Ecology: A Social Media Perspective

a-transformed-media-environment
Edelman Australia Blog

“Let’s connect!” – Ah, that common phrase that succinctly sums up the association among the various social media platforms available today. After all, isn’t that what “media ecology” is all about? How the different platforms connect to one another to form this social environment?  Absolutely!

The ecology, or environment, that social media sites have developed over the years all boils down to forging connections. Whether we’re forming new connections, rekindling old connections, or maintaining current connections, we’re all participating in the creation of this media ecology that has swept over our lives. – I’m sure you’ve observed a pattern here by now. You’re going to read the word ‘connection’ a lot. Get used to it! That’s the reality of this phenomenon we are all unwittingly participating in! –  Obviously, the type of connections made are up to the user, and we often choose certain platforms based on the type of relations that we seek. For example: If we want to network, we will connect with others via LinkedIn. If we want so share photos with family and friends we may choose to connect via Instagram or Flickr. In general, most of us use more than one form of social media now, each for a different purpose – a different connection.

No, I’m not going to list each online social medium that makes up our media environment, because that would be redundant. Instead, I choose to bring to light how they relate. How they, together, form this new habitat that we’re all so completely involved in. This world has opened up so many more possibilities for the majority of us when it comes to making connections. We’re instantly able to share a photo with all of our family and friends at once. We are able to tweet out important details from high-profile events in real-time for others to follow along with. In essence, we’re all connected through this vast web of electronic sources in ways never imagined even ten to fifteen years ago! And all of these sources, together, form this interconnected array of “neighborhoods” that we’ve settled down in.

So, you may scoff at terms like ‘ecology’, ‘environment’, and ‘habitat’ to define social media – but, by looking down from a higher-level, it really does make sense. We’re all navigating through the various domains, exploring…connecting.

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Twitter and Blogging and Texts – Oh My!

Drunk Uncle SNL
Drunk Uncle – SNL – Via Pinterest

If you’ve ever watched Drunk Uncle, as portrayed by Bobby Moynihan on Saturday Night Live (SNL),  reference technology in his bits, then you should be able to relate to the struggles I’ve gone through trying to acclimate both of my fathers to the ever-expanding array of ways to communicate electronically. I’m definitely not going to tell them to go read my blog for some guidance, because then, of course, I would have to explain what a blog is…and that’s not something I care to embark on with them today…or possibly ever for that matter.

Heck, trying to explain to my father what a QR Code was, and how his business could benefit from them, was painful enough! Five years later, I’m sure he’s still confused from that conversation. High five though, Dad…you’ve mastered the use of emoticons in SMS! (Much to my amusement 👍😆💪🏉) And kudos to my Papa for mastering Facebook….a little too well, maybe? (The “shoot the target” pop-up IS NOT a game, and you WILL NOT win a million dollars. For the last time, DON’T CLICK IT!!) *sigh* Anyway, even for those of us who have grown up with technology, it can still be difficult for us to decide which tools we want to utilize, and which ones we don’t.

Basically, I’m going to divide them (electronic communication tools) into two platforms: Short Version and Long Version. Some examples of short version that I will refer to are tools like Twitter, SMS (aka Text Messages), and Facebook. Long Versions include blogs and email.

Short Versions

  1. Twitter
    Twitter is a Social Media platform that limits a user to 140 character posts. I myself have just begun using Twitter, and am still navigating the waters. I just finished reading chapter 3 of 140 Characters, A Style Guide for the Short Form by Dom Sagolla, and so far he has a charmingly articulate way of describing the twitterverse.

     “Such intimacy can result from pure text in just 140 characters. That space can contain the most mundane of thoughts or the greatest of inspring quotations” (Sagolla p. 3).

    Twitter is best used to share quick, brief messages. Maybe a link to a headline of interest, a quote, a random thought, or an important update. The possibilities are endless! Twitter users should remember to keep it brief, though.

    If you cannot condense your message into 140 characters or less, you may want to communicate via Facebook, or a different medium altogether depending on the length and nature of the information shared. And always keep in mind that what is posted cannot be undone! You may delete your post, but if it has already been shared, read, or someone took a screenshot…it simply cannot be removed! Tweet wisely,  my friends. 🙂

  2. FaceBook
    Facebook is another Social Media short form of electronic communication. Unlike Twitter, it doesn’t limit you to characters; however, you should still be careful on the length of data you share. The longer your post, the less likely others are to read it in it’s entirety…and in many cases may simply scroll straight past it altogether. It is a great tool to catch up with family and friends, follow your favorite companies and brands, and is also a great place to advertise now! Similar to Twitter, it is also a great place to share things that interest or entertain you: videos, photos, memes, articles, etc. Facebook is huge, and will likely only continue to expand it’s horizons in the years to come.
  3. Short Message Service (SMS) (Text Messages)
    Aside from AOL Instant Messanger (which is an entirely separate conversation in, and of itself), text messaging was one of the first short forms of virtual communication that I picked up on. I honestly miss having a keypad on my phone…I didn’t even have to look at my phone to send a text message back then! We just memorized which buttons corresponded with which letters…and of course how many times you had to select that button to get to the desired letter. I’m sure I’ve lost some of you younger generation folks, now! Haha.

    Text messages also used to limit the characters that you could send in one text…which was fine at first, but once texts were more widely used, this was annoying and burdensome! These days, people seem to prefer to send a text rather than speak over the phone…even when a phone conversation would often be much quicker. What takes two minutes (or more) to type out on your phone, could ultimately be said in seconds if you just called the person instead. Again, I realize I’m probably not relating well to the younger folks reading this. (Tapping into my inner “drunk uncle” maybe?) Anyway, we all know it, use it, and love it. Enough said.

Long Versions

  1. Email
    Again, we’re all quite familiar with email. There is absolutely no cap on the amount of characters that you are able to send, and it is best used to communicate with a specific audience. Through email, you can create distribution lists, which is a great tool to use if you frequently send emails to a large group of individuals. Instead of typing in each individual email address, you simply select the applicable distribution list, and voi`la! Message is ready to go! Outlook even has the capacity to allow you to create and save templates now. Is there an email you send out more than once a year? Create a template for it so that it is easily retrievable for later and may be resent in mere seconds! Email has implemented some great tools along the way, and I’m interested to see if that trend will continue at all in years to come.
  2. Blogs
    It may seem a bit redundant to blog about blogs…but, oh well! Blogs are a long form of electronic communication, and can ultimately be used however the creator chooses! Some will use a blog as their official business website, some use blogs as daily journals, and others use them in conjunction with other social media tools in an attempt to go viral. I realize these are just a few of the vast examples, but you get the idea.

    The great thing about blogs is that you can link them to other websites and social media platforms! This makes it easy to get your blog in front of your intended audience, and share your content with a wider variety of individuals, thus garnering more traffic to your page. This is another version that I’m still getting the hang of, and can hopefully post some more about it as I continue to learn!

Overall, electronic forms of communication quickly became the norm. I mean, it really swept the nation FAST, and hasn’t slowed down since it’s arrival to the mass public. Writing a letter (contrary to Drunk Uncle’s demands), is simply a thing of the past. In fact, our company is even in the process of implementing a paperless process, with one of our facilities already participating! Seriously…no paper…NONE. Mind=Blown.

So, with that, I’ll leave you all with some comedic relief:

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/weekend-update-drunk-uncle/n13346

My Virtual Persona

I’ve always been cognizant of the fact that many people have a tendency to hide behind fake personas online. I don’t mean to imply that most people are untruthful, per se. In fact, I doubt it is even a conscious thought for most. For whatever reason, it is easier to express opinions online, and ultimately express ideas and thoughts via the web that one would likely think twice about before saying in person. Whether we choose to admit it or not, we all have ‘avatar’ versions of ourselves that come out in the virtual realms that we actively participate in.

In every day life, I tend to be reserved and quiet around those I am not yet familiar or comfortable with. These boundaries are a bit more lax when it comes to communication via the social web, though. Where I may bite my tongue in person, and consider the consequences (or lack-there-of) of speaking up, online it can be all too easy to speak your mind…and even become argumentative.

Looking back on my early years….heck, even just three years ago…I had no problem getting into heated debates with strangers on Facebook. I hastily sent off defensive responses to the always-drama-seeking relative. I didn’t bother reviewing tags before allowing photos to be posted to my page. In other words, I was naive, and the thought of creating an online alter-ego was far, far from my mind.

These days, I’m much more aware of the effect that my online presence can have on my day-to-day life. I’m not so quick to comment on things that upset or offend me. I try much harder to mind my own business and shrug things off. I have a reputation to uphold with my family, my coworkers, my classmates, and my child. Gone are the days of airing my dirty laundry for the world to read. Each picture posted is carefully considered, privacy settings are implemented, and statuses are carefully reviewed and often edited prior to going live.

Where my ‘avatar’ once seemed to be that of an obnoxious party girl (which, mind you, was far from the truth even then, as I’ve always been very quiet and laid-back) based off of the photos I was tagged in, and my very sparse use of Facebook aside from that. The one thing that concocted avatar did have right, and still does today, is my love of the outdoors, travel, and nature though. However, that is really the only thing that my current avatar has in common with my younger ‘self’. I suppose maturity, and the wisdom to weigh consequences, changes things over time.

The version of myself that I have chosen to represent online lately is as close to reality as it will likely ever be. I’m still much more verbal online than I am in person, but my passions shine true. From Instagram and Pinterest, I portray my love of fashion, shopping, nature, family, and interior design. If you peruse my Facebook account, you’ll see once again that I’m close to family (often referring to my siblings as my best friends), I feel passionate about certain political and social causes, I enjoy spending time with people I’ve grown with, I obsess over my dog (and really any animals in general), I love to laugh and joke, and I absolutely cannot get enough of my adorable nephew!! Finally, based off of Yammer, you’ll discover I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to work. I think of it as a hobby – eagerly volunteering to attend off-site seminars, subscribing to work-related webinars when I’m off hours, and religiously reading industry-related magazines that I’ve subscribed to be a member of.

So overall, who do I choose to be online? A fashionista, a home decor enthusiast, a family-oriented woman, a workaholic, a lover of all furry friends, a sincere fan of comedic relief, and a passionate advocate for topics near and dear to me. The only caveat? I’m not nearly as vocal in-person as I tend to be online…at least with those I don’t know well. 😉

Valor Capture
My pooch – Valor