Fear of Social Media? Embrace It!
Posted by Roger Renteria
No one ever said that social media is easy. The internet is a wonderful place where we can connect with one another, use it for business, and get our entertainment. Likewise, social media works in the same fashion which all kinds of content can live in harmony.
Can social media and technical communication work together?
Whenever I think of social media and technical communication, I go back to my first professional presentation and conference proceeding, “The Benefits and Pitfalls of Social Media Networks” (Koch, G. L. & Renteria R. A., 2009). With my co-presenter, we showed how social media can be used in productive ways despite the negative press surrounding it at the time. To counter the notion and fears of social media, we provided tips to help colleagues embrace this emerging communications technology.
In “The Rhetoric of Reach: Preparing Students for Technical Communication in the Age of Social Media” Hurley and Hea (2014) describe modern stories where professionals damage their career because of something they posted on social media. In their article, they describe students who have a fear of using social media in the context of technical communication. I find it amusing that in the years since I co-presented about social media that these issues of using it for professional causes remain present. I still refer to ”fatty paycheck” Tweet, Facebook Fairy’s Kevin Colvin, and Airline Crew Insulting Passengers on Facebook as early examples of social media mistakes. Fortunately or unfortunately, the internet is a great record keeper.
So, where does social media sit in the form of technical communication? Hurley and Hea present responses that showcase the reasons social media is not favorable for technical communication purposes because students think it can “cause more harm than good,” make people forget how to write well, and feel “they must dumb-down literature because of the diverse audience that now has access to it” (2014).
Due to the sensationalism of social media, students are often less likely to use these new and emerging technologies for professional purposes. However, me and my co-presenter provided the counterargument years earlier that you can, indeed, use social media for professional purposes. We showed that while using social media can be a risk, the benefits may outweigh the dangers when used appropriately and after becoming familiar with the privacy settings (Koch G. L., Renteria, R. A., 2009).
Lastly, the literature is not being dumbed-down, instead plain language is taking root. When looking at effective writing, I consider taking the easier and simpler route of writing because it is closer to how we communicate with each other in real-life. In the well-known adage of “less is more,” let’s consider adding another one: “plain language is easy to understand.”
We can use social media for many things and nothing should stop us from embracing it for educational and professional purposes. It’s not a bad thing.
Hurley, E. V. (2014) The Rhetoric of Reach: Preparing Students for Technical Communication in the Age of Social Media. Technical Communication Quarterly, 23(1), 55-68
Koch, G. L. & Renteria R. A., (2009) The Benefits and Pitfalls of Social Media Networks. Society for Technical Communication 2009 Summit Proceedings, 83-86
About Roger RenteriaProfessional Life: I am a technical communicator, writer, and presenter. Hobby Life: I'm a blues dancer, hiker, and foodie.
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