Misadventures in Social Media: What's It All About?

This series of blog posts will focus on social media and my experiences, thoughts, challenges, and of course, mistakes in social media.  It stems in part from trying to be reflective about what I do in the digital world just as much as I try to be reflective about what I do in the physical world.  It also resonates with my Social Media Approach page in getting me to have more conversations about what it is we do when we step into the world of bits and bytes.

It's not entirely new for me to talk about social media and it's role in our lives.  I have talked about inherently sexist messages in Facebook memes, engaged educators and students about their educational usage of social media, issues with social media and higher educationreflected on how social media has made me a more sensitive person, its role in tragic events, poorly executed memes (by me, no less) and many other similar posts.  But this series of posts provide some insight (for myself as much as others) about social media, its challenges, and its benefits.  Ultimately, I hope that my reflecting on the process helps me better a communicator in general and also in social media, which is a tricky and new-found territory that many of us are trying to navigate successfully or otherwise.

Though some are apt to disregard or be wary of social media, I do think it is a powerful and compelling tool for human connection.  I'm less inclined to buy into the often disparate views of a Nicholas Carr or Sheryl Turkle (a summation of her book can be found in her TED Talk) or more to recognize that social media's benefits outweigh its limiting consequences.  Too often, I see people contending that social media is a threat or a sign of decline and see the direct parallels (and false arguments) that have been made with the internet in general, video games, horror films, horror comics, the dance hall, the printed word, and the written word; thousands of years of technological progress and enhanced human communication and we still get weak in the knees.

Social media does change the ways we interact, the customs we've come to expect (keeping in mind, they are just customs--representations of civilization--not civilization itself), and most importantly, for the individual, the power he or she wields to control her or her environment.  It's this last one that vexes people the most.  Nothing seems to enrage people (often in the name of "decency"--to which they often exhibit their own lack thereof by talking about said people behind their backs in often judgmental and insulting tones) more than the insolent person using his or her digital device to engage with conversations and meaning-making beyond the immediate physical place.  Yes, people use their social media networks and often accompanying devices to check out of the immediate physical and social space and check into a digital space with peers or even strangers.  Many dislike this; they find it disrespectful; and they see it that "kids today are...."  But how is this different from checking out from a social space by choosing to engage with other people's fictional friends (in the form of say reading a book while in that same space) or withdrawing into one's own world (by daydreaming in one's head or through physical exultation such as doodling)?

So that's my angle--to recognize the value of and development of social media.  But in doing so, I also want to acknowledge the mistakes, mishaps, and opportunities to learn and understand more about social media in this newly emergent landscape of communication.  I'm also likely to discuss different social media events, books, and talks/podcasts that catch my attention on the subject matter. So wish me luck with it and I hope to hear about your own adventures (perchance a guest blogpost!).

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