When I started doing my thing here, Facebook had only recently opened up to people who weren’t still living in dorms, a “tweet” was the sound a bird makes, and all “the kids” were on MySpace. Most internet users who weren’t “kids” kept lists of their favorite websites bookmarked in their browsers and visited them regularly to check out what was new, and if we wanted to share news or jokes or photos with friends and family, we sent e-mails.
(It sounds so quaint now, doesn’t it? Especially the MySpace part. We still have e-mail, though…and more of it than ever, as the Postal Service slowly withers and becomes just another package-delivery service.)
|Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
For some people, now Facebook is the Internet: a source of news, entertainment, games, and almost-effortless sustained contact with friends and family. For others, the Internet exists in links and quips of 140 characters or less on Twitter. Tumblr and Pinterest and Instagram translate a thousand words into pictures. Smartphones have reshaped and expanded the online experience, putting it literally into the hands of millions.
Blogging, one of the first forms of social media, has meanwhile ebbed and flowed and occasionally been pronounced dead at the hands of the later arrivals. Those of us who are trying to keep it alive have gotten the message that we can’t do much without aligning with social media; we can’t beat ’em, so we’d better join ’em–Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and whatever else comes along–and think in terms of our “platforms” and “brands” and other marketing buzzwords.
I started a Facebook account in November 2007, but did very little with it for months afterward. I’ve really only used it actively for the last couple of years, mostly because of several groups I belong to there and my FB page for this blog. I get e-mail notifications from the groups, and I peek in at my news feed for other updates–sometimes a few times a day, but sometimes not for days at a time.
I joined Twitter in May 2008 as user #14,664,530, and really enjoyed my first couple of years using it; it was a great space for conversations. Occasionally it still is, but I’m not usually involved in them these days unless someone specifically mentions me (and I get a notification)–I’ll jump in then. Maybe I follow too many people (I’m working on changing that), but the flow of the Twitter stream doesn’t engage me the way it used to. I share links there a lot, because Twitter is some people’s feed reader, and I’ll tweet along with everyone else if there’s a big event in progress, but I rarely just “peek at the feed” there any more.
As far as other spaces go, I’ve opened, and shut down, a Tumblr. I’m active in spurts on Instagram; I discovered last year that I enjoy photo memes, but taking and selecting and editing pictures for posting means I’m not reading and writing for posting. My activity in other social-media spaces–Pinterest, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Google+–is a strange blend of specialized and unfocused.
My husband doesn’t blog, but he’s staked out some social-media real estate. It’s on a smaller scale than mine, and he’ll sometimes tell me he “doesn’t know how I keep up.” Here’s my true confession: most of the time, I don’t keep up, and I’m OK with that. And I finally figured out why it’s OK:
This is where it started for me, and I care more about reading blog posts than about tweets or status updates. Reading the (long-form) thoughts of those I’ve come to call my friends, and writing my own posts–sometimes in response to those I read–engages my mind and my heart more than anything else online. And while I don’t plan to close out my social-media accounts, I’m reconsidering how much I want to invest in them.
(*And wouldn’t you know it–as I was in the process of drafting this post, Google was announcing that it’s shutting down Google Reader at the end of June. Time to investigate the alternatives, or at least make sure that Feedly will keep working for me…)