Social media is turning us into goldfish
This week’s topic of the attention economy and the long tail effect brought ‘produsers’ to the forefront of the network society once again. As Mitew (2014) stated in this week’s lecture, “we are in a paradigm where the former consumers are now also the biggest producers of content”.
Looking specifically at Clay Shirky’s Writings About the Internet, his article “Weblogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing” (2002) analysed the use of blogs and the possible moneymaking from them.
He stated that “weblogs are becoming a vast and diffuse cocktail party, where most address not ‘the masses’ but a small circle of readers, usually friends and colleagues.” Shirky makes an interesting analogy that may have rung true in 2002, but I wonder how the dynamics of this cocktail party have changed 12 years on?
Chang & Yang (2012) said that original weblogs (now shortened to just ‘blogs’) were used for webpages with links to other sites of interest, “providing commentary for added value”, and many of them took the form of a personal diary after mid-1999 when blogging became accessible, easier and free. Evidently, the blogsites that are this ‘cocktail party’ at this point are still quite intimate, with a small circle of friends and colleagues as the targeted audience.
Fast-forward to 2014 and the blogging landscape has had a seemingly total revamp. The utility of blogs has evolved from a mere personal diary, to channels of information; focusing on journalism, education, marketing and even entertainment.
Forget partying like it’s 1999! Now, the cocktail party has become an open-house party, with bloggers reaching out to ‘the masses’ and looking beyond their small circle of friends and colleagues to share information with.
Now with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+, the blogging landscape has changed dramatically, making blogging via social media an important marketing tool for businesses. Tech writer and author Kerry Butters (2013) also highlighted the interesting fact that social media has now gone from a luxury to a necessity.
With that said, it is worth noting that a lot of blogs have reverted to their old ways. Or, did they ever really change at all? With the introduction of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, so too came the return of journal entry-style blogging and a new notion of ‘micro-blogging’. Facebook asks “what’s on your mind?” and Twitter used to ask “what’s happening?” (although I’ve just noticed they’ve dropped their prompt all together, what’s up with that?).
Shut the open-house party down, while a lot of our social media and blogging is open to anyone and everyone, a whole other lot of our presence online is to engage with our friends and colleagues in cyberspace, whether it is to maintain the personal, physical relationships, or it’s simply a requirement through university, work, or upcoming events.
Going off on another tangent related to micro-blogging, it is interesting to note that while Google is the world’s largest search engine, many are surprised to read that YouTube is the second largest (Rubenstein, 2014). This is saying a lot about how the blogging landscape has changed due to social media.
Evidently, attention spans are getting smaller, and we are only permitting ourselves a small amount of concentration to absorb information each time. This is evident in that blogging has been reduced to 140 characters or less on Twitter, seven seconds in Vines, and one single picture on Instagram. Rubenstein observed that 2013 saw the rise in visuals as seen by the huge increase of numbers on Instagram and Pinterest, saying images have changed the way we digest information on social media; “they’re becoming a necessity and driving force of engagement.”
What do you think? Do you blog for friends and colleagues or are you aiming for ‘the masses’, i.e. anyone and everyone?