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social media 4 the not so social

Updated on January 12, 2013

Social Media 4 the Not So Social

In case you have not noticed yet, social media is all the rage. What is funny about that is that the people who invented all of this stuff probably are not that social at all. For example, take that recent movie about that facebook guy, what’s his name? They are, if the stereotype holds true, nerdy geeks that like to keep to themselves. Even people that are not very socially oriented can thrive in the new forms of social media.

OK, great, you say, but what the heck are they, really? So glad that you asked, social media is the latest craze and the cats meow. They are simply (don’t you love how people use the word simply to descibe complex things), online applications. These applications, or apps for short, enable a user to communicate with most anyone across the planet that has access to the Internet. Each site has its own special bells and whistles that differenciate it from the others. Take twitter, for example; this is a site that imposes an interesting limitation, which limitation has become its assett, you only type a few sentences at a time to make your point. At first one might think that that is ridiculous, and it may very well be but it works somehow. Celebrities were the driving engine at first but now the ordinary everyday folk utilize its conciseness to express where they are at, physically or mentally at a given point in time. Internet users, their friends or fans, subscribe to there ‘tweets’ and so receive all of the short messages that the ‘tweeter’ may send.

Myspace is the first of these sites to start this digital social media ball rolling. It is not so limited as twitter. On myspace you are free to express yourself until the proverbial cats come home. All this, as unfortunately, most everything else, has a dark side. One young teenage girl was induced to commit suicide by some mean Internet users by just being psychologically cruel. So be responsible and most of all be considerate of those that may be more fragile than you.

Each site features status updates, which are like their particular version of tweets and in these brief updates you express what your mood is or particular motivation might be at that instant. They can be fun, silly or very serious.

Businesses are always looking for that extra edge to help their sales and so they glom on to these platforms like a barnacle on a ships hull. They have made special use of Facebooks ‘like’ feature, which is when you like something on someone’s site, you click on a handy ‘like’ option embedded in the facebook app. The more likes one gets for their business or personal site, the more impressive it appears.

While myspace and many other high tech innovations was originally perceived as just for kids, rock bands and many other varieties of musical groups have adopted the application to promote their musical enterprises, such as concert performances, music and music video downloads.

Facebook to this day is still looked upon as the more ‘mature’ of the two sites. That may even be true but we can also substitute ‘boring’ for mature. Because myspace has more ability to become active with colorful animations, wallpapers, as well as many other variations of software add-ons. Twitter is the least interactive of the social media platforms. It is more about the ‘tweeter’ crowing about what laundry detergent that they use or what they might be having for dinner that evening.

On myspace as well as on facebook, one will request to be a ‘friend’ of the person or entity of whose site it is. Should the host of that site accept the friend request, then the user is ‘in’ and gains access to much more information and resources. How much info and resources will depend upon the relative amount of effort that the host has allocated to its improvement.

One attribute that the social media sites share is that they are kind of like a pet. It is not enough to simply go to the pound and save a dog from the gas chamber, once you have performed this laudable act it is only the beginning. The dog must be cared for; taken for walks, given food and water daily and maybe even petted and loved a little, if the K-9 is lucky of course, so too with the social media site. Even if one creates the most awesome of presentations for one’s myspace or facebook page, unless it is frequently updated with new looks, applications and other content such as pictures (pics for short), ones friends will soon lose interest and reduce or cease their visits to the social media web site in question.

Those clever geeks of whose idea it was to create these social media platforms are now rich many times over. This of course has spawned many imitators, of which only a select few ever enter the arena in which the big name sites that are the subject of this article operate in. Twitter is the one exception. Who will be the next facebook or myspace, maybe no one? In may be that there is only a small window of opportunity to create these stellar applications and that the void is then forever filled. Facebook, for instance, has recently been valued in the neighborhood of eighty billion dollars. Mr. Zuckerberg, the creator of the facebook platform, even though the subject of a recent film in which he was for the most part, negatively portrayed, is said to be worth around fourteen billion dollars. Only a small fraction of those lovable geeky nerds ever attain such status. What ever becomes of the rest of those programmers and their dreams of glory? Perhaps no one can say for certain. It could be that they spend their unfulfilled days hacking away in some IT vault room.

Travel concerns are hiring third parties to help them figure out how they can jump on the social media bandwagon, as if the sites have not become commercialized enough. Ah, those capitalists. They make the Internet wheel go ‘round. Travel groups are revving up to invest a large percentage of their advertising dollar to the task. Where ever these social media sites go, one can be certain that the advertisements, which are taking many clever, and some might opine, devious forms, will be sure to follow.

Thanks to these marvels of technology, as the world continues to shrink, avoiding being exposed to some form of the social media platform becomes an increasingly difficult proposition.

Some business are now actually paying internet users to visit their sites and to ‘like’ some aspect of their social media pages and/or to ‘friend’ them. In return for ‘liking’ a fast food item on their menu, a chain may reward the ‘liker’ with a coupon good towards the purchase of a free chicken sandwich. On social media sites, buying votes is perfectly OK.

Conversely, if your myspace page only has a few friends, or your facebook page has but one or two likes, what a wretched creature thou art. Much of the Internet at large has degenerated to a sophomoric popularity contest. Still, it is an unprecedentedly powerful tool and not to be sneezed at. Wasn’t it Thoreau who so succinctly observed when a telegraph line had finally reached to Texas from New York that it may be that New York and Texas have nothing important to communicate to each other? There may be some correlation here. It may be that social media is a lot of fluff that is another unwarranted high tech distraction imposing itself on our precious and finite time here on this marvelous globe called earth. That may well be the case and may even be growing in unimportance as we speak. Even so it, the social media platform, is most assuredly here for the long haul so one must derive some sort of stratagem with which to deal with it. Many businesses and private parties are being dragged into this whirlpool, some might even say cesspool, screaming and kicking, as the quaint colloquialism goes. It is now not will your business get a facebook page, it is, if we do not have a facebook page then brand x will send us to the cleaners. Companies are using these social media platforms to communicate with their customers and their employees in new ways. An extension of telecommuting, and perhaps the logical next step, ‘Big Twitter is watching,’ Nineteen Eighty-four has come and gone. What is left is the message of the frightening real possibilities outlined therein. Only all of this is the tip of the technological iceberg and for better or worse these social media platforms are symptoms of automatic knowledge of everyone’s doings, their coming and goings, their deepest inner thoughts plastered over the world in and array of ones and zeroes. All of the social interchanges will be on record in some supercomputers in a basement of Silicon Valley and beyond for as log as humanity may continue. George Orwell might not ever have been able to imagine such an amazing scenario, yet here we are, in the Twenty-first century and the old pop song of Zager and Evens still rings truer then ever. That is to say, in the year ‘Twenty-five twenty-five.’

Facebook has become the ultimate tool for self promotion. Build up your circle of friends and stay in touch with one another. View all of their latest baby pictures and the family events with no need to waste time and energy on driving to who knows where. Thus social media gives us yet another way to go green and preserve our troubled planet. You can now even stay up to date with your online friends via today’s enhanced smart phones. Here is where that iPhone and Blackberry really show their worth. So go ahead and crow about your cats brave capture of that pesky mouse. Commiserate over the death of the pet goldfish. Much ado about nothing is a facebook specialty.

For the business trying to capitalize on social media, it may be a challenge not to appear shallow, especially if you really are shallow. Examine your true motives and determine if they might need revising before projecting your thoughts across the globe. Many businesses are hiring third parties to handle their social media presence; it has become just that important. Many businesses like to brag about their charitable donations and worthy cause that they support. Another such band wagon is expounding gustily all of the trendsetting ways that the firm is reducing its carbon footprint. Clarifying how much your product is than brand x is par for the course.

It truly is a brave new world and getting braver all of the time. Your facebook and myspace page are at work for you twenty-four seven. Keywords are all the rage now. Plug them into your text and see just how difficult it becomes not to sound ridiculous and wooden in your writing. Keywords are the words that enable the Internet search engine, mostly Google, to find your content so that your web site or web page will place high on online denizens World Wide Web search results. This is the Holy Grail of social media, to be on the all important first page of the web search engines results. When this occurs, the chances of success for your web efforts are greatly increased. This is the ultimate goal of the new buzz word, Search Engine Optimization, or its acronym, SEO.

Myspace lets you really rock your computer savvy self until the cows come home. ‘Pimp’ your site with the many wonderful and some not so wonderful plug-ins and add-ons; pimp, meaning to spruce up or to make more interesting, plug-in or add-on, meaning to enhance your myspace page with new features and applications that give the web site additional tools like being able to accept credit cards for sales of your latest hit mp3.

The only real limit to your pimping is how much time you can invest installing these add-ons, which are also known as ‘apps.’ Setting them up can go smoothly or not. Sometimes they may not work due to software or hardware conflicts in your computer’s equipment or configuration. Or the reason can lie with your Internet provider. Many free apps will contain hidden costs or are only free for a short time, when it will then ask for money.

So many musical groups are now using myspace that myspace has added a separate category to their offerings called ‘myspace music.’ This new branch of myspace has more built in considerations for the musician or musical group like mp3 and mpeg4 compatibility. Mp3 being for audio files like music and mpeg4 is for the audio and video files in music videos or movies. ‘Streaming’ audio or video is a feature that lets a computer or smart phone user access that content without installing (downloading/saving allows for off-line playback) its file on their computer or smart phone, thus saving that all important memory. Memory storage has increased by leaps and bounds over the years enabling great progress in the ability of our gadgets to store all kinds of data and applications. The problem is that developers of software and hardware continue to find new and creative ways to use up all of that increased capacity. This has continued so unabated over this technological age that it might here be coined as a new law; the Martin’s law of virtual entropy, which states that, ‘if the computer programmers, hardware and software developers create any appreciable increase in memory or computing capacity, those same inventers and others in the field will soon find ways to quickly deploy that capacity.’ The dog will continue to chase its tale.

Audio and video files use a comparatively large amount of memory, as opposed to text. Most consumers’ online connections to the Internet are not without limits, with this being especially true if the user is moribund by the online equivalent of leprosy, dial-up Internet access. Even with a so-called high speed Internet connection, bandwidth, an expression of the relative speed of an Internet connection is being sorely taxed by the wealth of data being exchanged across the World Wide Web.

The capacity for the downloading of movies and games, the worst offenders to bandwidth and as such, a true gauge of the quality of an Internet connection, has greatly increased over the years to where the applications function almost flawlessly. The efficiency has improved to such a degree that corporations and individuals have begun to rely upon it. Users of the web are taking such continued advantage of their high speed Internet connections that the computer servers charged with consummating the infinite amount of downloading of the memory-intensive applications are becoming prone to the digital ‘traffic jam.’ With the advent of another buzz word, ‘Cloud Computing’ the situation can only intensify.

Cloud Computing is the creative use of the computer servers which constitute that seemingly alive organism, the World Wide Web. One example of this new trend is Apples iCloud. All users of Apple products now qualify for free storage space on the web, instead of taxing ones personal computer’s memory.

One other situation that could tax ones Internet connection is found when one tries to ‘upload’ files. Text is a snap to upload and so hardly worth mentioning. However, if you just created your home movie one hour epic of babies’ first several attempts at walking and are expecting to post it on youtube, the limitations of the Internet begin to be demonstrated. If you have dial-up access, forget even trying that. Many Internet service providers install limits of how much data a consumer is permitted to upload into their service contracts because of the aforementioned limits to bandwidth. This is the reason that youtube has dictated a ten minute limit to the videos that it accepts. So mom will have to chop up her epic into ten separate files, tedious work.

Youtube is a social media site without all of that annoying reading. Too much work that. Bring on the movies! No matter if they are for the most part, silly home movies. In the end, that may be the most interesting type of content of all, the candid camera. Those uncontrived moments of real life hilarity and drama.

This may explain the popularity of twitter. What a breath of fresh air not to be bothered with one of the increasing maladies of the information age, too much information. Twitter forces the user to spoon feed us with only the salient facts. It contains the long winded snob and compels him to get to the point already.

The importance of facebook continues to grow. Even if the magnitude of intercourse which takes place there is mainly of trifling significance. The frustrated movie producer turned Realtor must immediately expound the manifold virtues of the latest property that he has just listed; the holiday brunch at the local Lions Club may here be exalted, the first rocky flight of the aspiring pilot all can be celebrated and given their proper due with just the click of a mouse. Forget that fifteen minutes of fame theory, eternal digital fame is now possible. We can live online forever, in ones and zeros.

You may live in a crowded tenement; have to share a bathroom with twenty drug addicts and thirty rats but with myspace you can create your own virtual world, so make it a good one. How ever poor and friendless you are in the real world, you have access to rich experiences and a wealth of new acquaintances. Given an Internet connection, sky’s the limit.

Or should that be ‘Skype’s the limit? Skype is a kind of social media platform for the telephone. Registered Skype users can engage in person to person international telephone calls for free, without cost that is, or for greatly reduced phone charges available from the traditional telephone company. With a headset, or a combination of a telephone, microphone and PC, a Skype account and something to say, the world of telephony opens up as never before. The service is so popular that many companies require it before they will hire an applicant.

All of these elucidated services require one to sign up, or to register with their particular site. This is the price of admission. One must enter their information in order to access to these services. These days, everyone is afraid of the misuse of their personal information and for good reason. The horror stories are out their in the social and ‘unsocial’ media alike. This is a valid concern. Some create a false online identity for themselves for protection. This is the theory behind the ‘avatar,’ an image, static or animated that will represent the person online and thus protect ones identity. A quote from that eminent early twentieth century author, Frank Channing Haddock is appropriate here, ‘all life is a taking of risks.’ One must share information with others to truly interact with new friends in an honest manner. Create a plan on exactly how much you are willing to disclose about yourself online. Along with pleasant new friends, it is an unfortunate fact of life that potential new enemies await as well.

Firewalls are great but they tend to limit ones own Internet access while they are limiting that of potential Internet threats to your computer and beyond also. The freedom to soar incurs the risk of flying into a cliff. At least have up to date Spyware and Virus protection on your system. Try not to be too sensitive because your ego will be tried. Compared to the wealth of learning and experience, one must gauge for one’s self if any potential risk is justifiable. Shirley MacClaine advised us to ‘Go Out On a Limb.’ The old sayings still ring true, nothing ventured, nothing gained.


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