Why We Use Social Media: Part I
There have been plenty of articles written about this in the past by various marketers, companies and bloggers alike. But I thought it was about time for me, as a broad-scope digital marketer, to finally express my thoughts on the cold hard truth as to why and how we really use social media. I’ll be breaking it down into two posts from the points of view I know: using social media on an individual basis and using it from a company standpoint. Welcome to Part I. Shakespeare once said, “All the world is a stage.” When it comes to social media, he couldn’t have been more right. (Good on ya, Willy.) Over the years, I’ve become convinced the only reason most of us utilize social media at all is to tell the rest of the world, aka our friends and family, exactly what they want to hear.
I’m guilty of this, you’re guilty of this, and so are millions of others. No use in denying it and no use in being offended by it. We don’t post for ourselves, we post for the rest of the world. We put on a show for our friends, families and followers, showing them everything we want them to see, molding their view of our lives. In a nutshell, social media is pure vanity. Nothing more. Sound crazy? Hear me out.
For the most part, we have a small set of friends and/or family that we see frequently. These people truly know us. They know our daily routine, our personality, our quirks, our hopes, our dreams, our beliefs, our fears. They know us as a human being.
Then, we have our ridiculous amount of social media “friends”: people we go to school with, work with, met that one time at that party, etc. These people view our lives vicariously through social media. They have no idea what we’re like on personal level, but they know how awesome our trip to Jamaica was, how great that party must have been last weekend, and how fabulous our lives are in general. They believe this because it's how we choose to portray ourselves, tediously picking and choosing what we post, wondering how others will react.
But not everyone is keen on solely proving to the world that their lives are more perfect than everyone else’s (and that everyone else should be totally jealous.) On the other end of this spectrum are the “feel bad for me” social media-ites. You know of whom I speak: Those Debbie Downers whose social media posts, more often than not, go a little something like this...
Funny? Yup. True? Very. Regardless of what spectrum you’re on, even if you’re in the middle, social media is the new proverbial stage. You post simply to get reactions from people, good or bad. You do it to hand-shape the way they view your life. You do it for the attention. That’s right: you’re marketing yourself and your life to the rest of the world. Might as well accept it.
Now of course, I’m writing this highly-opinionated observation as a white, middle-class American female who has grown up alongside social media sites. I’m not saying that social media is strictly used as a way to market your life to others; most of us know about the incredible revolutions that have taken place in Egypt, Libya and beyond thanks to sites like Facebook and Twitter. The technology surrounding social media can, has, and will continue to be used to change the world. I believe this with my entire being. However, this doesn’t deter from the fact that a good majority of us use it solely to project our desired view of ourselves to others.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Following those who constantly post enlightening, happy things to their wall or Twitter feed can be good to follow, sometimes even inspirational. Perhaps their projection of their life is how we strive to live ours in the real world. So, in turn, we start doing things in real life to then broadcast on social networks, just to say we did. "I just donated to this cause!" or "I just ran five miles in X amount of time!" Sure you can lie about it and still post it, but doesn't it feel great to tell the world you did something you're proud of when you actually did it? It's almost like a competition; how fun! Just be sure you're competing on the right end of the spectrum and stay away from those Debbie Downers.
Now that we’re all a little more enlightened into just how vain we as a social society are, head over to Part II of this blog post & learn why and how companies use social media to market to you on a daily basis.