Social Media Through MY Ages

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We live in an age of constant updates, reposts, comments and likes. Who we are as an individual is greatly defined by the person we present ourselves to be on our social media sites– mainly because the majority of our ‘followers’ and ‘friends’ are (barely) acquaintances whom we might have met once at summer camp back in 1998. However, oddly enough, this doesn’t stop us from wanting to know exactly what they are doing, with whom, and how. Through the years, I feel we use social media different. Not just because one year we enjoy posting 140 character statuses and the next we can’t get enough of putting vintage-y filters on pictures of our pets. As we change and grow, the way we use and even interpret social media changes with us. But alas, this is far from a scientific discovery. Instead, I shall dazzle you with my own personal experience: Social Media Through My Ages.

Background for this– I was born in 1989. Graduated high school in 2007. College in 2011. Do the math, figure it out. Where in the world was social media at each point in time?

2003: MySpace made us realize that we could only have a certain number of “top” best friends. Like middle school needed more drama.

2006: Facebook stopped being an Ivy League gossip column and became accessible to everyone 13 and up.

2010: Welcome to Twitter, where brevity is the soul of wit.

2011: Time Magazine calls Pinterest a “top” website. Pin that where the sun don’t shine, Martha Stewart!

2012: Instagram hits over 100 million, because sometimes words are hard.

(Oh, and WordPress: 2003. Thanks for the outlet, guys!)

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Don’t pretend like you didn’t love these too!

Young’un Social Meda: The only way to describe this Age is: Foolishness. Myspace taught me so much about myself– mainly in the form of answering really deep information for my profile like who my favorite boy band was that week or the number of letters in my crush’s first and last name. Soon sparkly doll pictures could be added and at that point I absolutely knew I needed my own computer (Kids, back in my day, a “first computer” meant a 50lb clunker that took up at last 35% of my total tiny room space. I think I even had to move my blow-up blue sparkly chair out to make space!). Hours were spent changing backgrounds or, more importantly, finding the “cool” websites for those “cool” backgrounds (and glittery pictures, did I mention those?). On the plus side, my extensive use of MySpace supplied with my limited knowledge of HTML. If you wanted to make your profile REALLY cool, you needed to know all the secrets. So in-between IM-ing with friends, thinking up some pretty sweet Away Message (most of mine were quotes, like Mark Twain quotes, and I remember thinking that I was pretty darn cool for that), and updating my MySpace page, I slowly realized I had less and less time to interact with my friends face-to-face. Oh well, maybe we can have a sleepover tomorrow night and check out our MySpace pages as we doodle with gel pens and watch the latest episode of Lizzie McGuire. Sigh, nostalgia.

Early College Social Media: Surprisingly, little changed in our intents and purposes, but the format became much more sophisticated (by which I mean no more glittery pictures…well, for a of couple years). When we were younger, posts were all about trying to outdo and impress. I remember going away to college and feeling the intense need to prove that I was “having a great time” and had made all these fantastic new friend. Truth? While I did make great friends, my first year was plagued by homesickness and anxiety. Not that my social media pals would ever have known. Nor would I have known any fear or sadness taking place in their lives. Everything was dorm rooms, parties, new friends, awesome campuses, and “oh man, so much work!” Maybe our close friends knew how we really felt, but the 500 other people you graduated high school with were under the belief that everyone but themselves was living the best life ever. Of course, it also just occurs to me that maybe I’m alone here and everyone else really WAS living the BEST life ever their freshman year of college…

Current Social Media: At this point in my life, I find that my use of social media is primarily used for its originally intended purpose: keeping in touch with people who are in all different places. Well, that and a healthy dose of “stalking” those I might not know quite as well. We grow older and our friendship groups expand and disperse. There are the people we grew up with, the people we went to high school with, the people we went to college with, the people we used to work with, and then the people who are currently still in our lives, but– all factors considered–may soon also become former friends/schoolmates/coworkers, like the rest. Then, there is the element of contrast and compare. Face it, we look at other people’s lives and we, not so much envy them, but observe them in a selfish sort of way. Maybe we think: well, that would be nice. And in other situations we smile and think: good thing I didn’t end up like that. Whether it’s for daydreaming, self-affirmation or just to see what other paths people have traveled, something about social media keeps us company and support as we continue down our own path.

My Parent’s Social Media: And then there are the group that I will call “my parents,” though that’s technically not correct since none of my parents really partake in social media. For the most part, the baby-boomers whose social media presence I’ve studied are usually the parents of friends or even older coworkers. These “parents” are of a generation where they are just old enough to not have had it for most of their lives, but just young enough to learn the basics. The majority of their use is for reposting: recipes, chain posts, and the more than occasional “let’s see how many likes we can get for [insert often silly, probably fake reason/noun here].” Of course, it’s also used to keep in contact with friends. Many reconnect with former schoolmates or workmates. These are even more intersting reunions because rather than having become “facebook friends” while still knowing each others, these two will have been separated for decade before reconnecting. And, let’s face it, the kid who lived next door to your mom when they were growing up, is not that same person at 18 as they are at 58. There are whole lives to be caught up on. Oh, and of course there is the main reason why many “parents” have signed up for social network sites, though they’ll never admit to it and have since caught the social media bug themselves: They’re spying on their children. I mean, how else are you going to know what’s going through the mind of your 18 year old son. He’s not going to share with you directly but he will, oddly enough, share with 600 of his closest friends. No shame, parents. No shame.

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Oh, and these gems. Parents love these gems.

Years have passed, websites have developed, and vehicles of communication have multiplied (oh, have they multiplied!). The only constant in this crazy world is that things will continue to change: social media channels, technology, and our lives. And we will continue to come up with new and exciting ways to find out what a person we met once back in 2003 (you know, a cousin of a friend’s friend or the like) is up to now. And that’s okay. For whatever purposes we use social media, it will be there for us.

The Permanency of a Digital Legacy

Around the time of her 80th birthday, my Grandmother decided to write down her memoirs. Not for publication or as some sort of formal biography, but simply as a keepsake for the family. Having been born in 1919, she lived through a time of major changes and, whether kin or not, it’s hard to not find her stories fascinating. After reading them more recently, I began to wonder about my own legacy. Sure, it seems a bit morbid, but it’s hard not to wonder what you will leave behind after you’re gone.

That’s when I realized that, unlike my Grandmother, much of my life and experiences have already been recorded in perhaps an even more permanent format than ink and paper. Yes, I’m talking about the internet.

Over the years, I’ve had multiple blogs, some for school and some for personal use; social media accounts, ranging from the now-dated MySpace to the ever-popular Facebook; accounts at numerous sites, from shopping to gaming; papers or pieces published in online formats; and of course, any bit of local news with my name in it can also be found in the great online archive. So you see, if years from now my ancestors decide to look into who I was, they need go no further than the nearest computer.

Certainly there’s something less romantic about memoirs from the digital age, but perhaps the most frightening thing to take away from this is the permanency of all our online (and offline) actions.

In 2010, Twitter announced that the Library of Congress would be digitally archiving the tweets of all the site’s users since its inception in 2006. Phew, what a relief– years from now my ancestors can view my attempts at being witty with a 140 character limit. What exactly will they learn from this officially documented data? Well, they’ll find out I’m a bit of a complainer, not all that funny, and kind of boring. Of course, while sifting through the thousands of trivial tweets, they may come across some of my activities and opinions– you know, the kind of things one actually puts in a memoir.

But what about my other social media accounts? Well, I’m not sure if the Library of Congress has any claims of ownership on my Facebook, but then again there’s no telling what sticks around after you pass on. In fact, this has actually become a major concern for individuals– what happens to one’s online accounts after they die?

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter actually have policies set in place to deal with this and, with the proper proof, loved ones can delete the accounts of the deceased. In some cases, they can also choose to memorialize the account instead. Other accounts, such as those on PayPal or Gmail, also have systems in place to deal with such issues.

To make things a bit easier, it is becoming more and more common for individuals to make a Digital Will in which they leave instructions on the proper steps to be taken with digital accounts after the person’s death. There are also services, such as Legacy Locker, that store all of the information– passwords, usernames–for loved ones to access in the case of death.

So sure, there are plenty of steps to take in order to clear away some of your digital disarray, but there’s no way to completely erase your online presence. Then there’s always the fact that many people, myself included, don’t really care much what happens to those accounts after our passing. I mean, I’m dead and gone, what do I care if Amazon.com still has my order history on record. But then again, I also don’t have anything to hide…do you?

And that’s what it comes down to: our lives are out there, on the internet, and with just a little bit of digging, any number of things can be found out about us. And the scariest part is the permanency of it all.

So here I am, writing my memoirs every time I tweet, or comment on Facebook, or write a blog post. Look at me, I think I just wrote a whole chapter of my memoirs right here and now.

So what do you think? Is your digital legacy something you would like to try to erase, or just another chapter in your memoirs?

Polite Tweeting

Twitter is big in the social media world, and what better way to spread your message than the coveted Retweet. But how exactly do you get the Retweet? Trying using your manners.

In a recent study by Internet marketing company HubSpot,  results showed that those who simply asked for the retweet, while using the magic word “please,” were those most often to get retweeted.

The study analyzed more than 10,000 tweets before noting that:

“51% of tweets that included ‘Please ReTweet’ were retweeted more than once, 39% of those including ‘Please RT’ were retweeted more than once, and only 12% of tweets that included neither were retweeted more than once.”

Of course, the tweets’ content and intended audience must also be taken into account when measuring the effectiveness of the simple “please.” Yet there is a statistical significance that undeniably supports the theory.

Still, it never hurts to spice up your messages: make it entertaining, interesting, relevant, humourous– whatever your audience would most want to see. I personally always enjoy interactive tweets, such as those that ask for my opinion or a response. Interesting links and attention-grabbing tags also tend to win over followers.

And, of course, when it comes to retweets, it never hurts to be a super famous celebrity with millions of doting fans and followers who hang on your every word/tweet, no matter how unimportant or nonsensical. For the rest of us– it just takes a bit of manners.

Twitter’s Timeline

In March, Twitter celebrated its 5th birthday, and my-my, how far it has come.

Despite its short lifespan, there’s no denying the site’s maturation. From changes in design and popularity, to celebrating memorable events such as the first tweet from space, here are some of the highlights of Twitter’s half-decade of existence:

March 2006: Jack Dorsey creates Twitter. On March 31, he publishes the first tweet ever, which says, “just setting up my twttr.”

Just as an interesting comparison, it was on March 10, 1876 that Alexander Graham Bell spoke into the first telephone. His words were: “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”

April 2007: Twitter becomes its own company.

November 2008: Twitter passes the 1 billion tweet mark!

July 2009: Twitter is welcomed into the English language, being officially recognized by Collins English Dictionary as both a noun and a verb.

October 2009: Less than a year after passing the 1 billion tweet mark, Twitter passes the 5 billion mark. Talk about growth!

January 2010: NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, on board the International Space Station, communicates from space via Twitter.

July 2010: Twitter introduced the “Suggestions for You”  feature, offering personalized suggestions of users that may interest you.

August 2010: Twitter surpasses MySpace in the number of unique monthly visitors.

April 2011: The new twitter homepage is introduced. A new and improved look calls for new features as well, including the Local Trends feature, which expands to more than 70 cities and countries.

And of course, on May 1, 2011: Twitter is all a’twitter with speculation and then confirmation of the death of terrorist Osama Bin Laden. At one point, 5,106 tweets per second are recorded. This is the third highest tweeting rate, falling behind the numbers registered during New Years ’11 in Japan and the fatal tsunami there in March.

And it seems that Twitter’s success continues to grow substantially. More and more companies, celebrities, and average individuals are hitting the site to share their 140 character opinions. As for myself, I’ve been a member since 2008 and haven’t looked back since. I still rely on Twitter for news, both of substantial quality and the fluff celebrity pieces. As for the events of this past May 1st, I actually first heard the news from Twitter. I also first heard of Michael Jackson’s death via Twitter. It’s such a convenient source for news, often providing you with the perfect amount of headline and a link to more information. I’m a big Twitter fan (as may be apparent from my ramblings), what about you? Will it live on? Or are its days numbered?

Kraft’s Crafty Campaign

I will not lie. As a college student, Kraft Mac & Cheese makes up a large part of my diet.

And now, more than ever, am I interested to tell this to the world, thanks to a sneaky new Kraft Foods social media campaign. Working with ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Kraft is playing the childhood game of “Jinx.”

Over the past few weeks, anytime two individuals separately tweeted the phrase “mac & cheese,” Kraft would send each a  link The first to click the link and respond with their home address receives five free boxes of mac & cheese and a t-shirt. The promotion is going by the name “Mac & Jinx.”

It’s nice to see a brand using Twitter as their primary campaign platform. Often, Facebook is used in conjunction with these contests, but Crispin Porter + Bogusky seem to be onto something. This agency is also responsible for the Burger King advertising over the past decade or so (which, for the most part, I find incredibly creepy and yet do their job since I can’t quite seem to get them out of my head).

Perhaps you have seen some of the other Kraft mac and cheese ads the agency has worked on, including the TV ads featuring kids complaining about their parent’s  less than worthy Mac and Cheese. I found these commercials endearing and hilarious, and am glad to see that these smart ads were more than just a fluke.

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some yummy tweeting to get done. Fingers crossed!

 

 

 

 

The Oscars Online

In a previous post featuring a rather unsuccessful poll, I asked readers about their Oscar viewing habits in terms of social media. What networks would you stay connected to throughout the show?

Embodying the very spirit of the social media and award show connection was James Franco, who tweeted away from backstage. Despite a less than stellar performance, he at least did well in documenting behind the scenes footage that was enjoyed by thousands of Twitter users. Other celebrities, such as Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Hudson, and Franco’s fellow co-host Anne Hathaway took to Twitter as well, but more important were the viewers who hit up social network sites and what they were talking about.

Mashable has put together a nice little report of the who, what, and how much from Oscar night. While I’ve featured a couple key/interesting stats in this post, I highly suggestion heading over to the article itself to find out more.

 

Twitter

  • Certain moments throughout the broadcast featured dramatic increases in tweets. For instance, when Oprah Winfrey presented the award for Best Documentary (to Inside Job) a record number of 11,780 tweets were sent out! Here are some more spikes:

  • In terms of Trending Topics, Tweetbeat’s measurements reported that Inception as the most tweeted about film, followed by The King’s Speech second. Other trending films included Toy Story 3, The Social Network, and The Fighter.
  • The twitterverse was similarly interested in the nominees, with James Franco leading the topic trends. Since Franco’s nomination in January, a reported 58, 197 tweets have mentioned the actor. During the award show itself, Franco received 21,117 mentions. His co-host Anne Hathaway was the second-most tweeted about celebrity, followed by Natalie Portman.

 

Facebook

  • During the 24 hour period following the awards show, nearly one million people in the U.S. alone mentioned the word “Oscar” in a status update on Facebook.
  • Of all the Oscar topics, The Kings Speech received the most attention with 152,324 mentions throughout the United States.

To find out more about the world of the web on Oscar night, check out the full article on Mashable.com.

So, how did you stay connected? Did you help make up some of the numbers of these statistics? I know I did.

 

 

“Underheard” Update

A couple of days ago I posted about a program called Underheard in New York. They gave a group of homeless men prepaid cells phones and unlimited text messages to be used for Twitter. The project, which has been ongoing throughout the month of February, has definitely raised awareness of the homelessness situation, and given a voice to the previously “underheard.”

And now, thanks to the program and the social networking site, one of the men has actually been able to connect with his daughter after 11 years of separation. Daniel Morales started searching for his 27-year-old daughter Sarah Rivera about three weeks into the project. He posted his cell number, her name, and a photo of Rivera more than a decade old via Twitter, only to  receive a phone call from Rivera the very next day. The two were reunited on television today.

Just a little bit of happy news and an update!