Turning Social Media into Topical Media

I started a Facebook page. Suddenly I had friend requests from three dozen people I had not seen in years, among them relatives living on other continents. It was great to see everyone again. There I was in my home office late one weekend evening, having a little reunion with people from my past. Then the gloss wore off when someone IM’d me and we had nothing to say to each other. Awkward moment… how do you end that conversation? Fortunately, I had to put my son to bed. Well, um… nice chatting. IM you again sometime.

I went back to my Facebook wall the following day. I learned that one friend was taking a shower at that very moment, and one would be staying home from work on Monday to take care of her sick kids. A friend had forgotten his wallet on the bus, and another declared that she now prefers the taste of Tom’s of Maine over Crest toothpaste. The same friend had tried fallafel for the first time the previous evening. She liked it and would try to make it at home. Bored yet?

While I love people and their stories, Facebook’s personal content is often diluted to suit all “friend” audiences, and as such it becomes sterile. The sterile-content problem is addressed in an interview that Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR’s On Point, recorded last week. His guest, Vanessa Grigoriadis, just published an article in New York Magazine entitled, “Do you own Facebook? Or does Facebook own you?” This is a question I’ve often asked myself when looking at some of the Facebook addicts I know.

Yet despite the trivial, diluted content that might give Facebook a bad rap (and at times drive me crazy), social media are emerging as extraordinarily effective personal and business tools. [Read more…]