How social is Social Media?

With thanks to Joee Townsend @

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 ‘‘, 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:


*Big up me and my first ever internet joke.


About jonathanrose

Raconteur. Intellectual. Showerman.
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8 Responses to How social is Social Media?

  1. Linesman says:

    I certainly wouldn’t see Social Media as helping friendships grow from acquaintances – it doesn’t replace the firm handshake and a conversation of lunch. I don’t see it making a huge impact between businessmen for instance. Those sort of relationships grow as business is done, be they transactions, communications over quotes, or whatever. They’ve tried similar things in the commercial world – ‘How to make contacts’ events, which are put on with the primary purpose of getting those who attend to switch business cards. Names are passed around and forgotten, fixed smiles abound. Those don’t flourish into friendships and business prospects nearly as well as ones developed over a 5-a-side football tournament between companies.

    With regards to the sustenance of Social Media, I’ll have to wait and see. I have made contact with many primary school friends, including North and South Americans, but all they do is decorate my Profile page and keep the Friends count up – I was delighted to pass the 500 mark a little while ago. Probably about 50 of those have a spoken to beyond “Hey, great to see you!” I will, however, be overseas next year for at least ten months; would be good to compare it with my gap year three years ago when Facebook was yet a novelty – depending on how many people want to be my friend out there, I may well be clinging on to every snippet of information about life back in Blighty. And sending back requests for proper tea and marmite.

    Nice cartoon, by the way!

    • jonathanrose says:

      Linesman – I think you exemplify the hybrid of sustaining and supplementing.
      Neither on its own is enough to create a genuine off-line friendship, but together they augment the friendship experience for the better.

      Your point about Social Media not making a huge impact amongst businessmen reflects a popular misconception. If I’ve learnt anything in during my time at Aaron+Gould, Twitter is their main means of communicating with prospective and current clients. Following on from this, I think I will do a case study on Facebook v Twitter to look at the different social climates they create..

      Cheers for the contribution – food for thought.

  2. Benjamin says:

    Facebook facilitates a good networking tool. While it does have added benefits of being able to joke, speak and connect to people beyond what i see of them during the week, i find it very poor and unsatisfaying compared to a 30 min real life catch up.

    In regards to connecting to old or distant friends, it has been useful in a few examples, but for the most part it is as Linesman suggests – an extra number on my friends list.

    Having said this, it is fairly fun and useful, but mostly as an information spreding and communication tool, rather than being, at least for me, socially satisfying.

    • jonathanrose says:

      Thanks for the comment Benjamin – I’ve found that you have reiterated and confirmed my suspicions about Social Media. It acts as a great *supplement* but will never replace the manifold joys of off-line interactions with friends.

      I’m disappointed with your (and Linesman’s) cynicism regarding old and distant friends. Maybe time will tell whether these people will move from the peripheries of your social realm and become key players. Life’s funny like that…

      Your description of SM as being “fun” and “useful” is great to hear. It *should* be both these – whatever you use it for 🙂

  3. Some very good thoughts there! I would agree that Social Media does well to facilitate a social life, though would also agree with the comments that it can never totally replace one. Face-to-face getting-to-know will always be more fruitful than the digital alternative, but when face-to-face is just not possible, it’s an absolute blessing to have Social Media there.

    I can certainly vouch for the benefits of being able to keep in touch while living abroad. I’ve been so grateful for Facebook and being able to maintain all manner of conversations with English friends: be it detailed catch-up conversations over Facebook chat or banter on Facebook wall posts. Not only has such communication helped me stay in touch, but it’s also helped to lessen the feeling of home-sickness.

    A final thought is the capability of expression in another media. Referencing my site in this article led me to consider the fact that Social Media gives anybody at all a chance to showcase their art and express themselves. Thanks to social media, anybody’s art can be available for anybody to see, and this is not so easy in the offline world. is a brilliant example. All manner of artists can become famous through social media. Tay Zonday released ‘Chocolate Rain’ onto YouTube and has now appeared on TV and sung alongside mainstream musicians. Brian Clevinger of began by making Final Fantasy sprite comics and now devotes his life to working on comics which sell in the stores, even doing some work for Marvel.

  4. preachersa2z says:

    Social media has put me in touch with all kinds of people who make me think, laugh, ponder…and occasionally rant! Not only that, but it has connected me with those whose expertise is on the edges of, rather than in the middle of, mine. Thus my interesting in preaching, with general communication as a sideline has connected me with those whose interest is communication with marketing as a sideline & so on. Like any form of interaction, we have to keep asking questions, which I have tried to do. Note “Jesus as my Facebook Friend” ( “Needing Tweetment”. (

    • jonathanrose says:


      As a preacher I’m not surprised at all that you have taken so well to this social explosion on line. After all, isn’t a preacher nothing more than the *communicator* of the greatest message of all!

      I’ve noted your presence on the peripheries of the Christian blogosphere but I relish the chance to read your tings dem in depth – thanks for the links! 🙂

  5. jamminsue says:

    As voyer # 37,506, I find your information divisions interesting, which will provide me with hours of consideration. Thus the time spent reading this was useful

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