There was once a frightening period in our history, my friend. It was a sad time (although we did wear colorful clothes…). You may have seen pictures of our past, though we shudder when we recall. It was a time when we used faxes (I’ll explain that word at a later date) as a speedy way to communicate, and even used paper that would yellow and dissolve quickly, though it was not a spy-esque mechanism… It was a time where people would actually stay home to watch a TV show they liked (OK, I’ll explain TV later too) or even wait a week or more for written correspondence.
And yes, there was a time before we had the “tubes” of the internet. And before social media. But you can put all those years of inefficiency and dismay behind you, because that time has passed.
So you are probably wondering how does social media improve my life? Here are just a few benefits:
1. Say Connected
At a recent conference, Cultural Anthropologist Grant McCracken pointed out that Facebook means your contacts are always warm. You’re always in touch with them in a subtle yet meaningful way. “This is communication with little hard, informational content, but lots of emotional and social content. Phatic communications doesn’t get much said, but it has social effects so powerful, it gets lots done.”
While you may not have seen that co-worker from a few years back, your newsfeed tells you what she’s been up to. Or you read that your friend is planning a trip to Boston so you decide to send her the email address for that couple you know who also enjoys Melanesian Throat Singing. And your Facebook status can inform business contacts that you’re “excited about the new job” – which subtly clues them in to the fact that you have changed workplaces – without any drama. And as Chris Brogan puts it, social networks can be as connective as a local pub.
2. Be More Productive
Or at least save some valuable time. Rather than sifting through mounds of paper or your desktop favourites, social bookmarking tools like del.icio.us and Ma.gnolia make finding and storing articles, posts, sites and videos easy and fluid.
3. Show off your assets (no not those, put those away!)
You have talent, so flaunt it! Youtube let’s you show the world your abilities (and sometimes lack thereof), while Strutta takes it into the ring. Fray invites you to tell a story and Moments asks you to collaborate on one. You can Be Funny (or Die), or rock out while developing your fan base. There are even artist friendly marketplaces: sites like Pixish and Deviant Art facilitate the sale of creative work. And some artists use social media tools to make it happen on their own.
4. Smarty-Pants It Up
You know something about something. Even if it’s really nerdy stuff, there’s a place for you (or me – no finger pointing!). Demonstrate your expertise and provide others with (hopefully) useful info on your blog, with your comments on other blogs, or by responding to a problem on a crowdsourcing site (eg Innocentive). You can even develop something new or redesign something old.
5. Help others
Support a cause? Social Media provides you with a myriad of tools to be part of a solution. Help spread the word get donations, organize gatherings and more.
Sorry, what was I saying? Oh, that’s only five, right. Right!……
6. Distract yourself with ease!
Never before has it been so easy to procrastinate. You can socialize, write, read, avoid work and put off your impending thesis… But hey, it’s social, man. And remember, you’re procrastinating on the cutting edge.
So…. has the social media improved your life?
Monica Hamburg is a writer and social media evangelist in Vancouver, Canada. Her investigations and observations on social media, and its relation to business and connecting, form the basis of her blog, “Me Like the Interweb”.