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Cautiously Optimistic

Social media for better communication and a better life

Social Media – Naughty or Nice?

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It’s a given that social media’s usage and influence have grown wildly beyond what anyone expected just a few years ago.

According to a report by Navneet Kaushal of PageTrafficBuzz, as of January 2012, Facebook by itself was the destination for nine percent of all online visits in the US, and twenty percent of all online page views.

That’s not counting Twitter, Google+, and the many other social media destinations available online.

What’s interesting to me, though, is not that social media is huge, but that’s it’s huge enough to have sparked a discussion of what it means to be social.

Blogger Steve Sonn writes that a growing number of individuals are using social media in an antisocial way, by brazenly self-promoting their business and their personal brand in a one-way direction, rather than being “open, transparent, helpful and engaging.”

I like this concept, because it says something about the aspirational nature of why we communicate in the first place, and why we all seek out communities in which we can grow and thrive.

On the other hand, just as the music world has room for punk rock, there are those who want to bring the same “smash ’em up” sensibility to social media.

This Chronicle of Higher Education story by Jeffrey R. Young highlights just such a rule-breaker: Dean Terry, the director of the emerging-media program at the University of Texas at Dallas, who is committing what he calls “social-media blasphemy” with his new Facebook plug-in, “EnemyGraph.”

The service lets Facebook users identify their “enemies,” which then appear in their profiles. The report states that Terry originally wanted to use the word “dislike,” but that word was specifically banned by Facebook, in order to maintain a positive atmosphere for its users.

This “blasphemy” may be a tongue-in-cheek rejection of the idea that being nice, kind, and positive is the best way to approach social media. But I think it has the potential to create a lot of damage. Practical jokes may seem funny in theory, but in reality, they’re just mean.

So while I’m generally in favor of a little rule-breaking now and then, when it comes to social media, I prefer playing nice.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

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Written by Charles Primm

March 29, 2012 at 8:00 am

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