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Social media is more than just being social

Guest commentary

Louise Houghton, Television Host at DW

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It’s hard to try and keep up with them all. Even now I am thinking that I must change my Twitter settings because I have been hacked and am sending out adverts to my 500 followers!

People say that it sometimes feels like another job making sure that everything on their social media platforms is current. Of course, everyone wants to be the first to post about the new presenter seen on DW or the opening of a new store in Berlin, for example.  This is how news gets around nowadays and wouldn’t it be great if it was you who started a “Twitter trend”! There is no denying that Journal and newspapers offer a more detailed account of world events, but the likes of Twitter actually get the information out to the world much quicker. It is now possible to communicate without even using words – all you have to do is post a picture and that says it all. What an ingenious idea Instagram is! It saves me typing, but then I spend double the amount of time tweaking photos and putting them into little collages before I actually upload them.

Is it all really necessary? Are we doing it for ourselves or for our friends and followers who take an interest in what we do? We didn’t have it before, so why now the sudden interest in what dinner your friend is eating tonight? Furthermore, why is there a need to post a photo to clarify the fact that they have actually cooked it themselves?

I often wonder what we did before these sites were accessible with the touch of a button. Those precious seconds were probably spent taking life a little bit easier. We probably felt like we were able to relax before going off to sleep at night rather than thinking we need to write one last status update and say goodnight to the world.

These sites can also intrude on people’s personal lives too. Those who have millions of followers need to keep them happy by constantly posting something. But the reality is, as I mentioned above, that it is just too time consuming so they have someone else who takes charge of their social media presence for them.  It is not surprising that there are stories of stalkers and burglaries as a result of these sites either because the world knows where you are or where you are not as soon as you check in on Facebook!

Saying all that, no one can deny that there are benefits to having speedy access to all this information, especially if you have a smartphone. When I am working away from home it is great to be able to keep up to date with what my friends are doing and see pictures of their birthdays, children and holidays. It makes the world feel a bit smaller and that you are still part of each other’s lives even though there is distance between you. The number of people now living away from home has, no doubt, increased since the invention of social media, Skype and Facetime.

Not only does social media help on a social front but these mediums allow people to promote themselves or their companies with minimal costs.  Small businesses have the ability to promote events they are holding by posting links on feeds with followers and that is a great advantage.  The Internet means that headlines get around the world faster than the speed of sound. Whether it is news on who won the latest series of “I’m a celebrity get me out of here” or the horrific pictures of a tsunami, you only need to log in to your social media sites to see the information there in front of you because everyone will be talking about it. It’s quicker and easier than a search engine. This helps to educate nations without them even realising they are being educated. I believe there were a number of people researching Nelson Mandela after he died because of following posts, blogs, tweets and captions of his quotes on social media sites. This can only be a good thing – news is more accessible through these sites and becomes more a topic of discussion rather than just a headline. Our understanding and knowledge of historical events will be stronger as a result.

Like many things in life social media has its pros and cons and I have barely scratched the surface on the many topics of conversation based around this ever-growing medium. One thing is for sure though, technology will continue to shape our world and we can’t stop it, so I think it is best to jump on the bandwagon and enjoy what these sites have to offer. Otherwise you risk getting left behind not knowing what a hashtag means! #‬justsaying #socialmedia‬

Date

2013-12-19 | 1:57

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