Social Media: The Ugly, The Bad, and The Good

The very things I hate about Social Media are also what make it so successful.

The Ugly
A friend of mine, who will remain nameless, recently set up her very first Facebook account.  You wouldn’t believe how nervous she was to send her first status update.  Even after two other people reviewed it, she was convinced that her comment about the weather wasn’t witty enough or she wasn’t posting it properly.  Then she proceeded to check back every two minutes to see if anyone had made a comment.  Her fear of putting something out there for the whole world to see was quickly replaced with a feeling of inadequacy when no one else commented on her observation.

Personally, I think this fear of “doing it wrong” or not getting a response are the biggest factors discouraging people from posting online or really utilizing Social Media at all.  We’ve ALL heard at least one person say the following: “Oh yeah, I have a Facebook account, but I don’t really go on it that often.”  People are obviously intrigued by Social Media enough to not only check out different sites, but to actually set up an account as well.  So either they’re lying and they actually log in all the time, but mostly just to quietly stalk their exes or find out who gained the most weight since high school, or there really is something deterring them from returning to these sites.

The Bad
Social Media is rarely intuitive.  Sites like Twitter and Facebook are made up of awful labyrinths of terminology and unclear acronyms.  When I first got onto Facebook, I drove my husband crazy with incessant questions and rants about how annoyingly complicated the whole thing was: “What’s the difference between the News Feed and my Profile… and how do they affect my Wall.  Are my Wall and my Profile the same thing?  When I post a status update, where does it end up… on my Wall, my Profile, or the News Feed?  Are you SURE that if I send this message no one else will be able to see it?”

The first time you heard “Follow us on Facebook” was your first intuition to visit the page and click on the “Like” button?  Probably not.  Once I figured this out, I quickly switched over to a five minute rant (what can I say, I love a good rant) about how stupid that was: “Why not just have a button that says “Fan” or “Add to my Pages” or “Follow on Facebook”… pretty much anything BUT “Like.”  Facebook pages don’t have “Fans,” they have “Likes.”

When I joined up with Twitter, I went through the same ordeal of learning the proper Social Media etiquette, terminology, and acronyms.  I distinctly remember thinking, “What the hell is a DM?”  Then it’s a whole other world of #s and @s that came along with their own rules and protocol.  At first, I hated this!  I’m a pretty intelligent person.  I use to explain to CEO’s why their multimillion dollar 401(k) plans were not 404(c) compliant and how that could affect their fiduciary liability – and here I find myself struggling to figure out how to have or follow a conversation on Twitter.  Not only did I feel unsure of myself, but I hated asking anyone for advice because I was failing to grasp concepts that 6th graders had mastered in 3rdgrade.

The Good
Shockingly, the very things I hated so much about every new networking site that I joined are precisely why they’re so effective.  My first tweet felt much like my unnamed friend’s Facebook post.  It was uncomfortable, not witty enough, and I was pretty sure that I was doing it all wrong – and that millions of discerning strangers would see just how awful it was.  Then it disappeared into the vastness of Twitter, completely unnoticed – because let’s face it, unless your username is @CharlieSheen or @HowardStern, few really care about your first tweet.

Every time you join a new network, it’s like being hazed.  It’s an aggravating ordeal to become familiar with the terminology and etiquette – but the type of loyalty that comes from overcoming these obstacles is priceless.  In reality, The Bad and The Ugly are crucial to The Good of Social Media.  There’s some euphoric feeling that comes when the fog of mystification clears and you can navigate a social media site with ease.  The very fact that your frustration has changed to acceptance means you’ve invested enough time and energy to change your status from confused newbie to insider.  Not only can you speak the lingo, but you understand firsthand that not everyone is a part of the club – seeing as you were recently clueless.

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