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5 Questions About Social Media You Were Too Afraid To Ask

April 30, 2014
None of the information above answers any of my questions about social media. (image via Wikimedia)

Maybe you’re not really afraid to ask the following questions about social media, but I am. (image via Wikimedia)

As a blogger, I probably should know more about other forms of social media, but I have a blog to write. I don’t have time to be social. Plus, there are a lot of things about the OTHER social media that I’m not wild about. There are too many tweets, too many selfies, too much staring at a phone while walking/talking/driving. It makes me cranky enough to open my front door and tell a bunch of kids to get off my lawn, except they wouldn’t listen to me because they’re all staring at their phones.

Since I’m an aspiring writer, I feel the need to utilize this… ugh… social media. It’s too potentially valuable not to use. But a lot of it could also end up being a waste of time, and I don’t want that either. So before I decide to commit time to other sites like Twitter or Instagram or Tumblr, I’d like to get answers from people who might know more than I do. I’ve felt like asking these questions for a while, but I’ve hesitated because I don’t want to come across as rude.

However,  I’ve always been told in school and in training sessions that if I have a question, then a bunch of other people probably have the same question and are too afraid to ask.  So here are five questions about social media I was afraid to ask:

1.  How many tweets do you actually read?

This question might seem rude, but it’s very important to me.  A lot of people have hundreds, even thousands of followers on Twitter . To get those followers, you have to in turn follow almost that many other people (unless you’re a celebrity or you’ve got a great gimmick). I have less than 20 Twitter followers. I would follow more, but even by following less than 20 people, I have a tough time keeping up with their tweets. If I can’t do it, how can somebody who follows hundred, maybe even thousands, of people?

So, if you follow hundreds or thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of people, how many tweets do you actually read?

*****

2. How do you find the time to do all this social media stuff?

I have a blog and a Twitter account (which I hardly ever use). Other people have both plus Facebooks, Instagrams, Link’d, Google+, and a bunch of other stuff that has cropped up recently. I have a full-time job and a family, and use my free time for writing (blog and one other major project). If you use more than one kind of social media, how much time do you devote to each? I go to my blog at least once a day (usually more, especially if I write something that day). I look at my Twitter account maybe once every few days (which defeats the purpose of having a Twitter account, I understand that).

I don’t have much time for anything else. If you spend a lot of time on more than one site, how do you do it? Do you do it at your job when you’re supposed to be working?  I have co-workers that do this.  Do you not get enough sleep? Do you never step foot outside? What part of life do you ignore so that you can spend so much time on social media?

*****

3.  How much of social media is actually useful?

When I read through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, I think most of it is a waste of time. It’s a fun waste of time, but most of it seems to have little real purpose. It looks like something people use to kill time, which is fine because I watch football, and nobody who watches football can complain too much about what others do with their spare time. But I expected more.

For example, most people blog for a purpose. My main purpose is to improve my writing skills so that I maybe I can do something with my writing when I retire from my job that has nothing to do with writing.   No other form of social media does that for me as much as a blog does. Other bloggers use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as supplements, but most stuff that I see out there seems pointless, except to let others know they’re out there.  All they’re doing is being social, which kind of makes sense because it’s called “social media.”

Okay.  I get it now.  I’m not very social so, of course, I wouldn’t understand social media.

*****

4.  Where am I supposed to respond to you?

If you use a blog, and Twitter and Facebook, and Instagram, and more, and it’s all connected, then which one do you want me to leave a comment on?  If you write a blog post, and I notice you publicizing it on Twitter, do you want me to respond on Twitter, or do you want me to go to your blog and comment?  Because you know… I can’t do both.  I just can’t.

*****

5.  Have you ever sent out pictures of body parts?

Maybe I should rephrase that.

*****

5.  Why do people put so many pictures of themselves online?

Even if I wasn’t somewhat anonymous as a blogger, I wouldn’t want many pictures of me on Twitter, Facebook, etc. I wouldn’t want potentially millions of people looking at my picture. I’m not ugly (maybe kind of average), but it’s just the idea of so many pictures. I don’t understand the selfie fascination. The novelty of it should have worn off by now.

I’ve taken one selfie just to prove that I could do it, and it’s a good picture. You can see the background, and you can’t even see my arm. I nailed it on my first try. And I did it in public. And I showed it off to my daughters, who then wanted to be in a selfie with me (well, the youngest one wanted to, the oldest one just turned old enough to be too cool to be seen in a picture with her dad). But once I was done selfie-ing , I didn’t text it, Twitter it, email it, Instagram it, Facebook it, or anything. I kept it. Maybe that’s one reason some people think I’m a boring guy.

*****

I’m glad all this technology wasn’t around when I was growing up. Between the porn (which I don’t have many questions about) and the social media, I never would have gotten my school work (or anything) done. I’m glad that all this stuff has happened at a time when my brain can handle it without getting carried away.

But enough about me! Which of these questions about social media can you answer? What questions about social media do you have that I haven’t asked? What questions do you have about my own usage of social media?  Were these questions rude, insensitive?  Were you afraid to ask the same questions?  Have you ever been afraid to ask a question?

28 Comments
  1. I have students that believe their social media consumption is their ticket to the big show. Four or five hours a day reading and regurgitating the latest on-dit. I guess it replaces tv, work, and a life?

    • If any of them create original content that’s any good, I’d be impressed. But if all they do is regurgitate… I don’t like regurgitation. Other people’s regurgitation makes me want to regurgitate.

  2. Oh, I was so hoping that you would have answers for your question 2! I would love to know. I simply fall farther and farther behind on the stuff that I do think would be interesting on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other blogs.

  3. I’m curious what the state of social media will be in 100 years. It can’t get any more without people just not getting anything done. I have Twitter but I don’t usually go on it. My Facebook is just to see what my family and friends are up to. WordPress is where I spend most of my time, but not as much these days.

    • I’m sure social media will look a lot different in 10 or 20 years (I’m using 10-20 instead of 100 because I don’t think I’ll be around to see what social media will look like in 100 years. I’m not trying to be morbid).

      Twitter might end up like MySpace, and there’ll be something completely new that I’ll join just as its bubble starts to burst.

      • I wouldn’t be surprised if a service opened to put all the other ones in one place to organize them. There are some things like that now but none super popular.

  4. I have a blog. But I only write when I have something to say. And it has to be given some thought and effort. I am on Facebook but that is used mostly to keep in touch with a pile of childhood friends who live across the country. We still talk almost daily and laugh a lot. Facebook has been a really good thing for this. But I’ve also seen Facebook turn some brilliant, articulate, people, into regurgitators of the mundane. And pictures of food? Huh? I don’t do twitter at all. I don’t have anywhere near that much to say. I want to be a writer, I am a writer, but I hope my future success is NOT dependent on 140 character snippets of wisdom and whimsy (ya right) spouted every couple of hours. And I do know of a couple of writers who have published in electronic format only and only have a Facebook account that they update very infrequently. Sometimes the more I get to know an author the less I like his or her work.

    • My wife tells me that people in her social group are starting to argue about politics on Facebook. Like you said, people whom she normally respects are spouting gibberish. “Gibberish!!!” she tells me.Ha ha! That’s when I’d start to bail out (If I were already on it, but I’m not).

  5. For me, my blog replaced my spiral notebooks, Twitter is only for jokes, Facebook only for friends, and that’s about it … I really doubt these things are really useful sales tools, because whenever I see them advertising stuff I totally tune it out, but I could be all wrong and that wouldn’t be a first

    • You’re right, a blog is way better than spiral notebooks. I’m left-handed, so I’ve always hated spiral notebooks. The spirals were always getting in the way.

      I like how you’ve categorized each site. That makes sense to me.

  6. It is a mixed bag…..I really don’t find it uber-useful, but it is a forum to connect.

  7. Great questions! Like you, I find myself at sea in this maze of social media outlets. To be honest, I’ve only signed up for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus as a way to get my blog posts out there. Is that bad?

    • Four seems a little low, but you’re still way ahead of me.

      Which of those four seems the most effective for you?

      • WordPress is far and away the most effective outlet for getting my blog out there. Of the others, Facebook seems to give me the most traction.

  8. Great post. I’ll be here waiting for the answers because I have almost all of the same questions. And I’m actually kind of young enough with no real pressing obligations where I should be into this sort of thing. Where I get horrified looks when I tell friends I don’t have facebook or twitter. I just don’t get it.

    • If you’re still looking for answers, a person a couple comments down from you actually started to provide some. The commenter offered much wisdom.

  9. I just want to say about one of your points: I’ve never sent out pictures of body parts. I believed that was once funny when people used copy machines and the paper would arrive in the mail. But “Live, from New York, it’s Saturday Night Live!” No.

    • I forgot about the copy machine! I knew a guy who would make a copy of something vulgar and then leave it in the machine and watch the facial expressions of people when they found the Xerox. Ahhhh, but that was decades ago.

  10. Hello Sir Question-a-lot!

    As an uncommonly old-school young person (is that description legal?), here are my answers and thoughts:
    1. I have no Twitter, so the answer is zero. As a writer, if I did have a Twitter, I would use it to make jokes, post links, and publish 6-word stories. Other than that, I feel Twitter is pretty lame.
    2. Social media is a waste of time, in general. Like watching football or any other pastime. Granted, it is a rather immobile pastime, but people use it to decompress. If you are not one of those people, don’t sweat it. Someone else has got that covered.
    3. Usefulness. Now that is interesting. That depends on what shows up in your feed. If you follow or like a bunch of obnoxious, propaganda-ad-based pages, your time will be useless. If you follow TED Talks (assuming you enjoy TED Talks), then that time will be useful. You control everything (kind of) in social media. So, as long as you follow useful people or groups, the posts will generally be useful.
    4. Respond on to comments in the medium through which you receive them. As a blogger, you should post everything blog-related to your blog FIRST. Then you can either manually or automatically* share the post on social networks. Social networks are for publicity. It’s ok if you don’t keep up on them, just that you have a living presence of new posts. The consumer is the one who matters. As a producer, keep producing, respond where you can, and let the rest work it out.
    *Note of caution about auto-posting to social media sites: if you use the site to keep in touch with friends and family and your blog auto-posts frequently, those who do not enjoy your posts will become annoyed and unfollow you. I recommend setting up a “business” or “publicity” account separate from your personal life to prevent accidental alienation.
    5. Selfies scream DESPARATE. Usually, people with confidence/loneliness issues post selfies in hopes that someone will tell them that they are beautiful. They want attention and recognition. What they don’t understand is that there are much more gratifying ways to get that attention like, say, writing a blog. No?  Selfies with friends or family to show that you spent time with other people are more acceptable, but then, of course, the photo is no longer a selfie. It’s a bothie. Or an Us-ie. (Because We-ie just doesn’t quite work.)

    Great questions,

    -M.M.

    *and yes, I used footnotes in a comment. Gasp.

    • Thank you for your answers, uncommonly old-school young person. Your knowledge is very helpful to people like me.

      Is there a term for when you photo-bomb a selfie? I managed to do that today. It was kind of fun.

  11. This is so true I follow lots of people on twitter and I have lots of friends on facebook but I never really get to read half of their posts. Why should we be present in all of them by the way?

  12. 1. How many tweets do you actually read?

    Less than 1% of the ones I even see, which is only a Carl Sagan billionth of the ones out there. I have a few hundred followers, and I follow a few hundred, exactly the kind of ratio you pointed out. Of those I follow, there are about 10 whose timelines I visit regularly.

    2. How do you find the time to do all this social media stuff?

    I don’t. There isn’t enough. I’ve got a family and a full time job that exists entirely outside of the realm of social media. It’s not possible. I have a blog and I’m on Twitter and I barely have time for those. Everything else I couldn’t care less about. I don’t take enough pictures to care about Instagram, I don’t care enough about networking for LinkedIn, and I don’t care enough about reconnecting with long-lost high school friends for Facebook.

    3. How much of social media is actually useful?

    For educational or informational purposes, I agree with uncommonly old-school young person. It is as useful as you make it. For promotional purposes, I think it’s highly overrated. In a medium where everyone’s promoting, no one is really listening. It’s like living in a neighborhood of door-to-door salesman. Unfortunately, the perception of those in publishing, which seems to be your primary interest, is that it’s very important. These days it seems that unpublished author’s (unpublished in the traditional sense) are expected to have a “platform,” or a social media presence across multiple outlets with lots of followers. Publishers are less interested than ever in signing an unknown talent than in signing someone with a talent for self-promotion.

    4. Where am I supposed to respond to you?

    Through the medium that is most natural. If you are responding to a blog, don’t tweet, comment on the blog. If you are responding to a tweet, don’t blog about it, tweet it. If you want to talk about a job opportunity, go to LinkedIn.

    There are exceptions, of course. It’s nice to tweet a link to a blog post you like. That’s helpful promotion for someone you want to support. Likewise, if you love something about Twitter, or people on Twitter, it would be nice to blog about that, and perhaps tweet a link to your blog, and also @ those people to call their attention to it, otherwise they may never even know you did it.

    5. Why do people put so many pictures of themselves online?

    Here is a link to a blogger with a very interesting answer to this question: http://alfageeek.wordpress.com/?s=why+we+tweet

    I like your writing style quite a bit. Honest, unpretentious, and entertaining. Best of luck.

    • Thank you for your answers and the link. The blogger’s Twitter comparison to AA was interesting, but 12 step programs go out of their way to make sure nothing gets out. If you say something questionable or imprecisely in 12 steps, people will protect you. If you say something questionable on Twitter, you get fired or your reputation gets destroyed.

      Your own answers helped me out too. I’m still figuring out how to (or if I want to) use Twitter and/or other sites, and I feel that my original impressions weren’t that far off.

  13. I have been struggling with social media as well. i had a facebook account before i started my blog and then i used it to share my blog with my friends. i wanted more viewers and that lead me into making a twitter account. i set one up yesterday. but the biggest problem i face is how to get followers and if i were to make a facebook page how would i make it get likes. all this overwhelms me but im trying to get the hang of it.

    • If you haven’t read the comments, a couple of them above yours talk about how to use Twitter and Facebook. They sound more knowledgeable than me, so maybe their comments can help you out too.

  14. You bring up some good points about social media. For writers, promoting your novel and leading to sells is very important, and a lot of them have found you can use social media and the news to create a buzz for your book. It’s become a great way to reach your audience, and have others discover you.

  15. ardyey permalink

    Majority of social media users’ intentions or purpose is to find interesting things on the net. And i think whether for pleasure or educational purposes, the open system of information through social media is valuable to those who actually knows the benefits of it.

    In relation to this, as social media users, my question is how much of your expertise are you willing to share freely?

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