The potential of social media is its power to let people self-organize like nothing before. However, there is a lot of skepticism because people are not using it that way, for the most part. They’re just using it for fun and games, many of which don’t even involve others besides possibly annoying them. An example is those Facebook picture tagging memes where you decide which of your friends are most like some picture of a character or thing on a poster full of such characters or things, then tag them. Your friends don’t even have to bless it or be involved in any way, and may be irritated to upset enough to untag themselves, possibly with a note to you! Anti-social media, perhaps?
Something that gets far greater usage than Facebook memes of any sort, though, are Facebook applications. This doesn’t cover all social media by any means, but it’s a pretty good sampling and indicator. The graph below is all the cynics need to state their case.
Never mind how much the Just for Fun category completely annihilated the other categories for number of applications, just look at how few other applications categories actually help people self-organize themselves! Now, this graph was from May 2008, by a number crunching firm called Flowing Data and presented on CNET. However, I haven’t sensed any great change in a lot of people’s attitudes to social media as being a tool of real power rather than just fun and games. This despite of President Barack Obama’s campaign putting social media to magnificent use for his supporters to self-organize and leading to a historic real life result. Seems to me the cynics still think that the effort, led by Chris Hughes using the My.BarackObama.com website with other social networking bases, had little influence because it was the people who organized things and talked to each other and got out to vote, etc. (link to Chris Hughes is a highly recommended read if you want to see the true power of social media).
Yes, it was the people who did all the actions, but that’s exactly the problem with a lot of people using social media. They’re not using it using it in more productive ways that result in real life impact. My Facebook 2.0 picture tagging memes where there are real life actions have seen good take-up, but not nearly as much compared the usual ones described early one. It’s the users of social media are the problem, not the technology. The technology enables them to do something. The technology itself won’t do anything on its own. But as President Obama’s campaign proved, people can be taught to do this, and they will if motivated to do so. Their behaviour is what has to be changed.
Ultimately, the cynics on social media may be right that it won’t amount to much. However, I highly doubt that. But if they were right, they would still be wrong because it would be social media’s users that didn’t amount to much. The technology is just fine!
Think about that as you use social media technology in the future!
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 9.2