A popular charge levelled at Social Media users is that we spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter and not enough time engaging with the real world.
Whilst before, the internet was primarily the sanctuary of socially-inept teenage boys who shied away from real life, I maintain that this is no longer the case.
For me Social Media does three things for my off-line life:
SUPPLEMENTS – Whilst naysayers perjoratively imply that Facebook is a substitute for socialising in the real-world, I’d argue that in fact it is a supplement to real-world interaction. Many on-line conversations have lead to invites to off-line events and the development of new friendships that are subsequently cemented off-line. Not to mention the ability to continue off-line conversations when you get home from the bar/meeting/classroom/church etc.
Social Media allows for constant (FB), intermittent (blogs) and static (Twitter) interactions which – in my experience – constantly enrich and enliven our daily lives. You only have to notice the frequency of conversations which begin “Did you see X’s post on Y’s facebook wall?…” to appreciate how Social Media has seamlessly integrated itself into real life. It is an increasingly symbiotic relationship.
SIFTS – Before the rise of multi-channel TV, certain programmes used to unite people in discussion around the water-cooler at work the next day. This gave rise to the phrase ‘water-cooler debate’. Now, with the fragmented multi-choice state of television, you can no longer guarantee that everyone has been watching the same thing as you.
Through social aggregating services such as ‘Digg’ or ‘Likebutton.me‘, I allow the majority to sift through all the dross on the internet so I don’t have to. As a result, it is only the most popular/worthy content that is championed and spread. The result is that more people are seeing the same content – youtube virals such as this being a prime example – which in turn unifies us as we share a common [hyper]link*.
As more and more people become involved with Social Media and share and view popular content, I foresee furious discussions about the lameness of American youth and the implications of racist weather conditions being the new ‘Who shot Phil Mitchell?’ .
SUSTAINS – Social Media has been a fantastic way to continue – and in some cases resuscitate – friendships with people who I am not able to see on a day-to-day basis. Friends who are abroad and people from the past are still able to impact and get involved in my life in the present through blog comments and FB wall-posts. This is a good thing and will certainly prove itself useful especially if an ex-primary school friend becomes a millionaire and I’m struggling to make mortgage repayments *slash* want a Ferrari.
I suggest that those who are not enjoying an enriched off-line life are not employing social media – as a supplement – to its fullest capabilities. To really reap the benefits of SM, I insist that people do the above in equal measure – don’t just consume sifted content, share it. In turn, don’t just share infrequently, but sustain that connection.
There are definitely a few more alliterative points which I will tease out in the future, but my question for today is:
HOW HAS SOCIAL MEDIA ENRICHED YOUR REAL LIFE?
*Big up me and my first ever internet joke.