Holy Niche, Batman!: Social Media’s Fragmentation

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My recollection, with respect to social networks, only goes as far back as Friendster.  I was in college, and I had a housemate who I loved dearly, but spent a very good portion of her waking hours giggling in the room next to mine, laughing at all her Friendster friends.

The following year, MySpace came onto my radar, and I wondered, “Why do we need another Friendster?”  That came up over a box of wine with a couple other friends when I was quickly informed that MySpace was much better than Friendster, and that only losers still kept their Friendster profiles.

Within months, I was setting up a Facebook account (begrudgingly, I might add).  I didn’t have a profile picture for quite a long time, and all the groups I was part of involved pop culture references or 80’s hair bands.  I had friends, but not many, and I rarely bothered checking the account.

Flash forward a few years and social media has taken over a broad portion of my waking hours.  Whether it’s keeping track of friends on Facebook, keeping track of interesting people I’d want to be my friends on Twitter, keeping track of professional acquaintances on LinkedIn or helping with AMP3’s very own RipLounge, I spent a lot of time working to stay connected.

And as wonderful as all these networks are for keeping me looped in to all those relevant, it can be a daunting task managing all your different personas, but to be successful in the Web 2.0 realm, it’s something that you have to master.

By the same token, is it all really necessary?  I am in no ways recommending a monopoly on social networks, but there’s an irony in having different profiles to suit the different aspects of your life.

If the idea behind a social network is to, well, be social, how is creating simulacra supposed to accomplish that? 

With the bevy of outlets we now have for staying connected, we seem to have become more evasive to those around us.

Here are but some of the quandaries most people find themselves in when beginning to dive deeply into Social Media:

·      Do I accept my boss’s friend request on Facebook?

·      What is acceptable to say on Twitter?

·      Is MySpace really applicable for anyone that isn’t promoting music?

·      How do I establish professional relationships on LinkedIn?

·      What exactly is Naymz?

Beyond those very basic questions, the most important one I have is: will there ever be a social network without the constraints of not being able to show your true self?

Nowadays, potential bosses will check out social networking pages or Google candidates and make snap decisions based on what they see.  Friends learn of new relationships and painful breakups via newsfeeds.  “Friends” are often made after meeting briefly or exchanging business cards.

It would seem that in our quest to perfect a niche social network, we’ve effectively taken out a tremendous amount of what makes us social: communicating honestly.

That is not to say, however, that discretion isn’t advised.  It is to say, though, that there has to be some sort of happy medium between honest disclosure and appropriate disclosure.

The notion of our online lives being a perso-professional tightrope walk is more evident than ever before.  We look to make sure that we hide the offensive side of ourselves from those we relate with personally, while failing to show our competent side to the people we consider close to us.

When all is said and done, people will judge you based on what you put out there, so know your medium and know your audience.

That is, of course, until something better than Facebook and Twitter comes along and sends them to the same dismal Internet grave.

Jackie for AMP3pr.com 

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