Everyone has a different reaction to the idea of participating or speaking up in a public forum, or sometimes even just in private. Some people have no problem doing it and flourish. I would think there is a quiet majority who cringe and open their mouths only when absolutely necessary. Which, totally off topic, raises the question:
As a child, I was relatively quiet. I occasionally spoke up in class, but I was more comfortable showing my knowledge on exams or assignments. With friends, I usually let other people lead conversations.
And then came this:
You should check out scandari’s blog post here that reminisces on how big a part of our lives AOL/AIM was. Instant messaging (IMing) changed the game for a lot of people in terms of social interaction. IMing was slow enough that people could take their time with their responses, not trip over their words and express themselves clearly, but at the same time it was fast enough that conversations would not be much slower paced than in person. Personally, I’m not sure if it’s because I felt safer behind my computer screen, or because I had time to think over my responses, but I definitely became more social. I would say for the most part, most of my friends were more social online.
The most notable trend that I took away from my time spent on AIM is that people showed sides of themselves that weren’t completely visible before. In high school, several of my friends told me that I sounded different on AIM than I did in school. I would say the same for many of my friends as well.
Obviously, a lot has changed regarding social media since the days of instant messenger, most importantly that the majority of people have abandoned AIM altogether in favor of Facebook Chat, but I think the underlying principle still holds. For example, an acquaintance from high school that was never talkative in person is one of the most active users I’ve seen on Facebook. Not only does she post a lot, but generally the subject matter of her posts are comical and provocative, and a new side of her emerged that people did not see before.
To be clear, I recognize that not everyone has been more social online as they are in person. After all, what you put on the Internet stays there forever, which can be daunting for some. I also think that as we mature we are finding the balance between our social interactions in person and online.
But why did a group of people who might feel socially awkward in person come out of their shell online, and in some cases, even show sides of themselves that were invisible before?
I’m sure a lot of you have different theories about why this phenomenon would happen with social media, but I would speculate that it’s because people have been given a microphone with which they can project their voice. Social media outlets are both the stage and the distributor of media at the same time, and the stage is set for the entire world to listen in. For many people, I see online social media as an outlet that they can feel free to be themselves. With AIM again as the example, it might be easier for some people to write their thoughts and feelings rather than express them in the spoken word.
Today, the “stage” can be altered in almost any way the social media user wants it to be. There are forums for almost anything online now. If a singer wants to use the internet to sing, he/she can post videos on youtube or other music friendly sites. An artist can easily post pictures and a writer can make a blog. And as the first video we watched in our first class of mi621 showed, if you want to just talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there’s a forum to talk about that to your heart’s content. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, or whether or not you are popular in school. All that matters is what you have to offer to the online community. If your offering is good, it will be received well.
Many classmates have already said that they don’t really use Twitter or Facebook to give updates about everything they do in their lives, and I do not use my social media in that manner either. The more I think about it, I don’t think social media is really intended to be a constant status update. I think the real use of social media comes from the sharing of links, information, and thoughts/discussions about topics that are important to us, and I think current platforms like Facebook and Twitter will continue to be useful as information networks.