Social Media: Understanding our digital relationships pt. 1

This post was prompted by Michael Kline's 1490th post on Sawdust and Dirt. Holy Smokes, congrats to Michael on consistently writing S and D for six years in a row! It is one of the best blogs about ceramics on the web.

I saw Michael's post a few days ago, and I've been milling over questions that it brought up. How do you decide which digital format best fits your style of communication? How do I communicate best through a social media platform? What does it mean to be connected to someone through a social media platform? In today's digital world platforms emerge with every season, making it hard to choose which ones merit our time and energy. Among the dozens that exist I use Blogger, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Mail Chimp, Libsyn, as well as a traditional website. All of these formats enable communication that varies in length and depth. I use them for different reasons, and each adds value to my ability to communicate.

To understand this subject I like to draw parallels between digital and everyday relationships. Most human beings have various circles of friendship that they float between. Our inner circle shares our most intimate experiences while our outer circles are casual acquaintances from our professional or social lives. The digital world shares the same basic structure. A few platforms are well suited for deeper interactions while the majority are better suited for casual interactions. Time spent interacting with another individual user is a good indication of the level of closeness inherent in a digital platform. Many formats, like Twitter, are intentionally casual requiring very little time commitment on either end of the relationship. Other formats like blogging require time from both the writer and reader. 

Much like our physical lives our digital lives are not set in stone. Every day our social landcape changes as we become closer, or more removed, from the people around us. Social media reflects these changes and even tracks them for you with lists of "followers" and "likes". I have been pleasantly surprised at the relationships that I have formed with other social media users. I recently gave a workshop where I met a Twitter follower and a Facebook friend for the first time in real life. In this case our digital lives provided the icebreaker for in-person conversation. Having known each other casually through the digital world, we were able to jump right into conversation as if we were old friends. The ability to connect to a wide range of people with our same interests is one of social media's greatest assets.

In my next post I will break down how I view the digital formats that I use and the level of commitment they take. Check back later in the week for that update. As always I love to get input from my readers. Which social media platforms do you use?  For what kind of communication?

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