Social media confounds me. LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Foursquare, Google Plus+, Meetup, Flickr, WordPress, MySpace, StumbleUpon and Facebook. I have accounts on less than half of that list, but I really only know how to use one: Facebook. And in today’s job market, I’m told that’s a huge, awful, unemployable problem.
To start, I have never been a super social person. That certain prepubescent awkwardness that afflicts so many young men never fully went away in my case, and social situations can still be a little nerve-wracking. With nearly 21 years of exposure, I’ve become comfortable, if not adept, at talking in-person and on the phone. These are the most basic and useful skills a journalist (like I want to be) should have.
The name “social media” implies that the same core social skills one learns from birth should be what are required to use it and, for the most part, that’s true. Despite the fancy website names, the character limits, the privacy or lack thereof, social media boils down to communication. Just like I can walk around campus and talk to people I know, or pick up the phone and call my parents, I can communicate with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. But like a lot of things that started just for fun and simple uses, social media has evolved into a tool.
The advertising and marketing fields were arguably the quickest to pick up on the usefulness of social media. In less time than it took the Great Depression to end, clunky banner ads and pop-ups were replaced by programs that target ads to you based on what you click on and talk about. Innovation really happens at the speed of money in today’s economy.
It’s a stereotype that the ancient and storied journalism world is usually behind the curve in making use of new technology, but that’s not very true. The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN joined Twitter in 2007, within a year of its founding. But that doesn’t mean they used it well. All of their first tweets consisted of simply tweeting the title of an article and a link to it. Most companies probably got an intern to log on once or twice a day and handle things.
Now, I know of people who have full-time jobs using social media. Every respectable big business, marketing agency or news organization, including The Collegian, has a social media editor/coordinator/person. And a lot of regular employees, especially journalists, are now expected to be extremely good at social media.
The fact that I’m just now (in the last months of 2013) realizing and writing about this is a sign of my old-fashionedness. I don’t have a smartphone nor do I have plans to get one anytime soon. My younger sisters taught me what Tumblr and Pinterest are for, and I often spend an hour putting together a blog post. But I’m trying: I got Twitter and LinkedIn this year, and occasionally log on to them. I have more than 100 tweets now, and through a class here at UR, I’m learning how to be a normal 21 year old. My biggest problem is making time for social media in my day, and treating it like I would work.
So, to the other young people ashamed of their inability to properly tweet or tumble or pin stuff: You have company. Let’s stumble into the 21st century together!