One of the things that struck me years ago is the fact that we humans tend to assume that other folks will react to a situation in a similar fashion as ourselves. And when they don’t, either comedy or tragedy ensues (in the literary sense at the very least). While I had, of course, mastered this understanding as a child maneuvering through the emotional land mines of family life, it really was brought home at work. One coworker did “a” and coworker assumed that was the wrong thing to do because she would have done “b” and all kinds of interesting times occurred.
This is the stuff of which made-for-tv and commercial fiction is made.
But it is also a driving force behind pretty much everything else. And no place like social media illustrates that point better.
For example, Facebook circa 2013 is nothing like what it was back when I joined on June 25, 2007. It was blue back then and a very distant cousin to what it is now. Many of their updates and changes created an upheaval that users got the hang of until they forgot how it was before. I rarely get irate about such things because I don’t have the time to worry about it. I mean, compared to shelling out $3.99 for a package of cherry tomatoes that turns moldy the day after you get them home? Now that’s the kind of thing I have time to get irate about.
(I am irked though by how FB manipulates what you see in your timeline, however. I can be pretty stubborn and cantankerous but having something not even human decide for me who I want to pay attention to chaps my hide.)
However, as Facebook has evolved, so has our use of it. Back in the early years, Facebook was not a place to find and share photos of cats or other critters. It was not the place you read funny “e-cards” and it was not a place where you played video games. But then, Facebook evolved right along with the rest of the world. We live in the most recent evolution of that world, whether we’re logged in, plugged in, or app-ed in or not.
This means that, for me, how I use Facebook has changed radically. In 2007 I had a cell phone that made phone calls. That’s it. Most people I knew were not on Facebook. Most people who played video games used either a PC-type game or a Gameboy type device. And when I posted something on Facebook, my small group of friends and family saw it. It was easy to see who responded to it because it was right there, on my page.
Now, as we filter our “friends” into real friends and real family and real acquaintances and perhaps real strangers, how we use FB had to change. People have FB pages for their unborn babies, their pet pot-belly-pigs, their wedding dates, their family reunions. And keeping track of the people you want to stay in touch with has gotten “different”.
For example, I rarely comment on status updates anymore. So many folks have so many friends that one comment left on FB can result in hundreds of notifications. (At least we no longer get emails about them, sheesh.) But if you let too many friends’ status updates go by, the magical FB algorithm begins filtering them out of your feed until you never see them anymore.
My response to all these changes is that I “like” more status updates than comment. And about once a week or so I go back through my friends list and check in with people I rarely see anymore and then comment/like something they’ve put out there recently. I want to be in control of what FB shows me, not what FB thinks I want to see. But I doubt most people do this. Which means that Facebook’s usefulness is changing even if users aren’t cognizant of it.
I’m also rarely on the actual Facebook. Instead I use the FB application on my phone which adds another layer of not-quite-reality to my FB experience. This is true for anyone who uses an application to browse Facebook.
None of this is bad or good, it just is. (Not all changes have been so peachy, however. It seems to me that some of FB’s changes were to make the financial outlay aspect of FB more palatable. For example, the traffic on my blog radically reduced once FB started heavily manipulating who sees content. I could “promote” my posts at a $3 a pop but that’s just crazy. However, when you think of how many small businesses now use the “free” platform of FB, it makes sense that FB is looking for ways to recoup the revenue they are playing a role in creating.)
Another place I’ve noticed folks changing the way they use a social media is out on Twitter. Twitter has a “favorite” function which allows a user to “star” a tweet. Myself, I favorite tweets that contain information I don’t want to lose track of. If you were to data-mine my favorites, it might seem rather random. But if you remember who I am and what is important to me, then all those gluten free, cooking, agents are seeking, and current events tweets might begin to coalesce into some categories that make sense. Or not. After all, my mind is an interesting place seeing as how I’m a human with free will and all that nonsense.
But some Twitterfolk favorite in the same way we like out on FB. It has become shorthand for letting a person know “hey, I like that!” without the typing time required to say that. It also keeps you from getting responses that involve you on a subject that doesn’t really apply to you. (On Twitter that would be a reply that includes you. Some folks don’t have the time/interest in dealing with that.)
Again, neither good nor bad. Just the evolution of people’s use of social media as it becomes more and more a part of who we are as people and a society.
However, let me remind you of two things: don’t assume that others use social media the same way you do. And if it’s private, don’t put it anywhere in any social media. Send a letter via the United States Postal Service on Monday-Friday instead.
ps. Feel free to comment on how you use social media or how you see social media changing. Obviously, I don’t have any empirical data supporting my anecdotes so if anyone has articles by reputable sources that add to this conversation, please share them. Because that’s what the internet was invented to do…share information and not just photos of kittens, puppies, or gifs of that make me smile.