Home > Amber Lawson > Amber Lawson (youth voice):: What does social media mean to me?

Amber Lawson (youth voice):: What does social media mean to me?

mother and daughter
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Social media. What does it mean to me? Well, while the world scrambles over Facebook and new social websites are popping out of our eyeballs every minute, I don’t think anyone notices the impact that social media is having on our world.

In some aspects, social media is great. I recently got in contact with two of my dearest friends back in primary school. They live in England, I live in Australia. Without this large online community, I would have never spoken to them again, yet here I am uploading photos and talking about seeing them on my next trip to the UK.

There are situations which I’m not sure are good or bad. For example, the earthquake (ha!) that we had a couple of months back: did anyone check the news to see if it really was an earthquake? Did anyone turn on the radio? Ask their neighbours? Call up the local science lab? Nope, we all checked Facebook. As proved by my news feed on the night (40+ statuses guys).

With the changing scope of our world, we’re playing video games against Americans, swapping diet tips with our neighbours in Europe and ordering scarves and DVDs and iPhones from the guys up in Asia. But we’ve also started noticing the widening of hips, that none of us speak to our neighbours anymore (what’s a street party?) and Generation Y will agree with me on this one, but when my mother starts talking about all the advantages I have nowadays…I really don’t see it.

Because with this social media bug we’ve all seemed to catch, sites like formspring have come into the playground. No longer do your friendly school bullies have to confront you face to face, they don’t even have to send you a text message from their phone anymore! They can just pop onto any computer and click on your account and tell you that you’re rank, or uncool, or ugly, or whatever word they feel like using on that particular day. Sometimes, human nature really disgusts me.

So, what does social media mean to me? Well, it depends on the day. Or my mood. Or whether I’m having to comfort my best friend from an anonymous offender, or whether I’m talking to my best friends from back in the good old days. Social media may seem like a blessing to some….but I’m still deciding.

-Amber Lawson

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  1. Graham
    July 13, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Dare I use a worn and hackneyed cliché? Of course I dare! Social media is a doubled-edged sword.

    The glowing endorsements of social media say more about the author than they do about the concept. In the case of our managing director Charlie, her comments tell you she is a committed professional with an eye to the future of emerging technology, with an innate desire to be part of a world-wide web of social and business contacts. I suspect Charlie is the Da Vinci of media without the secret code.

    Having a corporate background allows me the privilege of seeing social media from a personal perspective with an eye to the actual cost of social media in everyday life. We were a $480 million project and we employed around 120 full-time professionals and amateurs hoping to become professionals. This guild of technological artisans was underpinned by a semi-skilled casual work force that at times numbered 60 or more. We were a happy bunch thanks to the unstinting skills of a couple of people who kept the social interaction ticking over like a Porsche Carrara. Then came Facebook, its clones and the derivations.

    Over the next twelve months came the observations.

    Deadlines began to be missed due to unfinished work schedules. How could this happen? Many of the core workforce were starting earlier and almost everyone stayed at least one to two later most days. The volume of work was decreasing and the committed hours increasing. Meetings to identify and rectify the issue were conducted. Nil result. In desperation we turned to our technologists and we began to log computer use to see which tasks were slowing up and what areas we need to make changes to in order to get back on schedule. The more astute of you will now know where this is going.

    Additionally, the quality of emails began to slide, and from a mere few spelling mistakes, they grew into a landslide that threatened to derail contact between some of our key personnel and our clients. Those of you who text will know where this one is going.

    About this time, the IT department was declared out of bounds because the volume of information that was going through threatened the employment of a large number of core employees across the entire company strata.

    Facebook had become the number one area of time consumption. It ate into the daily grind of spreadsheets, manufacturing requirement planning, scheduling, purchasing, cost accounting, Production, three dimensional design, engineering simulations, Quality Control and even Inventory Management. People who worked together, were networking on Facebook, even though in some cases they were no more than one office wall apart. On top of that, they were talking to complete strangers in other countries, contrary to their defence contractor’s security clearance requirements.

    So here we had a community of highly intelligent people working on defence projects using social media for an average of 4.25 hours a day. That’s why the company slowed. That’s why people were not achieving deadlines. Most times it’s pornography that companies worry about but for us it was intellectual property and an inability to meet client deadlines.

    Text messaging too played its part in the decline of our work values. The terminology of the text message began creeping in to emails, many of which were to clients for clarification, contract change issues, delivery schedules, visit arrangements and administration.

    From a defence project management perspective, accurate and timely advice to clients is up there in the top ten percent of customer relations, and since the client will be parting with several hundred million dollars they are entitled to a degree of respect that text messaging simply does not provide. Moreover, text message type emails are highly impersonal and delivers the message to the client that the author doesn’t consider the client to be worth any more effort. We were four months behind. The axe fell.

    It took a further three months to replace key personnel and get the program on a track that we hoped would recover the lost ground. It kind of did but not quite as much as expected. We had lost momentum, we had disrupted a team environment that had existed from the time the first sod of earth had been turned. It was a sad day but a wakeup call for many in the defence industry.

    Training was provided in how to write letters, an old fashioned and quaint tradition we were told by some employees. And integral part of customer/client professionalism they were told. And the entire workforce were warned about the use of social media during company time, including those who had no access to computers, lest the more fanciful amongst them decided we had been discriminatory. Political correctness, don’tcha know.

    Having a daughter who is acquiring a forensic psychology degree has had its benefits. She has looked into this social media phenomenon and the effects it seems to have on individuals. There seems to be a wealth of evidence, both clinical and anecdotal, though the anecdotal evidence is within the clinical evidence, that there are several layers of social media society.

    Our current young population are unable to envisage a time when computers didn’t exist, when people didn’t have mobile phones, and they are at a loss to understand how society developed without those technologies. Their utter reliance on mobile phones for instance is a constant source of embarrassment to others. But we have spawned a generation of immediacy junkies who honestly believe that the antics they got up to last night are of interest to the ethereal world they have created and the virtual friends they have made. The effect of this is reduced social contact and a corresponding reduction in social skills amongst the young which translates into the shallowness of interpersonal skills being displayed by current youthful managers causing Human Resource issues nationwide. As a senior management recruitment consultant, they stand out like beacons in the night. They are the bane of my life. Do you know some of them even put their Facebook accounts on their cv’s? They of course enter the rejection pile without further comment.

    Below these new generation managers are the drones, whose work is monotonous and in some cases, lacking in interest and enjoyment, yet essential to the core business. They find their outlet in social media – at the expense of the company or business. They lack the crucial intelligence to understand this and so contribute to the derogative term, sheeple.

    At a tangent to this are those who are house-bound for some reason or another who logon to their cyber-world merely to have a form of communication with friends and acquaintances. It’s an unfortunate aspect of this that the contact is insufficient for their needs, so a wider social network is required, ably demonstrated by the wide-area networks many social media users have. Tell me again about the US teenager who has 1.5 million friends on Facebook? Wonder how many will lend her $10? Eventually that too loses its charm and once more the hunt is on for another dose of the drug. It never once occurs to them to get off their collective bums and meet in a coffee shop.

    Both of these groups believe quite sincerely that their everyday humdrum life is worthy of international broadcast without the slightest thought about how they view such posts from their friends. They fail to recognise that what they think of their friends is exactly what their friends think of them: You are a boring and hopeless loser.

    Then there are people like Charlie, who see the possibilities of endless use. I have sat and listened to Charlie and am amazed at her ability to see beyond the obvious in these things, but we didn’t sit at our keyboards for these chats. We met, face-to-face. Our own version of Facebook if you like. Charlie fully understands the place and role of interpersonal activities as an adjunct to the social media network and every opportunity.

    So social media cuts both ways. As it emerges as a way of life for many, it will get to the point that calls will be made to regulate it and then the true users of social media will gather up in arms to defend the rights of social media. It will be a lost cause because it has social, cultural and business implications. Dare I throw in security implications? Of course. Only this week we saw the case of nine Russian spies using Facebook to conduct their operations. I find it funny yet it demonstrates just how quickly social media is accepted without thought of consequence.

    Charlie isn’t alone, but few really understand social media as she does and a lot of comments on the web are straight out of textbooks and don’t reflect knowledge or experience, primarily I guess because of its newness. But the Charlies of the world need to stop and consider where it is going and how the users can best regulate themselves because without user regulations the stage is set for arbitrary government action.

    I think social media is nothing more than part of our evolutionary change, one that simply has wider personal implications and will no doubt soon be hijacked by the more unscrupulous amongst us. Paul D Ceglia, from Wellsville in the US has launched a lawsuit for 80% ownership of Facebook. The more well known Facebook Founder ,Mark Zuckerberg, from Wellsville wants to move the case to the Federal Court in order to break Ceglia financially so he can retain outright ownership of the industry. The file contracts signed by Zuckerberg would seem to have Zuckerberg in a corner. But interestingly, where does Ceglia want to take the social networking site? The same place as YouTube – all profits, no responsibility.

    Facebook is already the domain of cyber bullying along with text messaging. But in France, the US, UK, Germany and half a dozen more countries, including Australia, government moves are afoot to protect society from social media, rather than from the bullies who use it. After years of saying that the government couldn’t take action against such sites we now know that was never true. Nick Berg may have died on YouTube for the enjoyment of the sick, but it broke the stranglehold on all profits, no responsibility.

    Everyone who uses social media has a responsibility to future generations to develop its application in a meaningful way and to ensure it is a tool of society and not its prison. While it’s relevant to listen to our youth we shouldn’t forget our past. We should remember the social media Herman Goebbels used in 1930’s Germany, not the repression but the dissemination of ideas.

    Do you really care if Claire threw up behind the night club last night after ten Vodka Cruisers? Do you really care if Joyce watched On Golden Pond and cried? Or are you more interested in the next Dead Reds?

    I’m a historical dinosaur but one that has survived the onslaught of time and the ravages of our social lives. And I refuse to use anything but real words, real English and the occasional grammatical error. My friends are real. So is my friendship.

  1. July 12, 2010 at 11:58 pm

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