Back in March Birmingham City University announced their MA is Social Media, eliciting the usual wave of irrational thought from the right-wing newspapers. Whilst such reactionary comments are to be expected from the right (the right are inherently irrational), there are also a surprising a number who should know better. Most notably my brother.
Last night I was talking to my brother about social media on the phone, specifically mentioning the Social Media MA at the University of Salford. He was less than enthusiastic about such courses. He doesn’t see social media as a revolutionary way to communicate with individuals, organisations and institutions that needs to be approached systematically if we are to understand it properly. Instead he sees it as just a natural part of his life that needs little further investigation. His approach seems to be to slowly integrate those technologies that create sufficient buzz amongst his immediate circle of friends: he joined MySpace, then Facebook, but Twitter hasn’t quite made enough noise yet. Whilst this may seem reasonable at first glance, when I explain that he is a final year journalism student and the university’s radio station manager, it becomes a slightly more concerning approach. There are few industries that have been effected as much by social media as journalism and broadcasting, and those who don’t fully realise the potential of social media will fail. If anything, my brother should be playing the role of social media evangelist rather than just following the crowd.
‘Slowly integrating the technologies with sufficient buzz’ seems to be the approach most people are taking to social media. Although the social nature of social media means that people generally get more from the technologies when their friends are signed-up, if individuals and organisations are going to make social media work for them more successfully then they need to embrace a more integrated and experimental approach.
The social media crowd spend a lot of time talking amongst themselves and talking to non-adopters. Maybe we need to spend a bit more time talking to the partial-adopters. We can’t expect everyone to be a social media evangelist, but maybe we could help the partial-adopters think a bit more about how they are using social media and what they want to get from it.