Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Social Media Playground

It's been interesting to watch how social media has played out over the last few years. There hasn't been a time that we have been so connected globally, as we are today. Regardless of what time zone the internet never sleeps. I use several of the social media tools for my business, Harry Purple Monkey ; if you want any shot at success, you have to be in thick of it all. What I find intriguing is how it has magnified certain human behaviour. If I may use an analogy, I would say the internet is a massive virtual playground. There's the playing field, jungle gym, basketball nets, chalked areas for hopscotch, marbles, dodge ball, sandbox and wide open spaces for tag, jumping rope or just walking around.We have an assortment of personalities; the big players, interest groups, cliques, wannabe's, bullies, not to mention the observers who have little to no interest in mingling on the playground. To oversee the activities, we have those in authority who are expected to maintain order.You've probably caught on where I am going with this.  Whether on the reality or virtual playground, everyone has a role, now though, there's just a bigger audience watching.

Let's have a quick look around. There's Facebook.  How many friends and likes do you have? Then there's Twitter. How many followers, Retweets and Mentions do you have?  Let's not forget Youtube. How many hits did you get? We mustn't leave out Flickr, Digg, Stumbleupon, Metacafe, Scribd, Reddit,, Klout, Kred, Blogs ... and the list goes on. We post messages, ideas, photos and videos,we share experiences and insights and we wait for comments and reactions.  Back to the playground analogy; so the big players are those with the longest friend list or following; everyone waits with bated breath to reply, comment, mention or retweet, hoping to get their attention. The interest groups are a little more selective and engage with like people. The cliques just post or tweet, never interacting with others except a select few. The wannabe's do everything possible to shock and attract attention. The bullies stir trouble. The observers just follow the status quo but rarely participate. The monitors try to maintain semblance of order, banning or suspending users who don't play by the rules. So there we have it, a fully operational playground. Expectations are basic; respect, share, be kind and help others.

Everyday we step into the virtual playground and do our thing. The din of tweets, facebook posts, youtube uploads, flickrs, diggs, stumbles ... resonates. Sometimes so loudly that it all becomes an unrecognizable hum. So much so that one has to ask if anyone is really paying attention?  In the twitterverse, as I watch the timeline fill I am reminded of the birds on a wire and how they go about chirping above each other almost like they are trying to see who can be the loudest..who will get noticed. On facebook, there is a mixed bag of things happening; celebrating, laughing, grieving, sharing photo's and videos; getting a like, comment..getting noticed. Youtube, well, this is a whole different beast; a place to expose what at one time could only be relayed by word of mouth. Word of mouth, now that's an interesting phrase.  How much of that do we do today? Picking up the phone, meeting face to face, engaging people in public places. No much easier to send a text, tweet, share. Still it's okay, we feel like we are a part of something.  On the darker side, we are also vulnerable to being targetted and embarrassed; sadly that has led to tragic endings.

Now don't get me wrong, these social tools, when used correctly, do connect people, globally. What I see though is that we just skim the surface and rob ourselves of real (not virtual) contact.  But we don't want to be left out, so we play nice in the sandbox (well most of us that is). If I were to offer a suggestion, that would be to do the tweeting, sharing, uploading and texting in moderation and don't forget to notice those that are standing or sitting in front of you.

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