Before social media was a topic worth teaching and learning in academic settings, it was something that I was inspired to use as a thirteen year old viewer of The Real World: Brooklyn. I remember watching the reality TV show in 2009 and noticing these words scrolling across the bottom of the screen: “Follow the cast on Twitter!” Intrigued by the possibility of connecting with the cast members, I decided to explore the unknown world of “Twitter.” That day, I signed up for a Twitter account, and have been using it, as well as Facebook and Instagram accounts, to interact with friends, strangers, and on lucky days, even some celebrities, ever since. Like the majority of my generation, I had previously used AOL Instant Messenger and MySpace when they were the most popular social networks. However, while they allowed me to connect with friends and family members, my social network essentially ended there. On these networks, I couldn’t exactly shoot an “IM” over to my favorite author to ask about her upcoming book signing and actually receive a response, or click on a “trending topic” to see what complete strangers had to say about a major news item. Twitter was the first social network that allowed me connection beyond my immediate circle, which is a major reason why 7 years later, it’s still my favorite.
Another reason why I consider Twitter the best social media site is its’ finger on the pulse of world news. When I first joined Twitter, it was a place for secondary commentary on world issues and events. When something big happened, I’d watch the news for the hard facts, and then check Twitter to see the world’s opinions and reactions to it. Now, 7 years later, Twitter has become my source of news/facts and opinions/reactions all rolled into one. From celebrity deaths to wartime invasions, I can’t think of a recent major news item that I heard about from watching the news, rather than Twitter. Simply clicking on the hashtag for a topic opens up everything I could ever possibly want to read about it: facts, opinions from both sides, satirical commentary, and more. And if that weren’t enough, Twitter allows me to customize my sources of information. For example, I love being able to get CNN, New York Magazine, and Buzzfeed’s take on the same topic all at once just from scrolling through my timeline. Unlike Twitter, watching TV to hear about the news is restrictive in that it usually allows for just one perspective at a time.
Aside from Twitter’s ubiquitous news coverage, other social networks have very different relationships to the news. Due to its’ focus on photo content, Instagram allows for an easily digestible visual representation of world events. For example, I have always admired the E! Network’s Instagram posts. When a big piece of celebrity news hits, E! posts a photo of the person or people involved on Instagram, with the news item briefly summed up in the caption, and a link to learn more. As someone who is not shy about having an interest in celebrities’ lives, these Instagram posts are exactly what I need to get the newest updates quickly. Facebook, however, is probably the last social network I’d want to check for a news update. Although it’s called a “news” feed, mine is constantly clogged with “Suggested Posts,” advertisements I usually don’t click on, viral videos, and, for lack of a better word, junk. While Facebook does have a section for trending topics on the right side of the home page, I find that these update infrequently and often feature items that aren’t newsworthy at all. Once, one of these topics was “Model Gigi Hadid Wears Camel Coat in New York.” Despite having E! News in my browsing history, Facebook got their customized news algorithm wrong this time; that’s not something intriguing enough for me to ever click on.
When I signed up for ISYS6621, I admittedly thought to myself that I didn’t see what else I could possibly learn about social media, since I have been using its’ networks extensively to connect with others and gain information for 7+ years. However, just two classes in, I am beginning to understand just how little I know about social media and how it can be leveraged for digital business. The article “Procedural Versus Strategic Approaches to Social Media” perfectly describes this point. While reading it, I realized how true it is that while my peers and I may have a strong procedural understanding of social media simply because of how often we use it, we lack the strategic knowledge that it would take to apply social media in a business setting. Because I am an avid social media user, I have considered pursuing jobs that involve social media. However, if I were to be hired as a Social Media Coordinator/Editor/Manager after graduation, while I would know how to use the tools at my disposal, I would probably not how to use them to achieve business goals. This is something I hope to, and believe I will, learn through ISYS6621. I’m very excited to be a part of a class that allows me to deepen my understanding and improve my skill set in something I’ve enjoyed for so long.