This Summer I tried to have a mental break and to refrain from blogging here on MixedRealities. I think it helped me to reflect a bit on social media, and one of the things I understand better now is dat social media is primarily about deciding what you want to be public, what you want to share with others. This may seem extremely obvious, but it contrasts with the traditional objection against social media: ‘I don’t have time for that.’ Because the real issue is not the time which one needs, but whether one wants to do in public what remained behind closed doors until now.
Today I had the opportunity to talk about social media at the Brussels office of Linklaters. It was a networking event for lawyers and specialists in marketing for the legal profession, and I realized that many of those people already have impressive workloads. Is it not almost inconceivable that they would also engage in blogging?
The same question can be asked in my newsroom of course. Journalists do not exactly have a 9 to 5 job, so is it fair to ask them to tweet, blog, engage in online conversations?
I looked at the tools of the social media trade, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, social bookmarks, Posterous and Tumblr, chat platforms… and I suddenly realized that many of these tools are just ways to do stuff we do already in a different way.
We already read and watch stuff online, take notes. Social media tools enable us to do all this, but sharing this activity with some others, many others, or everybody who cares to take notice. Instead of taking private notes during a conference, one tweets or posts stuff. Instead of reflecting on things privately, one decides to externalize these thoughts.
This externalization is not postponed until we have some quasi-perfect article, book or video – we publish the bits and pieces of on ongoing process. The ‘making of’ in real-time. It takes courage to do this. Journalists, lawyers and many others hate showing stuff which has not been checked over and over again. But in the real world, people don’t mind reading tweets about a conference, consulting a Tumblr post linking to some interesting article with a first comment, browsing social bookmarks or gazing at a tentative mindmap.
The combination of social media tools and mobile, ubiquitous internet is gradually removing the friction of this externalization. One tweets, includes links, reads other tweets from people one follows, and on the iPad it is magically transformed by an app called Flipboard into a glossy magazine.
Anyhow, here is a possible ‘social media production flow‘ I presented. One could start at the mindmap and then go clockwise, but in fact the real process involves jumping backwards and forwards, skipping phases or inventing new ones. People get easily bewildered by the many different tools, but the tools are not the most important aspect. What’s crucial is the question: could others be interested in my ‘making of’, and if so, which tools allow me to share this ‘making of’ easily.