Is social media social?


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Is social media social?

  1. 1. Does Social Media make you Unsocial? A case for Social Media Rajesh Soundararajan
  2. 2. Does Social Media make you Unsocial? As Strategy Director for Social Media Practice at Futureshift Consulting, I am asked this question over and over again in my engagements and workshops - “Is Social Media is making nerds out of humans and is it really that social?”. “If Facebook were making people not-social, how can a business be social on social-media”? Even after dabbling with multiple modes of market research, some of them paid-for - Focus Group Discussions, Intercept Surveys and e-survey etc. - I was not satisfied with reach or the quality of answers. I was looking for subjective cues and opinions and I could not get that. So I decided to take this research head-on – where the rubber hits the road– On Facebook Questions. The Question - “Does more Facebook mean less social or more social in today's world?” This was an absolutely random audience, from over 500 million people across the globe; a delight for any marketing professional. They are already participants in the social media and needless to say they understand the medium to give a meaningful insight. In less than 72 hours, I had a hundred people participating in this poll, and at least 16 of them gave some detailed answers. Needless to say the audience further rated the answers again and that tells me a good answer from a mediocre one, Crowd sourcing Research at its best. The findings - Social is the new world order and technology, an inert enabler. “Social" will have a fresh definition in the current context of new world and new dynamics. Through this medium humans are virally spreading ideas and products, and the social media is just a medium for transmission of Does Facebook make us more social or less thoughts, ideas and social in today's world? feelings. Hence there is no real comparison to previous Less Social social interactions to 39% what we are seeing now More Social and what we may see in 61% the future. To that extent, the impact of social media would not be truly measurable in comparison to the past. In the longer term however we may measure the impact in the next few years vis-a-vis the initial days. Just as when writing was invented, people were worried about the ability to remember. When telephone was invented, they were wondering why anyone would ever need to talk to someone more than twenty miles away. Today, mobile telephony has given additional access sans time and distance constraints and we wonder how human race ever lived without these. New types of communications have come on and they are here to say, co-existing and evolving into newer forms - texting, email, and instant messenger.
  3. 3. A case for Facebook: Why it makes people more social. For most introverts who hid themselves behind a computer or a book and didn't enjoy the social dynamics, social networking just gave an additional medium of expression; for most extroverts social media either supplemented their desire or turbo charged their already social world by breaking boundaries of time and space. Social media creates another sphere of social interaction that is local, yet global, an interaction that is active and yet non-intrusive by allowing for more opportunities to be social. The onus is placed on the individual to go out and be social, just as the case in the physical world. The status update merely becomes a medium for quick expression of the quirky moments that they would have any way shared with their group of friends. It is just that the new medium gives them a force multiplier effect to share with hundreds of people and possibly multiply chance for new social interactions. Throughout history, it has been fairly easy to convince each successive generation of the superiority (or exclusivity) of whatever culture one lives in. It would have been too difficult to reach out and see alternatives. The biggest impact is that more people are being exposed to even more points of view (POV) than ever before. What may be interesting though that it may be worth investigating how social media interacts with other cultures that are person-person social in general, say in the conservative world or a remote village. People in some of these communities do a face-face interaction on a daily basis, much more than in the United States. Facebook may for one amplify their social life even after they have physically leave their circle of friends. Now, with such a ubiquitous medium we have access to people and happenings around the world and have interesting POV from a 13 year old – 85 year old. In effect, we are forced, for the first time in human history to consider the POV of people who live on the other side of the world as "valid" as ours. In effect, our neighbours POV now does not sound as bad and in fact, we start appreciating it a lot more today. Hence in the long-term it may result in lesser conflicts as people start recognizing and appreciating the alternate POVs and “different" people out there are neither superior nor inferior and they are just different. In the generation of broadband and internet people may stay inside more because they have the comfortable, predictable periphery of the internet that insulates them from real life. On the other hand, the ability to share pictures of social interactions such as parties and the fun people are having may influence others to get out of their bubble and be more social, especially since you can invite people en masse to social events. Thus it may in effect create more opportunity for social interactions that go with one‟s own personality. There was one study that even apparently showed that people tend to communicate with almost the same set of people they would have in person in real life. That said, we are spending less face time with friends and finding newer friends significantly faster and wider through social networking online. While one may do some genealogy work to find the roots and relatives, there are others are totally blown away by hundreds messages and posts from friends and family all over the world after a Brief illness or on their special moments. In some cases, it has even removed the awkward feeling to resume communication with long lost friends. In a way it aids the effort to become more socially active and to develop a healthy social
  4. 4. circle once again after going out of touch. Moreover, it makes convenient to plan or catch up without the need for chasing one another through phone calls or emails. And the case against– Why social media make people less social! In the short term, this rapid socialization is creating more conflicts in societies, especially conservative societies. While children adopt this medium with a frenzy, their parents panic and react negatively to the prospect that their children might be influenced through lifestyles and cultures; Familial, social, cultural and religious institutions are facing more challenges to the onslaught of rapid change (decline) in moral values and unable to maintain or control the societal fabric. That brings about controls and restrictions that are being imposed that may have a counter-intuitive effect on the actions. This new medium heightens up the possibility of having fabricated avatars that are different from the real person. While people have always been crafting, positioning and selling themselves for as long as mankind existed, nothing in the past allowed the possibility for such mass misrepresentation. By projecting the part of one‟s self that they want their friends to see and believe (with no real way of checking it) one can have endless opportunities to create multiple personalities. In real life, the physical limitations of doing things with people, the sensory touching- seeing- talk create arguably a higher level of trust and shared emotions. Further, the medium builds an air of familiarity with the on-line persona of a person that when we are faced with real personal interaction, they are either over- friendly or just stuck because this is not the person that they knew. That creates further conflict and dissonance with the Figure 1Crowd Sourcing Research multiple personalities – online and offline persona. Others believe that a lot more information is being shared with a lot less interaction. They see face to face meetings as interactions while technology driven exchanges like a „posting on your wall‟ are pure information exchanges and hence falsely give the sense of more social. For now, the verdict is 6:4 in favour of social media. Cultural anthropologists will no doubt study this phenomenon past and share the findings sometime in the future. Till then happy tweeting! A Crowd sourced Research on Facebook – Does Facebook mean more social or less social?