Social media’s opportunities and pitfalls

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Connection in some ways, disconnection in others

Like I mentioned in my first post, I see social media as a double-edged sword. One the one hand, it allows for targeted and mass communication like we’ve never seen. For organizations with something to sell, and people with something to say, there’s no other platform of communications that allows for a bigger, quicker reach or can be more specific in directing viewer demographics. The costs of running an online campaign can be relatively small, and the digital revolution’s impact on advertising waste can have a great impact on the environment. Finding people already predisposed to a company’s product has never been easier, and it’s often the case that individuals seek out connections with companies and organizations they like out of their own volition, as opposed to the traditional pursuit of consumers by companies.

On the other hand, social media can be very unforgiving, and technical communicators often need to be able to anticipate the many viewpoints and user experiences of not only their consumers, but of all social media users. An insensitive or ill-informed post can cost years of marketing and public relations work, and sully the image of even a long-standing, respected brand. Careful consideration of social media use is vitally important. While it’s easy to reach and connect with people, it’s just as easy to turn people off. It only takes a click for a consumer to connect and disconnect.

I’ve often felt social media applied to me in a personal way with similar pros and cons. If I’ve got something to say, and I want to reach most people I know, I go to social media. For the effort, there’s no more efficient way of inviting people to a party, promoting an event or business I enjoyed (or warning about one I hated), and sharing experiences and staying in contact with colleagues, friends, family and acquaintances. Conversely, I feel that it has disconnected me from people I should be closer to, or at least made me lazy in my efforts to connect with the most important people in lasting, beneficial ways.

I’ve often hesitated to use social media in a professional way, but Hurley & Hea’s study, along with prodding from professors, has opened my mind to the possibilities that social media can offer. Even while exposing my work to criticism (which is actually a good thing, I do recognize), and myself to less sense of privacy, social media can offer connections to job opportunities and future work l’d otherwise have no way of getting in touch with. The practice of crafting my own social media presentations can only help in future job and instructional practices.

But while I recognize the many benefits of social media, much of it still feels foreign and forced to me. It’s not an activity I’ve naturally taken to, and more or less joined social media venues out of peer pressure. I don’t like feeling as though I’m only doing something because other people are, or to stay in touch with people I’ll likely never see again in my life. I need to find my own place in this vast sea of information and personalities. It will be a journey for me to integrate social media into my life in more meaningful ways.

About Michelle Mailey Noben

I'm a graphic designer and graduate student at the University of Wisconsin–Stout in Menomonie, Wis. I'm in my second year of the School of Art + Design's Master of Fine Arts in Design program. So far, it's been a great experience, although challenging at times to come back to academia after working in the industry for several years. When I'm done with my studies, I'd like to teach at the adult level. I work for the University as Graduate Assistant in the University Library, where I work with the Public Relations committee on promoting library events. This year, I recently started in an office assistant position in the School of Art + Design's program office. I'm looking forward to becoming more comfortable with emerging media to make the most of this amazing technology. Thanks for reading!

Posted on September 14, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. You’re right in that social media can feel forced. One does not need to sign up for accounts on every platform out there, so hopefully the blog as our focus this semester can establish your online persona in a new way!

    Amazing image used BTW. 🙂

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