What Social Media Has Taught Me

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...

English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems like these days you can’t go anywhere without being encouraged to connect with someone or something on social media. In many ways, social media has changed the way we interact with each other. As I was thinking about the things I have learned through social media, it started to read a bit like a tale of two Internets. Here’s what I mean.

  • Internet 1: People have a need to connect with everyone and everything. It doesn’t matter what social media platform you are on, there are people who share everything, like everything, connect with everything, comment on everything, and are ever-present. The reasons behind the need to connect vary, but these people can sometimes be accused of over sharing or be called stalkerish. Internet 2: People have a need to stay connected while keeping their own lives private. These people pop into the virtual world once in a blue moon, share a quick tidbit, and then fade back into whatever bit of real world they came from. You might get an occasional like or comment from them, but they’re generally the quiet users of the internet.
  • Internet 1: People are good, helpful, and encouraging. If you have a problem, be it as simple as deciding what to fix for dinner or as complex as solving a medical mystery, there are people who are willing to help you figure it out. If you have the right social media connections, all it takes is one post and you will have a multitude of responses all offering different options. You can find encouragement in the dedication of others and motivation in a short tweet or status update. Internet 2: People are negative, hurtful, and whiney. If you have a problem, don’t expect an answer from these people, they’re most likely to be posting about their problems and shooting down anyone who tries to help them solve it. They seem to find joy in pointing out flaws in others, and rarely offer any constructive comments. In the most extreme cases they will turn into trolls, or people who seem to have made it their sole purpose in life to tear others down. Spend 1 minute reading the comments on any news story, and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Internet 1: It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, professionals are helping out each other, the new guys, and the amateurs. So often on Twitter especially I see snippets of discussions where people are working toward a common goal. They have open and honest discussions about ways problems can be solved and give advice for avoiding some of those problems to people coming behind them. It’s a beautiful and wondrous thing to be a part of.
    Internet 2: It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, professionals are arguing among themselves, showing off, and trying to outdo the next guy. Boastful words that make me picture the speaker as a peacock strutting about, challenges to prove one’s own value, and a winner-takes-all approach to just about everything. It’s very competitive, and not in the good “competition breeds excellence” kind of way. It’s more in the “competition will consume you and destroy you” kind of way.

I’ve lived in all sides of the Internet via social media at different times. Sometimes I’ve just witnessed the discussions, and other times I’ve been an active participant. More than once I’ve looked back and questioned whether the role I chose in a particular situation was the right one. I’d like to think that my overall impression has been positive and not negative, and I hope to continue to make my voice a positive part of whatever discussions are taking place. How do you use social media?

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