Saturday, 31 December 2016

Some thoughts on using social media

Because the end of the year seems to be a time when everybody looks back over the past year and makes judgements, I thought I would take a look at some of the things that have occurred to me about using social media, which after all is a place where we spend growing amounts of time. It's not a trivial aspect of our lives any more, I think we can safely say. In fact, for some people - like me - social media forms an important component of the day.

I think the first thing that I should say about social media is that it works to make communities. If you work at it and develop larger communities of people in Facebook or Twitter you can easily spend hours without seeing the same messages twice. The important thing is to develop capacity in your feed sources by connecting with more people, who may be people who have views that are similar to yours or else they might have completely different ways of seeing the world. Developing capacity means connecting with other people to form a community that is resilient and strong, and that can provide you with the quantity of information that you need to get through the day. You don't want to run short of stories to read.

Once you have built a community of like-minded, or variously-minded, people you can start to talk to them regularly. But participating in social media isn't just a one-way thing, it's a conversation. So be prepared to have your off-the-top-of-your-head rant ignored if it is excessively narrow in scope or if it's too negative. People like to respond to things that mean something to them personally, so try to be engaging in what you tweet or post. Reach out to all those lonely people out there in the social graph and try to make their day just that little bit better. Don't be shy. But don't be bitter either. Be positive and you'll find that your efforts are rewarded with the attention you crave online. You'll get likes and comments to things that appeal to your followers.

But if you don't then don't get despondent. Go back to the social graph and try to find a conversation that you can become part of. This can be painful. We like to think that our views and ideas are the most important things in the world. But they may not be. However there may be existing conversations out there in social media that you can tap into in a way that gives you the recognition that you crave.

I've written before about how social media is changing the way we deal with life by giving us a responsive locale where we can find the support we need to get by. Because it is always on, and because we can participate in it in meaningful ways, social media can play a role in alleviating isolation and giving us the sense of community that we need to survive. Humans are social animals, after all. I think that social media can help people to be more fully themselves at the same time as it gives us the opportunity to engage in online communities. By distancing sorrow, social media can help us in unique ways. Everyone has a burden to carry, and it reminds us that we can transcend those restraints by getting in touch with others in a public space.

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