A Late Adopter Explores Tissue Paper and More

Last week, while everyone else was blogging about the assigned readings, I was blogging about the previous week’s readings, and I think you could consider this metaphorical for my “late adopter” status. In any case, I’ll be incorporating some of last week’s readings to catch up.

But first, I will describe my foray into toilet paper. I had just read Chapter One in Socianomics by Erik Qualman, who suggests that people who ask “Who Cares about What You Are Doing?” usually do so because they are frustrated because they don’t understand what social media is about (3). I realized that even though I don’t want to admit it, that pretty much describes me.

So, just as I was done reading, I walked through the living room where my husband was watching a movie, and a commercial for Cottonelle came on where a woman with a Bristish accent was talking to people about their “bums” and getting them to try Cottonelle tissue. At the end, she urges the viewers to “visit us on Facebook.”  So, rather than scratch my head and puzzle over the idea that anyone would proactively visit a toilet paper FB page, I decided to do just that. If it’s true that I don’t understand the attraction of social media, then I think I better start learning if I want to someday call myself a technical communicator.

So, the first thing I noticed truly floored me―apparently 325,812 people “like” the Cottonelle FB page and what’s more mind boggling is that at that moment, 2,167 people were “talking” about it. My first reaction was that these numbers paint a less rosy picture than Qualman does when he says that social media is helping people assess their lives and use their time more productively (50-52). But I didn’t come to quarrel, I came to learn.

Other things happening on the Cottonelle FB page: coupons, tasteful jokes and some less than tasteful, conversations about “bums,” and Cherry, the British narrator, answering questions from people that seem rather fake to me (but who knows?).  There are also photos of the Cottonelle toilet paper fashion contest where women are wearing their toilet paper creations. I chose not to “like” the page, despite its attractive promise to send feeds to my FB page if I did.  My life is too full as it is.


The Cottonelle Fashion Contest is, apparently, a hit.


Granted, this may not be the best example to sample in my quest to understand social media, so I will keep an open mind and, in fact, I’d love some suggestions from readers about fun social media places to visit.

So, I wasn’t convinced by everything Qualman offered but much of what he had to say about the importance of adopting new business models seems very persuasive.  In the “old days” (maybe around the mid-2000’s) I remember being frustrated by the number of mainstream news services that forced people to subscribe, so I’ve used alternate, free sources ever since.  Today, I did a little sampling and I see that now The New York Times, L.A. Times, Vanity Fair, and Time allow free access to their content, so a lot of people have probably recognized the new business model since Qualman’s book was published in 2009.

Many people engaged the question of online dating and companies’ efforts to become quite nimble in responding to complaints last week, so I won’t delve into that, but the one other concept I wanted to mention was Qualman’s explanation of the “multiplier effect” of social media (41).  I probably knew that intuitively, but to have it spelled out that way was enlightening.  Twenty years ago, I would explain to staff the notion that when a customer is unhappy, he/she tells 11 people, and those people tell  11 people. What a difference a couple of decades has made.

I found the history of the development of computer   technology pretty interesting in Digital Literacy (edited by Rachel Spilka) mostly because it was going on under my nose without me ever realizing it most of the time.  I don’t actually remember where or how  I first started using Windows but I think it just occurred to me as I was reading how much it changed my ease of use: “Meanwhile, Microsoft, which had worked with IBM to develop the original operating system for the PC and, by version 3.1 of Windows, what was once a minor add-on (to make DOS appear like a GUI) became a widely used GUI product” (36).  I have some vague memories of typing in DOS commands prior to that, so Windows was a whole new (and easier) ball game for me.

I became much more aware of technology changes around the late 90’s, and that was because I was doing some public relations writing and working more closely with graphic designers.  Most recently our university created a new website and adopted a content management system (Drupal), so I will be able to get some experience using it and publishing info for our website.  I got a greater sense of urgency about leaving my Internet footprint after reading Jack Molisani’s  “Is Social Networking for You?” because he suggests that people with no Internet footprint will certainly not be taken seriously as a technical communicator candidate (12-13).  At the moment, the main thing you will get if you google “Evelyn Martens” is a bunch of photos and articles about a famous Canadian murder trial of Evelyn Martens (not me).

I found the other two articles from last week’s reading enlightening as well.  I had no idea there was so much history or so many SNS around the world until I read ”Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship” by boyd and Ellison. I couldn’t believe the number of niche communities that I’d never heard of, such as Ryze, Tribe.net, Cyworld, Hi5, BlackPlanet, Six Degrees, just to name a few.  Of course, I was particularly surprised that there are SNS for dogs and cats, “although their owners must manage their profiles” (214).  I’m glad they cleared that up.  Probably the most interesting example to me was the case of Friendster because of the role the “fans”/”friends” played in both the rise and fall of the company.

It would be novel for me to start a a paragraph with something other than “I never knew,” but I’m afraid that’s still the case with “Always On” by Naomi Baron.  I never knew there was so much material for psychologists and sociologists in studying IM “away” behavior or “presentation of self,” though it certainly makes sense upon reflection.  What probably struck me most in this reading was the sheer logistical undertaking of collecting and logging millions of messages to study social networking behavior.  I also noticed that at the time of the writing of the article, only college students had access, so I’m thinking the numbers may have increased dramatically since then.

So, in conclusion, my take away from this and last week’s readings is that I am going to start checking my FB page at least once a day and try to monitor how much time I’m spending and what I’m doing while there in my own mini-study of my behavior. This will probably not feel very authentic because I’m starting off with the notion that  “I’m using FB to see how I’m using FB,” but I’m thinking I may enjoy it more by looking at FB as part of my homework.


Baron, N. (2008). Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Boyd, d. and Ellison, N. (2008), Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of

            Computer-Mediated Communication 13, pp. 210-230.

Carliner, S. (2010). “Computers and technical communication in the 21st century.” In Rachel Spilka (Ed.)

Digital Literacy for Technical Communication. New York: Routledge.

Molisani, J. “Is social networking for you?” Intercom. Society of Technical Communicators.  Retrieved

from www.STC.com.

Qualman, E. (2009). Socialnomics. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

Posted on September 29, 2013, in Social Media, Society and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Who knew Cottonelle was into haute couture? LOL!

    I enjoyed reading your comments on a variety of the things we read about. I wanted to respond specifically to the “multiplier effect.” I am still communicating with the social media manager at my cable/internet provider after I posted a complaint on Facebook. Like your Cottonelle adventure, this was my own experiment to understand social media better.

    Honestly, I was impressed that I was contacted by someone so quickly and feel like I have someone in the company acting as my advocate/liaison with customer service. I’d like to think he’s helping me out because he truly cares about my satisfaction, but I am wondering if he is aware of the multiplier effect? He must realize that if he doesn’t help, I will be right back on Facebook to let everyone know how poorly they treated me. But, imagine if everything gets rectified and I hop onto Facebook and rave about the personalized service that I received? It could make all the difference with just one prospective customer, which could then snowball and have a tremendous ROI. Word of mouth/world of mouth all the way!

  2. To be honest, I have many of the same reservations about Qualman. I would appreciate a little more research and a little less anecdote. Also, many of the examples are a little over-detailed and farfetched. The Idaho Senator blog example irritated me because it was so over the top and clearly there only to illustrate a point that seemed fairly weak to my in the first place. I had a pretty significant rant about it in my post, but decided to omit it because I was considerably over the recommended word count in the syllabus.

    I’ve been both an early and late adopter, and I would say I’m more satisfied being a late adopter. The cutting edge is only beneficial if it is suiting my needs. Best of luck with your Facebook experiment.

    • Yes, I think the Qualman text is becoming dated and graduate students/academic audiences might prefer something less anecdotal, but that’s the problem with books about technology these days. Publishers want something fast & all most authors have is their own personal experience & observations.

      However, I do have to say Qualman’s site http://www.socialnomics.net/ is better at offering more timely examples. Give it a glance when you can!

  3. Evelyn, I appreciate the return to last week’s readings and the connections you can make across them all. I can’t imagine ever “liking” a toilet paper’s Facebook page, but then again I follow fictional characters like Iron Man and parody accounts like Angry Sondheim on Twitter…I’m not sure how to reconcile those two details, but oh well.

    I am glad the readings have inspired you to examine your own social media use and look forward to hearing more about the (non-murdering) meta-data you find!

  4. I think some of the people that ask “Who Cares about What You Are Doing?” have been subjected to the FaceBook posts that make no sense. For example, the people that post they had a bad day and don’t elaborate. I’ve seen posts on FaceBook and have thought, “I really don’t care, why did the person post this?”. I know their post isn’t for me specifically, but it feels like a waste of time to read certain posts. Before I post anything, I think if it will actually “add value”, or at least not make people roll their eyes at me for saying it.

    But maybe you’re right, maybe I don’t get it. Maybe that person just needed an outlet and the post served a purpose for them. Like I said before, what someone else posts isn’t for me specifically…so maybe I need to understand that. I haven’t looked at it this way before.

    I like your example of the Cottonelle FaceBook page. I haven’t looked at a toilet paper company on FaceBook, but your findings don’t shock me. I remember when creamy chicken ramen stopped making an appearance on store shelves and there was a FaceBook page devoted to bringing it back. Looks like anything goes on the Internet.

  5. I really enjoyed your post, Evelyn. I think the motto – you don’t know what you don’t know until you find out you didn’t know it – plays heavily in social media. Even being as much of a social media addict as I am, there are still sites that I find out about that I didn’t even know existed – and wonder how in the world I didn’t know about them in the first place. It is a vast ocean out there and you just have to pick and choose which wave you want to ride and ignore the rest!

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