Social Media: Meet the Flockers

In less than two years, the number of American adults who visit social media websites at least once a month has more than doubled. That’s nearly one-third of the population, or more than 55.6 million people. (Forrester Research)

Choices for social media involvement continue to multiply as well. lists more than 600 social media and social networking sites in 39 categories.

Why are we flocking to social media in record numbers?

Individuals engage in social media to fulfill their own self-interest, according to Yochai Benkler, Harvard professor and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. He believes social media is a free collaborative network in which we define our individual needs and desires and act in collaboration that translates into personal fulfillment. Our motives vary. We may seek a solution to a problem, pursue interpersonal relatedness, reinforce our identity, or develop a reputation in anticipation of future work.

I've identified five stereotypes of social media users that confirm Benkler’s assertions. How many seem familiar to you?

1. Wolves sell covertly with messages that appear to be helpful or educational, but often lack substance.

2. Climbers build reputations by posting incessantly to keep their name in the news.

3. Mavens fill our spaces with recommendations for everything from restaurants to rappers to revolution.

4. Boors lack respect for others, either from innate rudeness or lack of netiquette.

5. Blabbers share life’s every detail.

There's a bit of each of these stereotypes in all of us. We don’t merely use social networks; we are the networks. Seeking fulfillment, we flock together and create social media in our own image.

—Tom DeSanto

Image: social-media-expert.jpg from Google images

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