Social Media Tradeoffs

Travelator, via Flickr (CC license)
Though it’s often trivialized and denigrated, instant gratification is a very powerful thing.

As I’ve gotten more comfortable and involved with using the microblogging tool Twitter, I’ve realized that I’ve been using the social bookmarking tool del.icio.us less and less. I’m not the only one.

When I posted about this on Twitter, my friend Beth Kanter tweeted in response:

“I’ve had the same experience — less social bookmarking, more Twitter. But Twitter not great for retrieval.”

“Twitter offers immediate gratification and connection with people, not just resources. But retrieval is hard.”

This got me wondering about why I really use each of these social media tools in the first place. But Beth has a point: I’d be lying if I downplayed the appeal of instant gratification.

The question then becomes: What precisely am I finding so gratifying with Twitter?…


For me, the main reason I use social media tools is they allow me to express my natural urge to share and connect. I’m actually a fairly social person. I enjoy feeling connected, feeling useful, and interacting with people. That has always been fun for me. I guess it provides a sense of belonging and validation — but based on authenticity rather than conformity. (I always sucked at conforming.)

Social media tools also provide me with a sense of relief, to have a community available that’s a source of inspiration, energy, and connection. It’s becoming a valued resource. I no longer feel like I have to do everything myself. I can see more clearly that I am but part of a greater whole, and that takes a lot pressure off.

To be honest, the practical benefits of social media are (at least for me) mere icing on the cake of the emotional rewards. Of course, the practical benefits not insignificant.

  • Twitter often gives me my first heads-up of news that’s important to me. It also provides ongoing context on what various smart people are up to, which leads to ideas and opportunities.
  • I use del.icio.us to keep track of interesting items that I also wish to publish as linkblog posts on my various blogs. I also follow some del.icio.us tags to track issues.
  • I use Google Shared Stuff to pass links along to specific people, without publishing them to my blog, while also not losing track of what I sent to whom.
  • I use Furl and Google Notebook to coordinate more concerted research projects (although Furl’s losing ground with me)

Of all these tools, Twitter is the only one that supplies me with a steady stream of engaging but manageable feedback that feels (and is) personal — and therefore matters more. Basically, when I post something interesting or thoughtful to Twitter, I’m rewarded by getting responses (not all the time, but often enough). I don’t get that sense of engagement through the other services I use. And maybe that’s just me.

The end result is that I find myself increasingly posting to Twitter about things that formerly I would have posted to del.icio.us — even though I would have gotten more mileage out of posting to del.icio.us, since del.icio.us generates my daily links posts to Contentious.com. Why? Because it’s more likely that by posting to Twitter, someone will respond with either a simple reaction or a statement that makes me think or that piques my curiosity. And frankly, that’s more fun.

I’m not sure what all this means; but it is what it is. Thoughts? Please comment below.

11 thoughts on Social Media Tradeoffs

  1. Pingback: contentious.com - Twitdrawal

  2. Okay Amy, not only do I trust your judgment, but this is the best explanation of the void Twitter may fill for someone.

    Tell us idiots who are registered at Twitter, who go to the Twitter very occasionally, and get notices that someone is following us, how to participate.

    How do you personally post into twitter? From your laptop? from a mobile device? how do you receive messages? from rss feeds? into your feed reader? how do you control how many tweets you receive and from whom?

    I am not the only who respects your journalism skills and judgment. Finding out how you set up twitter for yourself would help us. Others may do it differently, but I’d like to start out the Gahran way.

    Thanks and Happy New Year,

    – Kevin

  3. I think the instant gratification helps make it all the more addicting …

    Do you think tagging and “tagging communities” are dying or become less a part of social media in favor of micro blogging?

    We have the NpTech tag where people share resources using the tag. I summarize those resources. I’m finding that I’m discovering stuff in Twitter and tagging it .. so I can summarize it in the nptech stream. Many of the readers of the manual summary aren’t as heavily engaged in social media communities as I am – so I’m sort of translator or bridge blogger between those worlds.

    For Kevin, I just wrote up a tip sheet with some useful how-tos
    http://bethkanter.wikispaces.com/twitter+recent

  4. Beth… hmmm, food for thought. Although I’m a creature of habit, I’ve never been prone to addiction — at least, that’s what I’d always *thought*

    But maybe there is an addictive quality to Twitter, strengthened by the immediate-gratification effect. It’s interesting to consider that right now because I’m trying to wean myself from caffeine for a while since I’ve been struggling with poor sleep patterns for the last month or so. Dealing with that, I’m less certain about where my own lines between habit/preference and addiction are drawn. Hmmm….

    There’s a woman named Anita in my local blogger meetup who blogs on addiction issues. I’ll see if I can pull her into this conversation.

    – Amy

  5. Kevin

    Oh, flattery will get you almost anywhere 😉

    OK, I’ll post my Twitter tips. But in the meantime, check out Beth’s list. I’m sure I’d just crib a lot from her, anyway 🙂

    – Amy

  6. I use Twitter exactly as you do. There is a feeling of connectedness to the larger community that the other services don’t offer, it’s fast, it’s mobile, and it’s real time.

    Working by myself in my own office means very little in-person social interaction on a daily basis. This isn’t to say that I don’t get out or see people, but it’s not the same as being in a place with a group of other folks working on related tasks.

    I hated Twitter when it first came out. I felt like it was just a way for the Scobles and the like to own another part of the internet. My first blog post about it was scathing, and I challenged one person to tell me why I should use it. That post got tons of reaction, and the challenge was met when one person pointed out that it was a great disaster communication tool.

    Now I’m addicted. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Dan Blank: Publishing, Innovation & the Web » Blog Archive » Twitter: The Ultimate Reporting Tool

  8. Pingback: Tagging, Tracking and Using RSS with Twitter! | Sue Waters's Blog

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