Midnight musings: social media

When Google+ first released I resisted joining, adamant that I was more likely to quit social media altogether than to join yet another new craze. I was a freshman in college when Facebook first took off (along with the ill-fated i2hub), so of course I joined. Joining Facebook was almost a rite of passage that helped define the college crowd and enabled communication, interaction, planning, and, of course, procrastination. For similar reasons I had a blogger account, which quickly gave way to a Livejournal. I also joined Twitter, which removes much of the excess baggage from the other social media accounts and provides a platform for shorter statements. The stereotype that Twitter (much like the Facebook status update) is for announcing publicly that one has taken a shower or eaten dinner has some truth to it so I will not deny that, but I find that it is actually a good medium for some discussions that would not otherwise take place, commentary on shows, movies, games, and books, among other uses. By and large it is far less private or personal than even email or Facebook messaging, but it is meant as an immediate form of communication. So, since I have all these platforms, some of which are not actually actively used (even to the extent that I blog), why do I need Google+? Or, perhaps more to the point, why did I change my mind?

The short answer is that I do not and did not. I have two blogging platforms, six or seven emails, Facebook, Twitter, and probably a Myspace account out there somewhere, and now Google+, all with varying levels of (in)activity. I added Google+ for several reasons, not least of which because it still has limited membership and so, when the opportunity came, I took it. I was genuinely curious as to how it was set up, and did feel some drive to sign up for the new toy when it arrived. Moreover, I like the setup, and would like to have a social media platform finally live up to the promise of the bringing me closer together with people, if for no other reason than that it gets lonely in the middle of the country.

It seems logical that when I left my job managing a Quizno’s for a university some of the technological opportunities and impulses would grow rather than shrink. The reverse has been true, which I am reminded of each and every time I return to the east coast. While I was in New York I overheard a business meeting wherein a programmer made a pitch for a phone app that would help bring together fans of particular teams, which struck me as just one example of the way in which the application of technology is consistently commonplace in metropolitan areas (New York and Boston are the two with which I am familiar), while any application at all only trickles slowly to more rural parts of the country. I have also noticed a growing disconnect with these sites. In particular, I have made it a practice not to comment on birthdays or anniversaries on Facebook. This is a policy I may wish to reconsider, but it is borne of the thought that if a) I cannot otherwise remember a birthday or b) I would not otherwise wish that person a happy birthday, then my wishes are not really of any value. Of course, I do allow Facebook to remind me of birthdays, and then I will sometimes put in the extra effort to make a more direct birthday wish. Perhaps this is all semantic, but I find that social media (at least on my pages) is more often a silent acknowledgement of posts than active participation. Then, if there is no actual interaction, what is the point of social media?

Right now, in no small part because of various apps on my iPod that allow me to post directly, I mostly use Facebook to post links to articles that I find interesting. I will likely do something similar, but to a more limited extent, with Google+. The bulk of my intended audience remains on Facebook right now, but if that changes then the bulk of my post would also change. Otherwise the bulk of my thought, writing and activity remains in pen and paper. I hope to replace some of that pre-digital activity with a set of social and communal sites, but until I find a way to do this efficiently and with wider participation I suspect that it will remain nothing more than another of my idealistic, unrealistic ambitions.

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