by Yvonne DiVita
Is it social to "like" someone on Facebook?
Is it social to "follow" someone on their blog or on Twitter?
Is it social to attend webinars and listen to podcasts, even when you share a comment?
People today equate 'social' with 'media' and have assigned a false sense of camaraderie to that phrase. It's as if social media is all you need be part of, to succeed online or in business. As long as you have social media, you're good. As long as folks like you on Facebook, and talk about you or share you, you're social. As long as you're on Twitter - tweeting about your latest program or sharing an uplifting quote, you're good, cause that's social at its best.
I submit that none of that is social. I don't know who - what expert or person of importance - labelled these tools as social - but I do know that the label is misplaced.
You're reading this post on your computer, most likely. Perhaps you're on your cell phone. For all intents and purposes, you're engaging in social media. Because this is what social media is - a way for large groups of people to connect and communicate online. But, it's not social, not in any real sense of the word social. Despite 'relating to activities in which people spend time talking to each other'... online engagement is not social.
Let me refer to a dictionary meaning of social. I found this one on Merriam-Webster online and it speaks to my point:
: relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other
: liking to be with and talk to people : happy to be with people
Social is getting face-to-face with people. It's attending events, meetings, coffee shops, parks, any number of places OUTSIDE of your own home, to connect with like-minded folks. Generally, these meetings take place at an agreed upon location and there are refreshments served. Often, these meetings revolve around business purposes, so the like-mindedness is about business issues. Sometimes, the meetings are politcial. Or, personal. Indeed, you can meet to chat about knitting, or pets, or cooking, or any number of topics. The goal is always the same - to connect and talk with people, to share, to tell a story or two.
Phones are not social. I don't suppose anyone would disagree with that. You're not really being social when you chat on the phone.
Websites are not social. Most websites are like empty offices. There is a lot of information shared, even some visual stimulation, and an invitation to comment, but...there is no social interaction.
Blogs are social in that they invite comments and stimulate conversation. But it's not real time and you don't actually KNOW the person commenting. Unless you've met that person elsewhere, on the web or in person. So, the thread of 'social' attached to blogs is minimal at best.
Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram all purport to be 'social media'. The word media is attached to them because they are part of sharing, generally by a group. That group can be two people or more, it can be mixed company, professionals or friends, or both. And the engagement can be quite purposeful. But, it's not social. It's just... exchanging text and pictures. It's a way to communicate.
You might find this interesting - according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, again, this is the meaning of 'media':
The singular media and its plural medias seem to have originated in the field of advertising over 70 years ago; they are still so used without stigma in that specialized field. In most other applications media is used as a plural of medium.The popularity of the word in references to the agencies of mass communication is leading to the formation of a mass noun, construed as a singular <there's no basis for it. You know, the news media gets on to something — Edwin Meese 3d> <the media is less interested in the party's policies — James Lewis, Guardian Weekly>. This use is not as well established as the mass-noun use of data and is likely to incur criticism especially in writing.
Where does that apply to the concept of social, I ask? When we use media, or have it thrust upon us as happens in sales and marketing, is it being social? Are we engaged in something we like, with people we like, doing enjoyable things? Maybe on a Google+ Hangout, where you DO see the person and might be able to converse with the person, sharing stories and ideas. But, on Facebook, Twitter, etc? Those are tools and they are one-sided. You share, someone else shares, and the message makes it rounds. It's not social. It's... just sharing.
One of my biggest pet peeves is the way people bounce the idea of social about, as if writing a message in a box online somewhere, or sharing a funny picture, or adding exclamation points to your comments, makes it social.
Get out of your chair. Go the door. Make sure you have your keys (cause even if you live in a neighborhood, you'll likely have to drive to the location I want you to go to), get in the car and get social. Get social at a restaurant. Coffee shop. Park. Someone else's backyard. On the sidewalk in front of your house. Look someone in the eye and say, "Hey, good to see ya! What's new?"
Yes, that is what social is. I hope I'm wrong that it's a rapidly fading art. Lost in the myriad tangles of the new social, wrapped in something called media, designed to separate us, not to bring us together.
Grab it - that social experience you're avoiding. Grab it and hold on for dear life. Without it, human beings are not...human. We're just beings.