Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Social Media: Are We Ego-Tripping or Connecting?

It’s no secret that we are living in the age of social media. Some critics may argue that social media is merely a developing trend that will soon grow exhausted, loose popularity, and die down. To these critics, I argue that the naysayers questioned the enduring importance of the personal computer when it was introduced, and skeptics believed the Internet was only a fad that would be short lived. They were clearly mistaken. They underestimated the intricacy and addictiveness of such innovations.

Computers and the Internet have lasted because, in general, people are lazy and are addicted to speed, ease, and access; and, social media has become as popular as it is because at the root of human nature is arrogance. This arrogance that makes us believe our opinions and lives matter to the world. The computer and Internet provide the preferred ease of access, and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube give us the arena to display our “oh-so-important” opinions on everything. (Yes, as I am doing now.)

Let’s take a step back and really analyze why we enjoy social media. “Tweeting” and having people “follow” us makes us feel important. We feel like little celebrities when our tweets are acknowledged or “Retweeted” by a public. Americans have been conditioned to believe that what we have to say is important (thanks to the First Amendment), so why wouldn’t our peers want to know how we feel about issues such as unemployment, the latest fashion trend gone wrong, an upcoming party, or a friend’s stupid comment or action? And let’s admit, we feel accomplished when we have thousands of “followers” on Twitter and hundreds of friends on Facebook.

If we really used these outlets to reach out and build tangible relationships, I would be inclined to think that we were not ego-tripping. But we mostly use them for clever barbs about how fabulous our world is in 140 characters or less. Honestly, when was the last time you had face-to-face coffee with at least one of your friends on Facebook?

My business is public relations. So I will forever have a love hate relationship with this ego-centric yet, admittedly, often effective way of reaching the masses.

The challenge is to use social media as a PR tool to build real relationships and side step all of the ego-tripping.

Candace N. Johnson

Communications Assistant

CS Corporate