Social media appears to me as still an untapped resource, if you can believe it or not.
I had a friend ask me last night, “But what’s the point of Twitter? It’s just so boring!” I believe my response to her was, “Are you serious? There’s so much we don’t know yet!” How could she not understand the point of Twitter? How could it bore her? There’s so much about social media that still excites me and I don’t know if that means I’m caught up in hype or if I’m just doing things right. All I know is that I can’t imagine today’s world without social media. There’s a CollegeHumor video all about if movies had cell phones, insinuating that with cell phones, these popular movies would be way more different. I feel like I look at the recent past through a similar lens, except with social media. Where would our world be today if we’d had social media decades ago? How would major national and international events have been affected, or would they have stayed the same?
I’m excited to explore social media further in class because I’ve been intensely active on every major social media site for as long as they’ve been around basically. My platform of choice, however, is Twitter. It’s an addiction, perhaps, but it is so fruitful on a regular basis that I sometimes stop and think, “I can’t believe that just happened!” When you get a RT in your mentions, it’s a nice little ego boost. But then you realize, not only did all of your followers just see your tweet, but now the retweeter’s followers have seen it as well. You’ve potentially at least doubled your reach, just with one follower’s decision to share your thoughts with others. I’ve had that happen to me when I make a comment on the New York Mets as big news is going on and after nine retweets, I gain twelve new followers in an hour. So maybe you can understand now what I mean when I say, “I can’t believe that just happened.”
As a New Yorker, I was raised a huge Mets fan and I just love baseball in general. But since freshman year of college, I’ve immersed myself into the world of #MetsTwitter, which I’m considering exploring for my presentation. In short, however, #MetsTwitter is just the consolidation of die-hard and casual fans, beat reporters, Mets bloggers, and the players themselves on Twitter. It’s a hugely interactive community that has inside jokes and expands across all different types of people. I never expected to be a part of this, but after several hundred tweets about R.A. Dickey, our pride and joy knuckleball pitcher who is now a Blue Jay, and getting engaged in conversations with strangers, it became part of my social media experience.
Beyond fans connecting with each other and the team, Twitter’s uses are just so numerous. We all remember Marathon Monday this year and the rush of tweets, whether true or false information, coming in every single second about where bombs could be or how many people were injured. My friends and I huddled in one friend’s apartment, crying and watching CNN, and I just kept refreshing Twitter at the same time to see what was happening to our city. There are even ways to analyze the “happiness score” through sites like Hedonometer.org and they were able to determine through the analysis of tweets that Marathon Monday 2013 was the saddest day (on Twitter) in the last five years, which was just .01 lower than the Newtown shootings. Because we can do that now. We can do a content analysis of 50 million tweets each day to determine the happiness score of Twitter users on tragic days like those and see exactly how the world has been impacted by these events through social media.
Or how about during the debates last fall? Personally, I’m not a very political person and I have trouble following the news or watching debates. However, seeing Patton Oswalt and other comedians tear into every comment each of the candidates made was like my own little Daily Show on my Twitter timeline. It was what I needed, or maybe just what I wanted, to know about what was going on in the debates and kept me informed and entertained simultaneously.
Speaking of having trouble following the news, Twitter gives me a tremendous help because just by following CNN, the New York Times and NBC, I’m so much more informed than I have been in the past. As a college student with an occasionally short attention span, I often can’t rationalize reading the newspaper or watching the news in the morning. The fact that I can get that news instantly to my phone in short bursts of 140 characters and scroll through to see anything I’ve missed recently is amazing. Twitter allows us all to stay informed, whether we’re news junkies or we just need to know a little bit of what’s going on in the world. Now, when I have a question, I take to my Twitter search engine, look it up and I can usually find exactly what I’m looking for.
And these are only a FEW of Twitter’s uses. AND that’s just Twitter. If I were to outline all the potential uses of all the social media platforms, well, it wouldn’t be short, that’s for sure. The social media world is constantly evolving, too, so that outline would probably be irrelevant in a month or so when new sites will develop and new features will come out that we haven’t even fathomed yet.
Upon being criticized for how much he tweets about the NBA, my friend once remarked that Twitter is all about having conversations, that it’s incredibly interactive, and that was its “point,” its merit. Yes, maybe our generation doesn’t have enough “real” conversations anymore. Maybe we are said to be anti-social or always looking at a screen. But the way I see it is I’ve found ways to make my time spent in front of those screens way more productive and fruitful than I ever thought was possible. I’ve connected with people I’ll never meet just over loving a pretty horrible baseball team. I’ve strengthened and continued real life friendships by maintaining them over tweets and Facebook. I feel like the Bill Nye of Twitter because of this childlike enthusiasm I have about social media, but we get to spend an entire semester learning about it and that’s amazing to me. Who would ever have thought social media would come so far as to be the subject of an upper-level business course?
Perhaps I’m hyped up, but maybe I’m right on target in recognizing social media for what it started out as (a way to connect with others), what it became (that and a marketing strategy) and its potential to become so much more. Who knows?