Chris Brogan got me started on this question by stating in his blog “Let’s not fool anyone. You can do your job without using Twitter”… or blogging or networking or using news feeds: the social media tool box in other words. Chris’s posting attracted 50 or so comments – good ones too, a neat reference on social media alone.
I’ll start by saying, I could not do my job without social media tools – I track trends in communications and media. I’m an information sink. To know social media tools is to use them. If you don’t use them you don’t really know much about them.
Beyond the tracking thing, I have found that I can link to and interact with some very interesting, clever, insightful and creative people – connections that would not otherwise have been available. The interaction can be very personable. I can tailor my feeds to those issues of particular interest to me. I’m spending less time reading newspapers and watching TV. I’ve stopping reading printed newsletters and magazines. I read less books.
But aside from that, what’s my view? Here goes.
Chris is right to observe that millions of people don’t use social media tools and do fine without them. So what grabs their attention? What the difference in their lives? Does the media you use shape and influence your life? You bet. I like what Chris Saad states in his LinkedIn profile “[attention] determines what we see, what we hear and what we act on. Attention motivates us.”
So no social media means print media, broadcast media, diaries, talking over the phone and so on I guess. We all do face-to-face so let’s say that one is a neutral. Now the key point of difference between traditional media and social media is participation. We create, share, reuse, remix and comment on media. It’s not passive. It’s not one to many, it’s many-to-many. Mainstream media (is that term still operative?) has turned to social media as a source of breaking news and to retain their customers. Social media is inherently human – we are hard-wired to make connections. The social web amplifies that.
Using social media is fun too. Having a laugh with others online, enjoying a live sports event, empathising with someone or learning from them, being co-creative. The benefits just go on and on. And I’m with Kyle Lacy in saying that we love sharing and we love getting noticed for sharing. Nice posting on Smaller Indiana btw Kyle.
Social media can be a tad too diverting at times – I need to be wary of getting the offline and online in balance. Face-to-face is best. Like just about everyone else, my deepest and most important relationships are offline.
Social media is not for everyone – particularly those for whom old habits die hard. But that to me indicates digital divides are deepening into more significant social, cultural, political and economic divides.
Above everything else though, I go back to attention, participation and influence. Social media opens up so much more to see, hear and to act on by participating. Mainstream media lies in social media’s shadow.
I would say that people do get by wihout using social media – and whether that’s fine for them is questionable. In the short-term maybe but not in the long-term.