Initial Thoughts: Social Media
I won’t start my first substantial blog post of the semester by jumping down your throats about how I feel about social media. Instead, I’d first like to share a couple of observations I wrestle with when the topic comes up. Disclaimer: these aren’t particularly revolutionary or insightful observations. I know. That being said, I still feel like they’re worthy of acknowledgement, further discussion—food for thought, if you will.
Observation #1: You control the self that you want to portray on the internet.
As the owner, the account holder, of your social media accounts, this is hardly confusing. I decide the photos share with my Facebook newsfeed; I retweet the articles relevant to my interests and worth circulating; etc. You get the idea. What I think is worth noting here is the process that actually unfolds when you curate your online self. For the sake of this discussion, let’s keep with the Facebook example and say I recently uploaded a new photo of myself. What setting was it taken in? Academic? Social? Personal? Where was the photo taken? Did I have to travel to this place or is it easily accessible from where I live? What clothes am I wearing? Does that suggest a certain style? Level of income? Or, on the contrary, lack thereof? I’m just suggesting a few questions. Surely, you have in mind some that I didn’t address. Nevertheless, it seems like far to many questions to have to address for every single photo you post. Who knew cultivating your online presence could be so hard?
Taking a step back, let’s compare that to traditional methods of social interaction—ones where you are physically present in the same location as those with whom you are interacting. On the contrary, in these types of interactions, you can’t control the setting or location in which they take place, the clothes you are wearing and what all of these factors might suggest about yourself. One of my very few celebrity run-ins might help better explain this. A couple of years ago over Christmas break, I was visiting St. Louis for the debutante ball of my good friend. If you know any female from St. Louis between the ages of 14 and 30, you might already know it as the Spray Tan Capital of the Country—it’s only claim to fame! (Kidding…My parents are from Omaha. Big fan of the Midwest.) Anyways, I “found” myself at a spray tan studio. While I was waiting for my friend to finish up, who walks out of the booth but Joe Buck! In his white Hanes undershirt and LuluLemon joggers, he appeared less than delighted to have been caught by a 19 year old girl at “Shine,” the provider the most advanced sunless tanning equipment under the sun. Punny! Needless to say, in this traditional social interaction, he had no control over the setting in which it took place, his clothing, etc. Despite Joe’s (we’re friends) lack of control over this run in, this interaction plays a role in how he portrays himself to me.
Therein lies the difference between traditional social interactions and social media interactions. Unlike conventional social interactions, social media interactions allow you to control nearly all aspects of how you are portrayed. In a world of only social media interactions, I would imagine that Joe Buck would not upload a picture of himself at “Shine” to curate his online image.
Observation #2: How much you choose to share, if anything at all, is another aspect within your control.
To further develop this observation, I’ll continue with my celebrity examples. In my opinion, no one has used the sheer amount of information they share over social media more powerfully than the Kardashian family, particularly with regards to Kylie Jenner’s alleged pregnancy. A little background for the haters…in September, rumors circulated that Kylie Jenner was pregnant. Since then, no official announcement has been made by her or any other members of the family. Further, very few photos shared by the family via social media have included Kylie. Those that do picture her from the chest up or with an obstacle blocking her midsection.
Whether you love them or hate them, in the last 6 months, the family has completely monopolized the media’s attention by NOT sharing a large amount of information on social media. Often, I feel like we get too caught up in what is actually posted that we fail to address the implications of not posting, of not sharing. Whether or not the 20 year old entrepreneur is pregnant or not is irrelevant. What is more important to acknowledge is the sheer P-O-W-E-R and attention she and her sisters have amassed by the small amount of information they’ve chosen to share via social media in the past few months.
I invited you to dinner. I paid. We engaged in a civil, unbiased discussion about social media. Now, let me jump down your throat. I’ll tell you what I really think!! Per the title, I’m sure you could infer my true feelings about social media. Let me begin by saying that I’ve never been a huge fan of social media. I didn’t get an iPhone until late senior year of high school, which kept me out of Instagram and Snapchat. Interestingly, my friends were particularly active on social media. I made enough appearances on their accounts that I rarely felt the need to share on my own. Much of that stayed the same until my freshman year of college during which ESPN released its now very well-known article of a University of Pennsylvania track star, “Split Image.” The article highlighted many of the confusing and deceptive aspects of social media that often go overlooked. That resonated with me and has left a bad taste in my mouth since I first read it.
I’ll end my tirade by caveating that all of my experience with social media has been for social purposes. None of my professional experiences have required working with or using social media in a consistent way. Perhaps, then, it is unfair that I’ve written off social media to the extent that I have. There are, no doubt, incredibly great uses for social media alive in the world today. Business is surely one of them and one that I’m excited to look at in the coming semester.
I’d like to finish with a couple of my hopes for the course. First, I hope that many of you all will challenge my current views on social media, teaching me the very powerful and useful ways that social media can be used in both a personal and business setting. Second, I hope to look at some of the implications of emerging technology. More specifically, what kinds of negative consequences are we now faced with because of the increased capabilities of technology that would have been irrelevant in years past? Some thoughts include ethical dilemmas regarding privacy and property rights, to name a few. Tech-Saavy world problem!
To close, I’m left thinking about a book I read over Christmas break: Origin by Dan Brown. If any of you are avid Dan Brown fans or want to read this book, this is a **SPOILER ALERT** and I would suggest stopping here. At the end of the book, the protagonist Robert Langdon reveals the scientific finding that in 50 years, humans will have merged with technology, creating an entirely different species than Homo Sapiens. Although it is a science fiction novel, it’s hardly difficult to imagine with the rate technology is changing and the way it is embedded in our everyday personal and professional lives. Just some extra food for thought for your weekend.