Social media explosion!

As I write this blog post, my hands twitch in frustration with old systems and excitement for some new changes.  These last few days I’ve been getting a little more into Twitter, following and reading a lot of posts and making little progress doing everything else I’m supposed to. As my panic level rises in small doses, so does something else in the back of my brain that struggles and cries out for liberation. I’ve read some thoughtful articles ranging from irrational psychology to social technology encouraging face-to-face interaction (Thanks @EvanMPeck) that my brain ruminated on. It felt like the influx of information was demanding that I say something in response that encapsulated my voice and reader relevance at the same time.  It has been a while since I’ve written, and reading about the art of one-butt-cheek blogging got me started again.

Social Media Landscape by Fred Cavazza

Social Media Landscape by Fred Cavazza

What is the role of Social Media in my life? How much time should I spend on it? Is it worth that time that I could be spending on something else? It was clear to me that I couldn’t go overboard or else I wouldn’t get anything done, and a balance had to be found between my Twitter community and my projects. At the same time, the internet is ironically one of the few and best ways to find sources of inspiration related to creating technology that encourages face-to-face interaction, my favorite topic to think about these days leading up to graduate school. I was compelled by these questions to write down my thoughts lest they scurry away like field mice.

My attraction to online social anything seems to be rooted in the fundamental human need for social contact and community. This isn’t to say that my real life communities are not satisfying, au contraire, they are the best that I could ask for and are extremely fulfilling and important to me. But there is something irresistible about being part of Twitter that I can’t get enough of. What started out as a handful of personal follows and followers turned into a place where I could network with people with similar interests, and in turn be exposed to equally awesome things. That rarely happens in real life, or maybe I just haven’t found the right place yet. It is like meeting strangers while taking public transportation and striking up friendly and interesting conversation, or asking people in the bookstore for recommendations and talking about your favorite book. Except, for some perverse reason, we are more open to strangers online; we are more likely to have these conversations online even though in real life, these opportunities are everywhere if we look for them. And having my website allows me to show the whole world who I am and what I like to do, so that perhaps by chance, a stranger will stumble upon it, leading to some conversation that will make us both feel intellectually satisfied. The apparent lack of a social barrier online is something that we need to bring to real life so that we can really connect with each other in person.

Perhaps the reason why social sites like Twitter are so successful is that by being ourselves, we know we can reach out to other people “out there in the world” with similar interests, and they will reach back. It gives us a feeling of connectedness, but what does that mean in a society where connections come from iPods, cell phones, and wi-fi? Perhaps online interaction is slowly replacing real life interaction because it is less disappointing, more efficient, and we can reach more people faster. If that is the case, then we need to find ways to bring a part of that back to our interactions with others in real life. I hope to tackle this question in graduate school and through conversations both online and in person. Here’s to discovering and understanding humanity better through social media so that we can use it to make a positive impact on social interaction.

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