hobbies, organise events and keep in touch with my network of friends and acquaintances. Messenger allows me to keep in touch with people and communicate with them in a broad way from the close network of friends to people who need to contact me because I’m an assistant district commissioner for beaver scouts.  It is by far the most personally social of the social media for me, although it is being infiltrated by marketing more and more and the occasional flaming or trolling incidents that probably wouldn’t happen in a face-to-face situation but the semi-anonymity of being a keyboard warrior seems to enable some personalities to show very different sides to them.  Thank goodness for the ability to remove, block and report people!

Twitter is where I work.  It’s short and snappy and a great place to share and receive information in easily digestible formats.  Instagram works for me in a visually similar way but nowhere near to the extent of Twitter.  The social aspect of Twitter is entirely down to how you use it.  On a day-to-day basis when I’m sharing information it feels more like a news stream that something social.  Live tweeting from conferences and events adds a completely different dimension: not only are you sharing the pertinent information for those who can’t be there you suddenly have a discursive back channel with the added sociability of “fancy carrying this conversation on over the coffee break?”.  Being an introvert (not that anyone believes me when I try and explain that I’m a social introvert) it’s much easier for me to strike up a conversation via a blog, tweet chat or event tweeting than it is in person.  Once I’ve broken the online ice I’m more comfortable to talk to someone in person.  It really is no wonder I met both of my husbands online first!

 

So are social media less social?  I would say only if you’re not socialising.

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