Social Media: A few words

I heard about the discovery of Homo naledi from my husband (as I was groggily drinking a lovely cup of coffee) but I read the details thanks to a link someone shared on Facebook.  It turns out my experience is not unusual.  It turns out that we are likely to use social media to share articles that we find interesting.  And, you have to admit, finding another member of the human family has got to qualify as interesting!

Another interesting statistic.  These articles, tend not to be the really short one-paragraph affairs that we often think other people are sharing on social media.  It turns out that articles that are 2,000 – 2,500 words long are the ones most widely shared on Facebook.  So again, we want to share items that interest us; make us think.

With whom do we want to share this though?  Here is another interesting finding—we tend to share these items we find of interest with people who, might otherwise not be part of our “natural” community.  One of the most common reasons people use social media (such as Facebook) is to extend their communities.  (Researchers call this lowering or eliminating the barrier to entry.)  So, for example, I can read, comment and hence become a member of a Catholic-Italian blog, despite the fact that I am neither Catholic nor Italian.  In the real world, the barrier to entry to an Italian-Catholic organization to someone who is none of the above are insurmountable; on social media they are negligible.

It is therefore not entirely surprising that people who use social media are more trusting than those who do not.  If you spend that much time (and we spend an average of forty minutes per day on social media) you want to trust the many different people you encounter there and, by extension, in the real world.  You certainly don’t want to think that all those people around the world are jerks.  I mean, you just spent forty minutes chatting with them about an early human ancestor, for goodness sakes!

That does not mean that social media is all good.  It isn’t.  It can break up relationships and cause us to forget to focus on the real world around us.  But it is also a place where we can share and discuss information we find really interesting with people we might otherwise have never met.

But whether social media is a blessing or a curse it is here to stay.  So I hope we learn to use it well.  There are some signs that we’re learning to do just that.  So I am hopeful.

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