How social is social media?

First published 7th June 2010

Social media is a term thrown around quite loosely today. All the cool kids use it and the established pros insist on its importance for business, but how much do we really stop to think about it and what it really is? Summing up social media in its simplest forms would see most people name Facebook and Twitter as what the mysterious tool is all about, and in most part they’re right, but staring at a computer screen isn’t that social is it? We may spend all our time on these websites talking to others and involving ourselves in discussions, but with so many studies suggesting frequent users of the internet are becoming socially isolated and increasingly suffering from loneliness I wondered if it’s really social at all. In my view, being social is about getting out there, meeting people, strangers or friends and interacting in real life, which is why I came up with #hullmeetup. #hullmeetup is the hashtag used on Twitter to encourage users based around the Kingston Upon Hull area to meet once a month in an effort to take social media offline for a day. Attendees meet their followers face to face, gain new followers and turn some of them into friends, all while enjoying a beer or two in a familiar atmosphere. The first event attracted around 40 people and is building on the initial interest on a daily basis with attendees of all ages and backgrounds, the emphasis being that everyone is welcome to the meet-ups, providing they have a Twitter account. Whether you have 5 followers or 5000 you’re bound to increase your numbers by seeing who else tweets around you. Some people attended having been on Twitter for the first time that day and are now fully integrated in the online community #hullmeetup created, while others had established profiles who wished to share tweeting tips with others. Hull is one of many cities that have launched a Twitter meet-up group, so it’s worth checking out if there’s one near you. Don’t know how to find out? Ask your followers! If they don’t know, they’ll know someone who will, and if there isn’t a meet-up near you then I’d recommend organising one. Not only do I feel a lot more integrated with Twitter for it, I follow much higher numbers of local Tweeters and get to hear about so many networking and social events too. And as far as organising events go, it doesn’t get much easier than having thousands of people around you in all sorts of professions to help out, from graphic designers to radio presenters and writers, the word quickly spreads, so get out there and get social! (Though when you do meet, you will all still be Tweeting on your phones). The next #hullmeetup is on Saturday 3rd July at the Zachariah Pearson pub. Follow me, @lauramsmith for the updates and search the #hullmeetup hashtag. Will your followers see your face sometime soon, or just your avatar?


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