Social Media=Today’s Relationship Cultivator

Social media has changed the world of relationships, both in personal and business relationships.  I was struck by two very important concepts: the sphere of influence (something I seem to be hearing about often lately) and the analogy of courtship and dating. The moment I read these ideas in Socialnomics Chapters Two and Three: Social Media=Preventative Behavior and Social Media=Braggadocian Behavior, I stopped and thought about the impact of social media, and I was indeed struck by thoughts about the scope of influence and impact of social media in our times…just like I am struck by the fact that spell check does not even recognize the words “socialnomics” and “braggadocian” as part of today’s word base.  Social media has changed the world of relationships and, furthermore, the world of language.sphere-of-influence

Before I delve deeper into the dating and courtship analogy, it would be beneficial to also bring to attention some key points of Chapter Two; how does social media cause preventative behavior and why is that so relevant to this idea of cultivating relationships or perhaps preserving our own relationships in some way?

I was immediately interested in this idea of “the sphere of influence,” and as noted, “The difference with social media is the speed and ease in which this [responding to customer unhappiness] occurs as well as the sphere of influence.”  Qualman introduces us to this concept in relation to how businesses will adapt their behaviors in response to customer dissatisfaction and frustration.  Now companies assign employees to find and handle customer complaints via social media. In essence, they seek and find the problem to avoid losing a customer, or better yet, to prevent that customer from posting a video or status that could potentially go “viral” and affect future customer base growth.

I was especially intrigued when I read the section about Comcast, a nemesis of mine.  I have had plenty a battle with Comcast, and had I known that I should simply post a rant on Facebook or post a YouTube video to get someone to contact me instead of waiting endless hours on the phone and getting frustrated, I might have done so, but it never occurred to me to complain via social networking.  If I knew that the company might reach to me to repair a broken relationship because I might spread bad press to others in my sphere of influence (or followers,) I might have tried it just to see if it worked.  I found that Comcast cares (see ComcastCares article). I am still in disbelief that a Comcast member would seek me out when I have a problem.  I am not sure I believe this yet. I am left wondering if it would still happen today or if Comcast has grown too big to care since Socialnomics was published in 2009.  Should I try it the next time I want to “break up” with Comcast and see if my date comes calling?

Back to the sphere. Social media is much about followers, and the more followers one has, the more influence one might have on those followers.  I can see how companies must be in tune with their customers’ use of social media.  Company behavior definitely changes in light of this new method of sharing positive or negative feedback.

Those same followers and members of our social media sites can also “see” and read our every move.  Social media does force preventative behaviors beyond just companies altering how they treat their customers…as described in Chapter Two, students, teachers, parents, and more must be aware of what is placed “out there” for the world to view. Social networks are “powerful enough to cause an adjustment in personal and corporate behavior on a macro level.”  Our relationships have certainly changed in this way. What do we want to share?  What ghosts do we want flying out of our closets? We must know and realize what could come back to haunt us now that social media has taken over.

Next, I was immediately drawn into Chapter Three’s “Are You on Facebook?” Is the New “Can I Get Your Phone Number?” section.  Wow! Talk about the evolution of dance!  How about the evolution of dating?  And taking this courtship idea into the world of business makes sense, too.

I was entertained by the idea that we can become somewhat creepy if we present to people that we already  “know” them on a first date because we have already “Facebooked” him or her.  Qualman notes that the first date could actually feel more like a fourth date now that we do not have to “court” each other because Facebook offers that preliminary information we want before we even get to the dating part.   This is not how I grew up dating.  I did not Google anyone or Facebook anyone or Tweet anyone while I was dating.  It is weird to me to think that might be the norm now for courtship….I guess I am a true face-to-face romantic at heart…but if I could have Googled some of my former dates, I probably would have avoided one or two of them totally.

I really enjoyed this analogy in terms of dating and businesses.  Many businesses try to suck customers into their homepage via social media.  They become the creepy dates.  Qualman writes, “It’s analogous to meeting a pretty girl in a bar and asking if she would like a drink. When she responds, ‘yes,’ rather than ordering her drink from the bartender, you grab her and rush her into your car and drive back to your place; because after all, you have beer in your fridge. This is not a sound courtship strategy….”  Now that would be creepy… “Hi, may I buy you a drink?  Okay, come get in my car and come to my house.”    Thanks, but no thanks!  I am not really into jumping into cars with strangers.

I really see that both personal and business relationships have been so very affected by social media, and part of me longs for simpler days with less technology involved in our relationships, but these two chapters really had me thinking about all of this…and I am just so not socially connected compared to younger generations growing up in a world with constant status updates and posts and videos and tweets and all of it.  I can only handle so much information streaming into my life from friends and family.  I am married, so I get actual updates in person from my husband…no real courtship going on there anymore (just good ol’ husband and wife conversation).

There was so much in these two chapters that I am taking with me.  Two more key points that really grabbed my attention from Chapter Three included Assess Your Life Every Minute and The Next Generation Can’t Speak.  Social media makes me feel like I must assess my life every minute (and the reading here supported this feeling), but I am so involved in working, schoolwork, and taking care of my family that I cannot keep up with my own social media. I don’t. I am lucky if I check Facebook more than twice a week; it becomes a weekend activity most of the time. Now with my Smartphone, I can do it more easily, but, honestly, I do not want to read constant status updates that feel superfluous to me at times, never mind trying to post the tasks and routine activities of my days and nights.  Why post this: “I am so tired I could just fall over right now”?   Do my family and friends need to know this?  Will I even remember the context of that post long days from now?  Probably not.  But most of my friends and some family members post these updates multiple times a day.  I find much of the “all about me, me, me” braggadocian behavior present in the status updates of my younger cousins (all young adults in college at this time.) I love them just the same; they have less complicated lives than I do, so I even envy their ability to find importance in posting the fact they are going to get a coffee from Starbucks (I end up thinking: wouldn’t that be nice right now?

I did, however, think about how social media allows me to go back and review life’s minutes (I LOVE this idea.) When I do post, they are definitely the moments I want to capture.  I love the idea of somehow scrapbooking my year in status updates…I am sure there is an app for that somewhere.

Finally, it is difficult for me to spend much time writing about how the next generation cannot speak because I am teaching them daily.  I see it in every form of communication I have with them, and my instinct is to try to help communication then and now meet in the middle somehow.  The entire section from the book had me thinking about how to address their needs in every communication arena from chat to email to personal face-to-face interactions.  And I could not believe that public speaking is feared more than death these days….Whoa!  A fear greater than death…that is a giant fear, and I can actually sympathize because I was secretly feeling better about myself when I read that fact.  Put me in an auditorium or room of more than 30 students (whom I can control) and I am “outta” there.

And so, I know two very important things right now:  no one is viewing my social media sites in an effort to date me (just not happening).  Furthermore, now that I know some businesses might treat people like dates that they wish to continue seeing and courting, I am going to think about how this impacts daily living and business relationships of all sorts.   As my grandmother would say if she were here, “Interesting, very interesting.”

P.S. – My grandmother never Facebooked anyone in her entire life, and part of me wishes I had her life in status updates, so I could keep them forever as an example of real “courtship”.   She and my grandfather would have had the best status updates…I can “hear” them now!

Gram and Pop Vintage


Qualman, E. (2009). Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business. Hoboken, N.J., John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Posted on September 24, 2013, in Social Media, Society, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Hi Christin,
    So much of what you posted struck a chord! I have a hard time finding the time to keep up with social media, but I am attempting to use it more. For example, I recently had an issue with my cable/internet provider. After this week’s readings, I went ahead and posted a complaint to their Facebook page. Within 24 hours, someone responded. Basically just to say, I’m sorry about your issue, email it to our customer support department, yada yada yada. I did send an email, but we’ll see if anything comes of it.

    And online dating! I have not experienced this firsthand, but am about as close to it as you can get. My co-worker, whom I share an office with, just joined and has her first date tomorrow after “courting” a guy online for about a week or so. She was able to look him up on Facebook and saw a mutual acquaintance, so she did some “reconnaissance” work and got some info from that acquaintance on this guy. She pretty much knows his life story already and they haven’t even met yet!


    • Hi, Lori,
      Wow! Someone responded within 24 hours….I continue to be amazed by this idea so much that I want to try it merely for the sake of seeing if I can beat 24 hours in response time! You say that you posed it the company’s Facebook page; that must be the key; hit the source. If I posted my own rant on my own page, I wonder what would happen then….

      Oh, and online dating! What a great discussion topic….I remember when I was teaching basic paragraph writing, one of the animated models provided by the textbook publisher was an entire paragraph about online dating, and since it was animated, it had some great visuals….like how a very old man could post a young, gorgeous guy picture on his site and then show up balding and missing teeth….the students always cracked up.

      But online dating is a current method of dating in this day and age, and I have even recommended my older sister give it a try…she would be the ideal candidate today….in her thirties…not into the dating bar/club scene, has specific hobbies, needs a good guy…..I can hear the profile now….but I do not think she gives online dating any credit…and I think she is wary of doing it, and I can get that….but I see both the younger and older generations taking advantage of the online dating arena, along with people of all ages these days….depending on their comfort levels with finding someone online to “court”……your real-life example also cracked me up….the whole idea of “meeting” online and already investigating the person only to somehow arrange the date after her spy work….funny stuff. Sounds like it could come right from a T.V. show!


  2. Hi, Christin. Thanks for sharing your ideas on this week’s readings! You mention the implications of social networking for businesses and point out the Comcast example of seeking out unhappy customers. Lately, there have been other stories that attract many followers, “go viral,” and force businesses to explain their actions. A specific example that comes to mind is the Golden Corral employee who posted a video, on a social networking website, of food that was left by the dumpster. I actually saw this story on CNN this summer . As a result of the video, Golden Corral was forced to make a statement and the company claimed that the food was not served. Complaining about something on social media can definitely have an effect!

  3. Thanks for the link….I am intrigued by how SM can have this affect, and your example here proves the power of SM. When a company is forced to address the public because of the public, you know that this tool has power.

    This whole “gone viral” effect has really gone viral. hasn’t it? And what a great word to demonstrate the effect: viral.

    Social media allows the actions of one or a group to force action at times by another person or group….in this case, Golden Corral was forced to act after the employee’s action…what a cycle of SM.


  4. I have a friend that did online dating and would use Google to find information about the person she was going to go on a date with. I think it’s a great way to get more information about someone that you haven’t met. I had met someone at a bar and was going to go out to dinner with them, and my friend that I mention above used the Internet to find out more details about him. I guess it makes sense because you don’t know who that person is, but at least if they have a profile somewhere with friends and family, it seems like they’re a “normal” person. I think social media eliminates the blind date.

  5. Hi Christin:

    My first thought about your Comcast example was that Eliason wasn’t able to reach out to alienated customers until after they’d left or been alienated, so as a consumer, posting a rant or complaint might not get you the immediate reaction you’d want and expect, say, from maybe a phone call…like, hey, I want my cable restored today. But, then I read Lori’s comment that she did get a 24 hour response, so maybe companies are becoming pretty nimble.

    As usual, I was against the whole notion of online dating when it first impinged my consciousness, partly because of a very bad experience my brother had “dating” someone for about 6 months and getting taken to the cleaners. This was maybe about 10-12 years ago. Since then, it seems to me that some sites might truly be helpful to people, especially when they match people based on some fundamental values, like farmers (“city people just don’t get it” is their tag line). That wouldn’t appeal to me, but I think people who are drawn to the site will have more chance to find someone of compatible interests than more general sites.

    I was on a plane yesterday coming back to WI and there was an ad in American Airlines magazine for “Executive Match” which advertised pretty, intelligent women for busy executives looking to find the right life partner. What caught my eye was that there was a big disclaimer — “No Internet relationships! Your personal “relationship manager” will help you communicate with your prospects without any web conversation.” or something to that effect. I suppose there’s still a sense that the Internet can be unreliable in the dating sphere, so if you have enough money, you can use a real-life matchmaker, but the whole thing read like something from a couple of centuries ago.

    On a different subject, I can totally relate to not wanting to hear about the mundane minutiae of everyone else’s lives. My favorite example is the time I read, “I just had a lovely cup of tea” (my sister, I think). I mean, I don’t even want to think about the mundane minutiae of my own life…

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