Social Media: What's Not to Like?
December 02, 2011
We're a social species. Our survival has been highly dependent on our interactions with one another. Social networking is little more than an application of this instinct in a new medium: the Internet. In the good old days, we had chat rooms. Ah, the MSN days. I think I've finally reached the age where I can be assured that at least a handful of people won't know what I'm talking about. That's ok. Take my word for it. It was a highly addictive and simultaneously chaotic way to spend one's time. You could expect to be booted out of a "room" with little explanation unless you were the one with the enviable hammer of justice. You might
also be kicked off the Internet if your dial-up connection was overburdened by someone attempting to make a phone call.
We've come a long way, people. Nearly all of the sites we use have some kind of social input function built into them. MySpace has faded into obsolescence, only to be replaced by a plethora of new options: Facebook, Google +, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, and Pinterest, to name only a few. There are also collective information-building communities like Wikipedia and specialized social media sites, like LinkedIn for maintaining relationships with colleagues and co-workers. There's GoodReads for making reading suggestions, and Flickr for sharing photos, exploring and commenting on the contributions of other users.
There's a lot out there. Can you say information overload? I thought it might be useful to describe some of these social sites and some of the things that set them apart. Don't try to use them all. You'll lose your mind. Take my word on this one.
And without further delay:
Facebook is probably the world's best known social network. You can "like" and "dislike" the comments of other users, update your status to reflect what's going on in your life, send messages to friends, play a wide range of interactive games, and promote events. Businesses have jumped onto the Facebook bandwagon and use it as a platform to market their goods and services. All users should be wary though--Don't make public sensitive information. Facebook has gotten into some legal trouble for its lack of security measures.
Google + is relatively new to the social networking world. Many functions on the site are similar to those found on Facebook. You can post a status, share photos, and play games. You do have more control over your privacy with Google + though. You can determine who can read your status updates by making what you type visible only within certain "circles."
Twitter is a resource for posting brief updates and following the updates of others. These updates are called "tweets," and if you choose to share what someone else has already posted, you "retweet." The most recognizable feature of Twitter is probably the #. You'll notice that it's followed by a word of phrase. This works to bring together similar posts, making it a lot easier to browse post on a given topic.
Reddit is many things. It's a news source as well as a discussion forum for a wide range of topics. It has an image board and a plethora of communities devoted to almost everything you can think up. You can browse by "new", "controversial" and more. The TIL (Today I Learned) section is filled with random trivia. It's a good idea to verify anything you read on Reddit however, as anyone who joins can post. You can control what appears on your front page by subscribing to certain Reddit feeds.
Pinterest is a virtual pinboard where members can post recipes, craft ideas, and other content that can be shown visually. The idea is that images can provoke conversation among members. Right now, membership is being restricted. You can leave your e-mail address, and you'll be contacted when your membership request is approved.
Finally, Wikipedia is a communally created encyclopedia. Anyone can submit content, and anyone can modify it. The idea is that collective knowledge is the key to creating a complete and valid picture of the world. Take any info you read on Wikipedia with a grain of salt though. It shouldn't be cited in a research paper. It never hurts to take a look at the citations at the bottom of the article though. Legitimate, citable resources are often-times referenced here.
Which of these resources do you use? What makes it great? Is there anything you would add to the list? What's your biggest turn-off when it comes to determining whether or not to use a social network or resource? We want to hear from you!
North Independence Branch