New inventions often shape lifestyle and culture. Think of the impact that the car, plastic, or the microwave oven has had on our lifestyle. These things are a part of our daily habits and it would be hard to live without them. When I consider the question of what my favourite social media tools are, I ask myself, which ones am I using now so routinely that it would be hard to give them up?
Facebook is at the top of this list. It would be very hard to give it up for extended periods of time, say, for periods longer than two weeks. Why? It is how I keep up with people both near and far.
I work in the field of communications, as do my peers. We all use Facebook to keep up with personal and professional developments, as well as the sharing of expertise and business knowledge. Postings like “Looking for an html programmer for a six week contract” are seen from time to time, equally with family milestones and videos of Maru, the cutest cat ever. This forum is much more familiar than LinkedIn, the place where we put our serious face on, because, well, bosses or head hunters could be watching.
Life happens on Facebook. There was my school chum that I lost contact with after grade eight. She found me on Facebook and we reunited. I keep up with the friends who moved across the country on Facebook. I only wish I had social media twenty years ago when I graduated university. I could have kept up with so many more people. No doubt that there are bad stories too – relationships ended over what was posted on Facebook, and the risk of being found by people who annoyed you 30 years ago, and you find that they are still annoying now. Remember the boy I had a crush on in grade six? Well, I found out through a Facebook friend that he dropped dead of a heart attack last year. But all of these encounters could have happened anyway off Facebook, and probably would have, just at a slower pace.
Not only is Facebook a great personal news aggregate service, it is a great way to scan a variety of media sources each morning. By this I mean professionally published media sources, like the New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, NPR or the CBC. This is making me hark back to the days of the news clipping service, like Bowden’s. Anyone remember? As a student in 1986, I worked in a government department, and there were two people who prepared all of the relevant news clippings each morning, photocopied and distributed the bundle across the organization, by hand. I digress.
This brings me to my second favourite social media tool, Twitter. This too, is an amazing news aggregate tool. The only difference is, is that the reports on Twitter are by private citizen reporters.
Twitter in particular has changed how I source immediate news. This past summer, I was in my kitchen listening to the radio when I heard that an airplane had crashed at San Francisco airport. Instead of turning on the TV to see visuals of what was happening, the first thing I did was go to Twitter to look for pictures. Sure thing – survivors deplaning on the tarmac were turning around, snapping photos and posting them immediately on Twitter. Readers had access to live shots faster than CNN. In fact, mainstream media services were picking up video and pictures of the wreck from Twitter.
Social media is the place where you find out what is happening now. I believe that there is still a place for newspaper publications, journals and news shows — that is where you go to find out what it means. Optimistically, I believe that social media will drive newspapers and journals to become more intelligent and analytical, and the less substantial ones will be weeded out naturally. I first joined Facebook in 2007. I’m not sure at what point Facebook and Twitter became one of those inventions that I just use routinely without even thinking about it. I know that there is no going back to a world without social media.