A Late Adopter Explores Tissue Paper and More
Posted by evelynmartens13
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
Qualman, E. (2009). Socialnomics. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.
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