I have a confession: I rarely contribute to social media.
I have a few hundred pictures I meant to put on Facebook last year (so if I ever do get around to it, watch out). I made an Instagram because a friend did it for me. The only time I use Pinterest is when I need to shop without actually shopping… or I’m hungry. I consume social media fairly frequently, but only when procrastinating.
Yes, I realize the irony of that statement, particularly for someone in the Journalism School. I’ve taken multiple classes on the role of emerging social technology and its impact in my industry. I’m extremely interested in the ways that top brands leverage social media. I’ve led the development of a six-month social campaign for rebranding the J-School. I’ve Tweeted, Facebooked and Instagrammed for professional clients, and seen how social strategy can completely change the way in which consumers communicate with each other and with corporations.
Further irony: I will be posting this very blog on social media.
So, why don’t I buy in?
My generation is supposed to be constantly emerged in the online world, constantly keeping up with each other, but I’ve always been skeptical when it comes to my personal use of social media. I enjoy Twitter as an aggregated news source, and LinkedIn is incredibly relevant, but I question the rest. Sure, it’s useful for creeping on your friend’s cousin’s wife’s brother’s baby, but you can only take that so far without seriously questioning what you’re doing with your life (I hope). Perhaps because I’ve studied social networks, I’m aware of just how much information I’m giving Facebook and Google, and just how accurately they can use that information.
At first, I was uncertain about why I don’t particularly enjoy sharing much of my life with those around me, but after psychoanalyzing myself a bit, I think I’ve figured it out. I’m a fairly private person—The way I see it, that random person from high school who posts passive aggressive statuses everyday has zero right to know anything about my personal life. Old-fashioned? Quite possibly. Valid concern? Most definitely.
But more than that, social media is actually a barrier between me and the people I truly care about. I can’t see facial expressions through tweets. I can’t give hugs (which are my favorite). I can’t hear tone of voice through an album of Facebook pictures that only show the great nights—not the bad ones. I find myself getting lazy about intentionally being involved in people’s lives because I find myself content with the little bits and pieces I see through Instagram.
This is what I’ve concluded: social media is a brilliant way to connect with others, to keep up with friends living far away and to build a professional network. In fact, this class is giving me an opportunity to consistently maintain a social media presence. But at the end of the day, actual, offline relationships mean more.
So here’s a challenge for both of us: when a picture pops up of an old friend, give her a call. When you see your freshman roommate’s Tweet, remember to set up a lunch date. Use social media in a way that builds relationships up, rather than letting them remain on a surface level.
Here’s to a semester of doing just that.
((To bring the irony full circle, if you want to keep in touch, my social media links are at the bottom of this blog))