Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Community and Social Media

Two books are coming to mind as I ponder the use of social media to bond people with a common geographical area (a neighborhood).
Contested Ground by John Emmeus Davis and Being and Time by Martin Heidegger.
In Contested Ground, Davis looks at people in a neighborhood having different roles & goals. There are residents and business people. There are renters and owners. Online, these people are on a kind of common ground but while their goals might be common they might also conflict. Since everybody in a news feed pretty much looks the same, a participant might not grasp that the social media group is not a single entity but a group of individuals. As such, this kind of person might think the egroup to be schizophrenic.
But there's another aspect that Heidegger got into in that the communications are streaming in time and the participant might be reading a conversation forwards, backwards or all jumbled up by creative programmers. This can lead to a further suspicion of schizophrenia within the egroup.
People see things in different ways, too. I look at pages while others just use email or some kind of phone alerts. So - not everybody is looking at everything with the same graphic interface nor in the same order.
When 'Breaking News' hits a site, it can become a riot of information, frequently conflicting and tantamount to a bunch of blind men furiously describing an elephant. Rumours fly, tempers flare.
It used to be, one had to actively find an egroup, usually an email user group, chatroom or a BB forum. The ease of use of modern social media has led to what some refer to as 'Amateur Hour' on the internet. Some of the problems people have on the intertubes might be naivete but some might just not be cut out for it. They might need to face one another or even deal with one another in their traditional settings like across the meat counter.
People who organize and have physical meetings are frequently not inclined to use social media to inform community members who prefer to use social media to find out the results of their meetings. The community leaders not embracing the community's social media outlets seriously impairs the ability of social media have a bonding, building effect, but by the same token, the level playing field of the emedium frequently results in sniping, snark and a 'too many cooks' effect. Roberts Rules don't apply online and, in a physical community meeting, the leaders usually physically distance themselves from the rest of the body.
So, can community building via social media work? Not on it's own, of course, and it's not at odds with traditional means but the delivery of information needs to be somewhat uniform & controlled and not interfered with by hosts profiting off their 'free' product.
Maturity of the user should, hopefully, come with time.
Then, of course, there's caffeine & alcohol...

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