No Monolithic Social Media Solution

In this rather quiet inter holiday week while preparing for our last Technology Voice newsletter of the year I have been reflecting on my use of social media. More precisely, how social media, has perhaps, been using me.

I have been a subscriber to the excellent For Immediate Release: The Hobson & Holtz Report (FIR) podcast since its earliest days. I was first attracted to their offering, not by their consistently illuminating and wide ranging commentaries on issues concerning communications, social media and PR, but in their pioneering work of producing audio programmes for the internet.

As my interest in social media was slow to develop it wasn’t until I was turned on to FriendFeed by a colleague that I started making comments and having the odd mini-discussion with other subscribers to the FIR friend room. FIR was my means to becoming involved in social media.

Shortly after came the rise of Facebook (which purchased FriendFeed in the summer of 2009) and I switched over to using it because, quite simply, so many people were there. At one point I had over 300 ‘friends’ but over time I have now culled that figure back to under a 100 — all of whom I know.

One reason that I did this paring down is that although there are a lot of controls on Facebook as to who can and can’t see your status updates I just couldn’t be bothered to set them. All my friends on Facebook see the same thing. (Although not everything is public. Precise travel plans, etc.)

I found this to be quite limiting. There is a world of people out there (I would like to think or maybe just hope) who would love to know what catches my eye or my attention and that as a consequence I find interesting enough to share along with my occasional musings on this and that. And, as at times, I am semi-prolific in this matter, publishing everything to Facebook would probably place an undue burden on the patience of some friends that I know there.

So after experimenting with Tumblr, Posterous, and Typepad I was really quiet pleased that Google had bounced back from the stalled launches of Wave and Buzz with Google+.

But I still find myself operating within the same constraints concerning the content of posts and updates, albeit according to the channel I am using they differ in nature. Like Facebook, I still find that in all the other outlets what I upload is dictated by the nature of that medium.

There are things that I post on Tumblr that will never see the light of day in my Facebook or Google+ accounts and vice versa. This limitation to broadcast updates universally exists all across my channels.

At first I thought, like in the Facebook instance above, that the audience — my followers or friends — were the limiting factor. But I have only forty followers on Tumblr where I post quite a bit, about a thousand on Twitter where I am a fairly regular contributor and just under two hundred on Google+. Unlike Facebook, I hardly know any of the audience for these other updates. Leaving my familiar Facebook friends aside the only thing that differentiates what I broadcast to Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ is the technology itself.

By technology I refer to the means of making entries and the display of that material as content.

Marshall McLuhan said that the “message is the medium.” (I have linked to the Twitter feed as I find it apt for this article and entertaining in itself, if not always edifying. However, the lecture in the video below is well worth the time.) I was never very sure about what McLuhan meant but now that I can see that the content of my communications is parsed by the technology that I use I understand his point.

The good news is that there is no one-stop shop for communication on the internet. Just because Facebook is big it doesn’t mean it can be everything to everyone.

We all express ourselves in different ways at different times on different subjects to different audiences. The creative development of technology means that we have more and more opportunities to get our message out to the world in different ways.

What we have to say will be revealed by the constraints of the technology with which we have to say it. If we better able to express ourselves through better technologies and their associated mediums then we have a lot to look forward to over the coming years.

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