2009 – Eating Toast
My initial experience with social media was one of resignation rather than expectation. Entering high school in 2009, the beginning of Facebook’s climb into becoming commonplace, or “boring” as we discussed last week, my first experience was one of annoyance as “Facebook” was constantly dropped in conversation. Dedicated to books, and harboring a fear of loss of etiquette in face-to-face communication befitting of one far beyond the age of 14, I abstained from joining only to grow continuously more frustrated as I became nearly incapable of participating in friends’ conversations, which were now being transferred and augmented between school and cyberspace. It was with defeat that I finally signed up for Facebook at the end of my freshman year.
For the rest of high school, Facebook remained a sort of necessary social consideration. While it was fun to have all kinds of “friends” wish me “Happy Birthday” (on the first of my birthday month, as opposed to my D.O.B., thanks to my mother’s fear of identity theft), and interesting to see friends’ pictures and realize the senses of humor of casual acquaintances particularly skillful with pithy comments, my interaction with social media remained passive. Too scared to post about my personal life — “The Internet is forever!” — and face my embarrassing teenage-self years later, I merely saw social media as a means of staying up-to-date on who had work that evening or was making toast before settling down with a movie.
2012 – “In Which Hogwarts House Do You Belong?”
However, my relationship to social media changed with my new-found free-time of my first year at Boston College. Suddenly faced with open-ended hours between classes and band, and finally the owner of my own PC, my Internet time increased dramatically. Additionally, I had finally been exposed to the news site Buzzfeed.com after a friend had posted the above list to a friend’s Facebook wall at the beginning of senior year. Suddenly, social media was not about people I knew reporting about themselves (in which I had little interest) but was about complete strangers sharing their imaginings/passions/products (often in which I did). Once I thought to type “Harry Potter” into Buzzfeed’s search bar I was lost in the wonder of realizing there were other people in the world who knew the entire Weasley family tree. I suddenly had the time and technical resources to explore the idea that others actually published theories and opinions on sites other than Facebook! One fan-created list that mentioned “A Very Potter Musical” led me to Youtube (not for the first time) and on to the comments section (the first time I had taken an interest in what others thought of the content).
The comments sections of all pages, sites, articles and videos suddenly fascinated me. There, too, was conversation! Albeit sometimes nastily digressive, these comment sections made me realize that there was nearly no place left on the internet where conversation wasn’t taking place. Social media was everywhere, and social in a way that it hadn’t been (to me) in high school. Where between-class casual conversations had been influenced by cyber activity within my group of friends, I was now privy to continuous conversation between Internet users all over the world directed and engaged on particular passions of, sometimes, enormous subsections of online communities. My experience changed from witnessing the trivial reports of people within my sphere of physical contact, to learning from the sharing of strangers excited to publish their knowledge.
2014 – #Starbucks
Now developed into an avid Internet reader and conversation consumer, I had yet to take the leap onto Twitter. Still retaining some of the suspicions of my 14-year-old self, I refrained from becoming part of a culture I understood to belong to a shorter, and more frequent, version of the “eating toast”-reporting of early Facebook. However, my Computers and Management course offered extra credit via twitter engagement, giving me the push I needed to register for an account. It was then that I became aware of “tagging”, making shared conversations even more fluid. Suddenly the limits of conversation were pushed beyond shared knowledge and passions, and were opened up to responding to challenges and competitions issued by brands as a means of marketing, product innovation, and/or feedback.
Such brainstorming and collaboration from tags has even caused brands to branch out into their own sites innovation-based. Starbucks is one of the darlings of utilizing “crowd-sourcing” to improve products, with their popular My Starbucks Idea site meant to create a place for brainstorming product ideas, like the Gingerbread latte! It was my advent with Twitter that made me realize social media’s potential for connecting people with passions, opinions and ideas with others in an instant environment of brainstorm and connectivity to companies and news-sources with the brands to leverage the average user’s ideas.
2015 – Etc.
Where does this lead my initial expectations of social media for the future? In my experience from reporting, to sharing, to brainstorming and contributing to brand resources, I think the next step is for social media to horizontally organize/connect average users and their ideas to make collaborations a reality without the need for the resources and recognition of a brand name like Starbucks. The end of Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody,” which we watched in last week’s class, ended on this note of eventual social collaboration, something evidenced in social media’s response to the recent terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris with the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie and the joining together of people under the tag in demonstrations following the attacks. Such collaboration is already evidenced in business with open-source software, with other industries bound to follow suit. I expect such widespread collaboration between individuals for both social and business purposes to only advance due to the heavy mobilization and organization of social media that has changed the experimental reports of individuals to the categorized and focused ideas of Internet conversationalists.