Most people you know are probably users of social media to some degree, for example Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. However, chances are you also know some people who choose not to use it.
Have you ever stopped to wonder whether not using social media could have a negative social impact for the individual?
This blog post has been inspired by several conversations I have had, where individuals have mentioned that they have been excluded as a consequence of not using social media. Some of the areas where non-users may feel they are excluded include:
- Social events – Invites for social events are often sent via social media. Event planning also often occurs online, e.g., Facebook members often create ‘events pages’ through which they can invite their Facebook friends; these friends can then send their RSVP via the page and join in discussions about the event. Unfortunately those who do not have a social media account or who do not actively use their account can miss out on these social events.
- Special offers and discounts – Many shops and other retail outlets offer special promotions or discounts via their social media accounts, for example they may share a special discount code or an exclusive online only voucher. Retailers and brands also often tweet to raise awareness of current in-store promotions that you may have missed if you have not visited a store recently, e.g., Starbucks often reminds customers about their happy hours via Twitter and Facebook. Non-users may therefore miss out on hearing about special promotions or be excluded from them altogether as in the case of the online only offers and vouchers.
- Memorable events – Being part of the large social conversation that is social media has its benefits when it comes to memorable events or occurrences, e.g., news of the recent meteor showers spread rapidly through social media, helping to raise awareness amongst those who may have otherwise not heard of this occurrence (and preventing others from forgetting about it!).
- Career opportunities – Many career opportunities are advertised online and connections through professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn can be exceptionally useful for hearing about collaboration opportunities or job vacancies. Opportunities often occur via word of mouth on social media, therefore non-users may not hear of available opportunities or they may find out too late in the game. Not only that but in many fields, particularly within academia, having an online presence is regarded as essential in order to maximise your audience and ensure that your work has impact. Attendees at conferences often exchange social media contacts, e.g., their twitter handle (@TheCyberPsyche) or their LinkedIn page – this has the advantage of being quick and easy, not being as easily displaced as a business card and providing the ideal environment for further communication.
- Updates on friends and family – Many of the non-users I have spoken to have expressed distress over being excluded from news about their friends and family which others have heard through social media. This can include major life events such as bad health, funerals, births, marriages etc. One individual commented how he saw a family member in the street and they asked if he was going to the big family get together, however he was not aware of the event due to it being discussed solely through social media.
Social media is being used more and more frequently as a means to distribute information quickly amongst friends and family. However, it would appear that sometimes users forget that some of their social circle may not use social media – this is even more likely to occur when friends have social media profiles but they do not log in frequently, therefore the sender believes their friend has received the message but fails to acknowledge that their account is not active. With our busy work schedules we are often pressed for time therefore social media seems like the perfect communication solution but unfortunately it may lead to the exclusion of non-users.
- Can you think of the last thing that you heard about through social media?
- Have you ever attended a social event that was discussed and planned online?
- Do you feel that using social media helps to keep you ‘in the know’ and do you think you would miss out on opportunities if you did not use it?
- Alternatively, do you opt not to use social media and how has that worked for you – have you ever missed out on anything because of this, or felt excluded?
In the digital era, do we face the dilemma of logging in or missing out?