Social media are the craze of the first decade of this millennium. They’re hyped and just like many I hopped on the bandwagon early on. Some of the early SM ( 🙂 ) have died away over time. Mostly by lack of functionality or – more important – by not staying cool enough, or fashionable. Not accessible on iPhone? Man, this is soooo Yahoo!, soooo 1995.
Facebook, Hyves (well in Holland) and Twitter are exploding in the number of users and importance in daily lives of the social media addicts like myself. Can’t live without them. Well, actually we can but it would be so boring. It’s internet addiction 2.0 happening. This time the addiction is all about fast communicating in stead of the 1.0 version of internet addiction was about the browsing and chatting use of the Net. Well, things have changed and will change again.
So, what’s the value of for instance Twitter and Facebook? Hard to say but it certainly cannot be ignored. Especially after the Obama election in which Twitter had an important role in mobilizing yougsters (sorry I sound old here). Also, there are these incidents. These seemingly unimportant small events taking place on the outskirts of Twitter (and Facebook). Let’s look at the both of them.
Facebook first. One of the things that’s happening on Facebook alongside al the fun and games is a Facebook app named ‘Causes’. Causes is a small plug-in app aimed at delivering a minimal infrstructure to mobilize the masses for a (predominantly) positive social or political cause. Can be LGBT rights (hurrah!) or electing a new president. Thousands and thousands of people get connected to the causes and the app shows with how many you end up with. Does that deliver on it’s promise of visibility? Hell no, it’s still only within the Facebook framework. But it does deliver when ‘discovered by’ or rather pushed into the traditional media like radio and tv and internet news sites. Even when these old school media hardly ever grasp what’s going on on the net they do report on it. They’re even starting to use the social media.
And now Twitter. Some may remember the – in the end not so sad – case of Nick Starr. The gay guy who got outed by the jerk that bought his Blackberry and reposted the gay messages of Nick. Nick was at the time a wellknown internet geek / guru and an early adopter of all things internet and a known gadgeteer. Hey, he got an iPhone early on and sold his BB. Well in the end Nick got into a craze and started microblogging about his urge to commit suicide. But he wasn’t able to compose a suicide note in 140 characters. Microblogging is hard when it’s about ‘big things’. So he got frustrated and in the end he didn’t jump of the Frisco Bay bridge. Wether it’s all interly true or not is not even that important. It’s the message in there. People microblog in many ways and sometimes very serious. Their followers (usually partly real life friends) follow and see. They react and in some cases jump in and do things. Like preventing someone to do a stupid thing. You don’t believe that? Well then let me tell you my story on this.
A while ago life was getting an evil experience for me. Like hell or something. I did bring me to the edge and I did try to end it all. But what did I do when I was at the bottom of the pitt? I communicated. Wrote a very depressed blog telling I didn’t want to go on anymore. SMS-ed on it as well. And man, that really hit some people in a way I didn’t ecpect. In essence, they reacted, kept me on the phone and in the end saved my life. I owe them big time.
I think I learned from that and since then I started to use Twitter to signal things to the few followers that are my real friends. It works vice versa and we share our difficulties and hurt just like we share te fun. Twitter in essence is now a sort of lifeline between us. We use it heavily in any way possible. Mostly for fun but every now and then for helping each other or crying out when things are not ok. Twitter is for us a lot more than 140 characters of fun. It’s a fast way of communicating daily life and staying in touch with the people we value most. It’s a bonding mechanism between groups of people who relate to each other as much as it is a funny little Web 2.0 thingy that is so dead easy to use that you can use it anywhere as long as you’re connected. Being constantly connected is what lies beneith this all. So when someone disconnects it sometimes feels like being ignored. It’s become that important in our lives.
Thing is, technology nowadays is such a commodity that we use it any way we want and even more. We invent usage by combining functionality. It’s not anymore the age of full featured apps that define our way of using computers, phones (what the hell is a phone nowadays anyway) and the internet. We combine Twitter with Brightkite so we know where we are and we plug in pictures placed on DailyMugshot, TwitPic and the likes. It’s all connected, it’s all intertwined. The apps themselves are fairly simple. By connecting through RSS and such we integrate fast communication with the ‘slower’ blogsphere we’re in (in the bottom right part of the scree you’re looking at right now you’ll find my tweets). We integrate personal websites, blogs, social media like communities and Twitter any wich way we like. And all of that enhances our life. We even start meeting ‘the others’ in real life organizing Twitter parties and Twestivals, Poken meetings and the occasional one-on-one meetup in a bar or café. We live a communicating life.
So what do these social media do to us? Do they destroy our social life because it’s all virtual? Or do they save lives by sometimes being an alert system preventing personal disaster? I guess, both. Destroying in a sense because we get hooked on them. We use them extensiveliy. We track we’re our Minister of Foreign Affairs is hanging out as easy as we track our personal friends. We communicate through them and meet lots of new people that we would never have met if we wouldn’t be online. We fill our lives with experiences triggered by this form of communication. Well, we do. Not everyone. But that will come in due time. It’s creeping into everyone’s lives.
So how about me? I’m just happy to be part of it all. I’m constantly discovering and playing and fooling around like a young kid. Hey, makes me feel young and I don’t mind at all. But surely, I still love to go for a beachwalk or walk in the forest without a phone, a laptop or any other device. Being utterly disconnected and unfindable, at least for a while.
Keep on tweeting people and by the way… don’t miss a gig like the Amstwestival next time. You may find yourself in great company.
Alice © 2009