The World of Social Media and Digital Business: Initial Thoughts

It is not even noon yet but I can tell you that I have already scrolled through my Facebook feed three times, sent out a Snapchat to one of my Snapgroups, opened my Twitter account (I am still trying to figure that one out in all honesty), and engaged in a back and forth commenting session with an acquaintance over one of my photos on Instagram. If I were as committed to doing my homework and studying for tests as I am to keeping up with my social media agenda on Friday mornings, then maybe I wouldn’t hate Mondays so much.

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But alas, every week I continue instead to choose to spend my free time, or what Clay Shirky calls my “cognitive surplus” in his chapter “Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus,” on various social media outlets. Lately, I have been trying to think about why I spend so much time using social media. I am by no means “Instagram famous” and I do not depend on likes as a means of income, I do not currently run any professional social media accounts for a corporation, and I do not have a blog or online business I am trying to promote for myself. Yet, I am sure if I counted up the number of hours I spend each week on social media channels, it might come somewhere close to the number of home runs David Ortiz has hit in his career.

I guess that’s what is so enticing about social media though: it is meant to be used by everyone. Even a toddler with a tablet (maybe it’s just me but there seems to be a somewhat disturbing trend towards this) can open up snapchat, make a funny face and take a photo. However, there will also always be people like my dad who refuse to create online accounts because they are afraid that either the government, or people who wish to do them harm, will find out too much about them. And honestly, with the recent string of social-media-enabled robberies, I don’t blame them.

That being said, I think the mass epidemic of social media greatly stems from every college student’s favorite acronym: FOMO (the fear of missing out). If there is something out there that all of your friends are using, interacting with, and talking about, you can’t help but feel left out if you aren’t using it too. So instead, we go online every day just to ‘keep up with the Jonses,’ or maybe “Keeping up with the Kardashians” could be more applicable here, but I digress.

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So, since we all are doing our best to ‘keep up’ anyways, I agree with Shirky that we might as well use this ample amount of time spent on social media to further social causes like the Ushahidi service which enables people to track ethnic violence throughout Kenya and keep themselves safe.

Similarly, as cliche as it is to say that the use of social media is the next big break for digital business, there is no way of avoiding it. The social media obsession is what every businesswoman and man alive has been waiting for, and it would be almost criminal to ignore it. Can you imagine if there had been a way for Mad Men-era advertising agencies to disseminate their content to millions of eager consumers with just the click of a button? You can bet Don Draper would have been all over that, and then some. Social Media is a cultural behemoth, and it is time we started treating it with the respect it deserves. There is nothing worse than being handed the golden ticket only to pawn it for what you thought was an Aston Martin, but just turns out later to be a Pontiac with the logo switched. We have the tools to rule our own social media empires, we just have to make sure to use them!

While I am not exactly sure where this class will take me over the course of the semester, I am ready to dive in headfirst, for better or for worse. There is so much I have yet to learn and I’m sure I will look back at this post at the end of the semester and laugh about how little I knew. The only thing I can be really sure of is that the world of social media and digital business is changing, and will continue to constantly change far past my lifetime. My hope with taking this course is that I can go beyond just keeping up with these platforms, and instead learn how to use them to my advantage, whether that be in my professional or personal life. So thank you to anyone who took the time to read these initial thoughts on the subject, and good luck to all of my fellow classmates; may the memes be with you.

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3 comments

  1. We’ll probably get to this topic in about two weeks, but one of the real misgivings that I have about social media platforms is that they are carefully engineered to grab our attention and keep it. At times, I think they behave a bit like the cigarette companies of old, trying to make sure they get us hooked so we never leave.

  2. You make a really good point about social media driving the “FOMO epidemic.” If there’s one feeling I get from watching Snapchat stories or scrolling through Instagram, it’s FOMO. I think it’s ironic that even though FOMO isn’t a good feeling there’s something addictive about the nature of social media that draws people to constantly stay connected to it even if it doesn’t give us positive feelings.

  3. Claire, I’m also excited to see where this class takes me. I really appreciated your honesty about how much time you spend on your social media. I can’t imagine what Don Draper would have done with social media but after tonight’s discussion I’m curious if Stirling Cooper would have been able to use technology to their advantage or just talk the tech talk!

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