Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why use social media? What do you love or hate?

A friend was preparing to give a talk on social media use and asked, "Why do you use social media? What do you love or hate about each platform?"

Ah! A favorite topic. I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about this kind of thing.

--- Facebook

Why I use Facebook: 

To engage and have conversations. Deepen connections.

What I love about Facebook: 

Deeper connection and lots of activity.

What I hate about Facebook

The presumption or expectation that our network is in the same place we are when posting: we may open a deep and thoughtful discussion but readers may be scrolling while waiting on line and not have the time or emotional energy to respond just then. And because there's no way to remind a person to go back later, sometimes good posts get crickets.

This can lead to hurt feelings -- I think Facebook is one of the more emotionally-evoking platforms. Content and links are often passionately provocative and because it's a more visible network, it has more power to evoke feelings of social exclusion if posts are not responded to. It feels more personal on Facebook than other venues. Building a quality network on Facebook is not unlike building a social network in person. You have to show up consistently and reliably over a long time, offer quality conversation and interact with others (it's not a one-way street).

--- Twitter

Why I use Twitter: 

Basically to see weather and traffic reports in real time. There's much less expectation to interact, you can just scroll mindlessly without replying to a single tweet. The effort you must put out is very low for an entertaining rate of return. But it can feel lonely if you don't have personal connections or anyone ever responding.

--- Instagram

Why I use Instagram: 

I use Instagram as a portfolio because it's easier than Flickr for assembling one place for artistic photos, but it seems like lots of people use it like a visual diary to document moments of life. I like it because the interface is so easy there are very low barriers to entry.

I dislike Instagram because anytime there's a "feed" there is a sense of having missed content, and it's also lonely if you put effort out and don't get much feedback. I liken Instagram as almost a Twitter for pix: there's a feed (although no links for more information).

--- Blogs

Why I blog: 

To get thoughts out, especially ones that are more than 140 characters. People find posts based on keywords and that makes me feel like I've helped somebody.

What I dislike about blogging: 

High maintenance if you want a prominent stake on the web. Also, because barriers to entry are low, anyone can "publish" and this is both good and bad.

--- YouTube

Why I use YouTube:

I use YouTube to collect videos. Rarely post or share but it's nice to have the ability. I organize these in folders: a funny set, music I'm hesitant to buy so testing, meditation videos, yoga and exercise examples, educational medical vids, etc. - I group by category.

What I dislike about YouTube: 

YouTube can be a huge time sink, people leave some of the nastiest comments of all the platforms it seems, and sometimes videos disappear so I might look for something I've saved and never be able to find it again. Vimeo allows downloads to personal computers which can do away with that last issue.

--- Podcasts

Why I listen to Podcasts:

I like to play these while doing crafts or laundry. I like that my eyes can be focused on something else while I'm listening. Dislike that it's not as easy to use and organize, I often forget to check my app.

--- RSS Feeds

Why I use a feed reader (for blogs / RSS feeds):

My feedreader, Feedly, is my second-favorite web tool but I'm not sure it's quite considered social media as it's more for consuming content than interacting. I use a plugin called "Pocket" to save articles to read later straight from a browser click so it saves me from the issue of seeing a great headline and not having time to read it just then.

What is a feed reader?

Suppose I was a fan of, say, five particular columns in five particular newspapers or blogs but didn't feel like visiting each website every day to read them. A "feedreader" is a tool that automatically "grabs" the new article for you and feeds it into one place. So whenever you open your app, you see the new content.

You can customize it so if you get tired of reading a particular blog, you can "unsubscribe" or add new content anytime. Google Reader did have a social aspect where you could comment on an article for networked friends but they discontinued it. Now I use Feedly (after trying out many others) and I love the cross-integration among various devices. If I read an article on my desktop at lunch and then hop on the subway on the way home, the app will remember which I've read and which is still unread.

Downside to using a feed reader: 

Finding a good tool required a fair amount of use and testing (as a content provider and consumer, I want to spend my time either providing or consuming content, NOT managing the tools. It's the difference between getting in the car and going somewhere versus changing a tire. Heh - Schrodinger's tool: you can either use the tool -- like a car or a program or whatever -- or make it usable, but not both at the same time).

Also a downside: having to remember to open the app to read my backlog.

I read somewhere that today's average user takes in the equivalent of 17 newspapers a day and I'm always acutely aware of this when reading RSS feeds (blogs).

--- User Expectation vs. Experience

What's disappointing about social media use:

Disappointment is prominent across all forms of social media use if you dig deep. I think this is because user expectation is not in line with reality. There's so much hype over all these ways to connect that beginning users can feel a little lost and like they're out of the "cool club" if they don't quite understand why or how to use the platform and experienced users do not necessarily create a welcoming environment for newbies.

There is a stereotype of the techie thinking anyone else that doesn't immediately "get it" is stupid, and new users can sense this and be afraid to ask for help or information. I'm not sure if that's because the web was started by techies and the most established people have the most understanding/audience. Or if it's because the power-hungry hoard information. It would be nice to make everyone feel welcome.

Building an audience is tough, whether personal or professional.

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