Social media is turning us into goldfish


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?


Butters, K 2013, “The Changing Social Media Landscape”, XEN, accessed August 28, 2014. 

Chang, Y. S, Yang, C 2013, “Why do we blog?”, Behaviour and information technology, vol. 32, issue 4, pp. 371-386. Accessed August 28, 2014. 

Mitew, T 2014, “The Attention Economy and the Long Tail Effect”, Global Networks, University of Wollongong. Accessed August 28, 2014.

Rubenstein, B 2014, “The Changing Social Media Landscape in 2014”, Imagine That, accessed on August 28, 2014. 

Shirky, C 2002, “Weblogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing” in Clay Shirky’s Writings About the Internet, accessed August 28, 2014.  


12 thoughts on “Social media is turning us into goldfish

  1. shenaemcewan

    You could say that the Internet is a giant platform for advertising. Everything that everyone posts is imported to the global network for someone to see. There are plenty of people that attempt to break it big time on the Internet, but there are many that just don’t and can’t comprehend just how huge this online paradigm is. It is huge! To answer your question, personally, I use Facebook for personal reasons, communication for work and friends, university, posting a picture here and there. Also, Facebook is the ultimate source of event invitations which is really helpful. I use Instagram as a place to post my pictures as I dabble with photography, attempting to build a reputation. I don’t expect to break it big time on the Internet, no chance, but it is a great way to display your work and passion for everyone to see.

  2. A really interesting read Amy! I liked how you picked up on the analogy of the cocktail party and continued this throughout your post. It helped to provoke the thoughts of blogging relationships and as you asked, who we are really blogging for. As Shenae mentioned, advertising seems to be a driving force in this online, social based communicator. The Chang and Yang source is particularly useful to this week’s topic, and a great find. The article makes good reference to the importance of blogs for teaching, which is very relevant to us!
    It was great to see you ended your post with a question and this makes it much easier to get the discussion going in the comments. In my blogging experience, I try to write for a mixed audience of students, scholars, family, friends and “passers-by” led to my posts by tags or photographs. Thus, whilst a lot of my blog is university based, I have introduced each topic carefully so to not confuse any keen reader who doesn’t do DIGC202. Plus, I like having my blog to share my own photography pursuits. In terms of Facebook, I am a bit of a shadow user, and like it primarily for creating events and keeping in touch with people overseas.

  3. Hi there, I really enjoyed this post! I liked that you gave a clear historical timeline of blogging, I had never really thought about facebook status’ or tweets as a form of microblogging. It is very true that our attention spans are only getting smaller as the amount of information and platforms to share expand. I also found it interesting that youtube is the second largest search engine – that could definitely indicate that vlogging is the preferred platform for sharing at this point. Your visual supplements worked well with your text, I would only recommend you have your links open in a new tab.

  4. mab6199

    Great post Amy! Loved the continuation of the “cocktail party” metaphor, it kept me amused and added a nice touch to your writing style. I liked the tangent you chose to go on talking about blogging and the extra references were great, shows that you were well-reserached on the topic.
    To answer your question, I mostly blog for uni, so would that be colleagues? I always get excited when someone not from uni reads my blog because it is not my intention, but I think often it is people’s intention. Take for instance Han Han who is China’s most famous blogger, who specifically blogs to show his detest for the government, often going to the effort of posting in times when he is less likely to get censored.

  5. Hmm, you discussed how the blogging can be considered a platform for smaller target audiences. This is quite obvious in the fact that we as DIGC202 students have our own little community (wow so meta). That being said it is still a world wide communication network and everything that is published should be written with a global audience in mind. What do you think of the major video streaming sites like youtube as a medium which ican be argued attracts the larger views rather than the longtail approach?

    Great post!

  6. Nice post Amy. I like the point you made on the necessity of businesses needing to blog via social media as a marketing strategy. It would seem if a business is to strive it has to be able to take advantage of the digital age. To answer your question, my blog posts are all for uni so a smaller target audience, but when writing for the internet you should always have the idea in mind that your writing can be read by anyone and everyone.

  7. You’ve got some interesting ideas in here Amy. It was a good idea to think about how the blogging landscape has changed since Shirky’s 2002 text. Blogging platforms have really branched out and gone for various specialisations in their design that reflect the intent of their use. Think about Vine. There’s no reason a Vine-style of video couldn’t have just been made on YouTube, but the designs and limitations of the platform are responsible for the cultural development of a very particular style of video. I’d actually argue that rather than Twitter and Vine being a sign of shorter attention spans they are actually trying to go for specific uses that are guided by the design of the platforms themselves. Twitter is supposed to be short, sharp and immediate, and it would lose that notion of immediacy very quickly if it allowed for longer posts.

    I think you would have benefited with more focus and conciseness in your post. It’s around twice the size of what I believe is being asked of us and I think in doing so your points have tended to drift a little.

  8. willamatchett

    Your reference to the cocktail party was really insightful. I agree with all your arguments about blogging and social media in that it is now a necessity rather than a luxury. It would be pretty hard these days to stay connected without these platforms. Answering your question, my blog is merely for uni work so it definitely reaches a smaller audience. But I guess who knows who could be reading it?!

  9. Hi Amy really great blog post! It is really interesting to learn that blog posts were firstly use for personal diaries but now these days they are widely used for almost everything. It just proves how we as people have evolved the more and more technology advances. And to answer your question, I only usually blog for uni, so definitely only for a smaller audience. Also, just a on a side note I think if you shortened your blog post to the required word count (I think it’s 300?) it would be a lot more effective towards the reader and it is also great practice for us to try and sum everything up in 300 words! (I have a lot of trouble with this too) Please don’t let me dishearten you though as I really did enjoy reading it, keep up the good work! 🙂

  10. Hey! Great post! It was really entertaining reading your blog post and you’ve given me some great insights on how the blogging landscape has changed drastically in the past decade. For example, how did we came from casual blogging to educational blogging (like what we are doing for digc202 HAHA)?

  11. There has been a great shift to a paradigm where we are now actively consuming, producing, analysing, and engaging with the niche market. This idea of blogging as an alternative form of providing information has been a successful medium in recent years. With the modernisation of products, new ideas, and various forms of communication, the ‘blog’ holds power within the long tail. Blogs can be seen as entertaining, insightful, informative and through simply language, individuals are able to becoming increasingly engage with the content and each other through a distributed network. As Shirky suggests, the obliteration of barriers has allowed us to participate at a higher level. Take travel blogs fro example; personally I love reading them, as they always involve differing opinions and recommendations, an open discussion of preferences that allows one to sort through the content and form their own view and create diversity. Furthermore blogs give us as ‘ produsers’ to engage in content without guidelines and regulations, with the ability to express our opinions in a free space whether it is to a small audience or to the general public. We are simply not constrained by copyright laws and in effect we feel engaged, important, like our perspectives matter.

    It’s interesting to note how businesses have Facebook and Twitter accounts allowing them to advertise new deals, the newest product and thus creating an interpersonal connection with the community. Take online shopping for example. Personally this form of production and consumption is exceptionally easy and well managed, as the selection of products online are extremely vast and cater to everyone’s needs. Businesses are now operating through this medium as they’ve realised the increasing trend by consumers to purchase products online. Furthermore we are attracted to the incentives of sales, deals and new items that are aggregated weekly if not daily.

    Check out this article in the popularity of online shopping:

  12. Your thoughts on micro-blogging have definitely made me think more about the blogging landscape, and what ‘blogging’ actually is. I never really thought of Facebook and Twitter as blogging, let alone YouTube or Vine.
    I had a hard time understanding this week’s topic, but reading your blog post has helped me; it’s helped to clarify a few things.

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