What is Social Media?

Posted by Taylor Haney on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

Here is a new post as part of our social media theme for July. Jenna Deutsch, Interactive Project Manager at SapientNitro shares her definition of what exactly social media is.

JennaDeutschJenna (@JennaDeutsch) is an interactive project manager at SapientNitro. She can often be found tweeting about running, traveling, AdWeek, Ram Trucks, November Project, ice cream, and Boston. When she’s not managing OLA campaigns, she can be found running the stairs of Harvard Stadium, making to-do lists in her Moleskine, eating a Harvest Bowl at Sweetgreen, or researching her next trip.

Social media is everyone’s favorite buzzword. It seems to pertain to essentially any online interaction, making it somehow synonymous with both everything and nothing. Is this blog post about the current state of social media included in social media? Could be. Bear with me.

The other day, The New York Times author Nick Bilton wrote an article titled “.@Twitter. Who Do You Think You Are?” and discussed that although he has written almost a quarter-million words about Twitter over the past nine years, he can’t actually explain what it is. He shared that even Twitter’s last three CEOs disagree on what twitter is. To be fair, sometimes I’m not sure I can explain what Sapient “is.” But while I feel their pain, I’m not the CEO.

Dorsey called it a place to “share your status.” Williams said it “is all about news and media,” and Costolo called it “a global water cooler.”

To me, Twitter is:

  • A news outlet, because I’m a millennial stereotype that doesn’t make the time to pick up a traditional newspaper. (However, The Skimm helps with that.)

  • Where I share what I’m doing and what I think is interesting. (Mostly running and AdWeek articles.)

  • Somewhere where I can learn what my friends (or people I don’t even know) are doing and think are interesting

When I think about social media, aside from Twitter, I think about Facebook and Instagram… Then YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest… and the list keeps going. Nowadays, even paying your rent has become social (#Guilty), as well as how many miles you just ran (also #Guilty). Is anything sacred anymore? Guess not. Do people actually care? Apparently so, because when I pay my roommate for the almond milk she picked up at Trader Joes, my Venmo activity gets a “like.” When I comment on yet another cute puppy video, I get replies. And when I check in at the gym, I get a “favorite.” I’m trying not to overthink that last one.

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“Instagram,” “Facebook,” and “Venmo” are now verbs, and people write (and sometimes even speak) in hashtags. “Swiping right” now means endorsing something, and not just thinking that guy on Tinder is good looking, which has in turn led to brands getting in on the “Tinder game.” Most brands have at least one of these kinds of accounts, and if they don’t, I’m judging them. Sites have “share” buttons on each of their pages and articles, encouraging you to do their PR for them. Companies ask agencies to pitch for their business via social media, and recruiters ask those applying for jobs for their social media handles. And as important as all of these things are to us, my grandparents (and even parents) can’t seem to grasp the concept (or figure out how to post an Instagram picture of my dog that is not sideways).

So what’s the secret to success? That would mean we could actually define “success.” I think for most, it’s more followers and more interactions. One would think that the more active you are, the more followers you have. However, I don’t agree, and still cannot figure out how I have more followers than my hilarious roommate (@KellyEFine; I swear she’s worth the follow). I also can’t figure out how tweeting about algae and blood got my friend @JWLevitt to the Olympics, or how posting photos of neon-clad yahoos working out led @Nov_Project to world domination.
But all of these things have happened, thanks to the ambiguity of social media.

So while as much as I complain about the dumb things people post (again, most likely #Guilty), I’ll give social media this definition: it’s a place for people to share, converse, learn, collaborate, brag, ask for help and hopefully, be yourself without judgment.

Topics: social, MITX, social media