Is social media becoming less sociable and more about broadcasting?


A welcome reality check from a fellow social media trainer – and comparing my own experience of the past year or so with what might be happening generally

Suzy Ashworth is local to me and was one of Puffles’ earliest followers. One thing I’ve found with my fellow social media trainers is that most of us specialise in its application in a given field. For me it started off in public policy before morphing into community action. Looking at my blogstats, the number of Twitter followers for Puffles seems to be inversely proportional to the hits my blogposts are getting. Perhaps a reflection of the fewer party-political/current affairs posts and a greater number of Cambridge-based posts? Perhaps.

Separating Puffles from me

I’m now using @ACarpenDigital for conversations around work-related things. Furthermore, I’m also co-running @BeTheChangeCam for the big event on 13th September. I’ve now rebranded Puffles’ feed as a policy and politics newsfeed. This has allowed a number of users that found Puffles’ retweets overwhelming (understandably so) to stay in touch with me on an account that otherwise posts only a handful of tweets on any one day. Deliberately so. What was nice to hear from Suzy was genuine positive feedback about Puffles’ achievements from someone in a similar field. What I also found interesting was how we were coming to similar conclusions about how social media is evolving and maturing (if you can call it that) from what it was say a couple of years ago.

A torrent of hatreds

In recent months I’ve noticed a sharp rise in the number of aggressive posts being retweeted into my social media feeds. In what has been quite an exciting summer inside Cambridge for me compared to all of the ones since my return from London, news from beyond the city’s borders has been a depressing backdrop. It’s been one that has polarised opinions on a number of conflicts across a swathe of the planet – a firestorm that all the water in the Pacific Ocean cannot quell.

I can understand the sense of anger and powerlessness more than a few of us feel. During my university days, I was that angry emotional firework of a person – my issue being the IMF & World Bank and the global debt crisis that was often in the news in 2000/2001. I wasn’t the easiest person to have a conversation with when in angry mode (who is?), and so shy away from conversations that get too heated. Perhaps I see in such exchanges a side of me that I don’t like. At the same time, are more people shying away because things are getting too noisy?

Fewer shared experiences and observations beyond Cambridge?

Fewer shared observations given that I’m not commenting as much on national/international politics and public policy. On the former, I feel either I’ve said everything I want to in previous blogposts or feel completely powerless to stop bad things happening so refrain from commenting lest I find myself in a social media argument. As the saying goes, if you get into an argument with a fool…exactly. My other feeling is that if all the world’s diplomats can’t sort out these problems, then what impact is little ol’ me and my dragon fairy gonna have? Hence going for my current approach of thinking global but acting local. Aim for a positive impact where I’m most likely to achieve it. At the same time though, why would anyone outside Cambridge who has no link with the place be that interested in the detailed goings on here?

Me, me, me.

Now that I think about it, there’s a growing theme of ‘this is what I have done/seen/been to’ rather than ‘this is my analysis of something happening today that might not have been picked up by the media’ blogposts. At the same time, this feels like a natural evolution of the direction I’m sailing in. I’ve been out of the civil service for more than three years and feel far less qualified to talk about what’s going on in public policy circles than say two years ago.

The fact is I’m not in London nearly regularly enough to have my ear to the ground on what the mood is. There is only so much you can do training and giving advice without refreshing your learning and going back to being a practitioner/do-er in something. I took this away from the Sookio Masterclasses in Cambridge – where Sue Keogh has developed a talent for sourcing social media practitioners (rather than trainers) to share their learning. I.e. the people that run corporate social media accounts. Hence insights from the commercial world have been fascinating.

More diverse content of interest to fewer people?

For example the people at or who would like to have gone to community workshops or to simply see/hear what happened, have given very positive feedback on all things audio and video. With that in mind, it’s less about me and more about whoever is in front of the camera – such as the brilliant Rachael Johnson who I saw earlier this evening.

As you can see, my vintage camcorder was really showing its limitations despite Simon’s best efforts with the lighting! I tried playing around with the audio on some more advanced software to reduce the background chatter and to amplify the bass. Have a listen on SoundCloud to see if it made much difference. Again, I’m still a complete beginner on filming and editing, but with every filming session I go to, I’m always learning something new. (Today it was ‘OMGz – this new tripod is ***wonderful!!!*** – much lighter, more compact, more flexible and can extend further than old one). Normally it’s something very small, but it’s a practical way of learning that I’ve not really been used to: self-learning through unguided experiments. There’s something liberating about that. But at the same time, I’m still an unwilling lone ranger producing content for broadcast rather than conversation.


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