Social media may be a mystery to you, but it’s a mystery that fascinates and engages millions. And, it’s not so mysterious. It’s really just what we share with friends over a cup of coffee, but relocated to the World Wide Web. Social Life is a bi-monthly column about Martha’s Vineyard’s virtual social life and other digital topics.
First, Terry Francona and now Theo Epstein. As if Red Sox fans didn’t have enough to worry about, Wednesday afternoon, ESPN reported that Theo, the Sox general manager, has agreed to a five-year deal with the Cubs.
This news follows the transformation only a couple of weeks ago of Terry Francona, for eight years and two championships the Sox skipper, to substitute color man.
While many Red Sox fans continued to recover from – or at least tried to – September catastrophy and the wild card race loss, Francona met with the team management on Friday, September 30, and that evening, it became clear Francona wouldn’t return next season.
Even as a die-hard Rangers fan – yes, I rooted for Texas even before they won the ALCS title last year, even before Alex Rodriguez and Chan Ho Park took their turns in Arlington – I could feel the pain of Fenway Faithful around me and knew this would inevitably cause some stir. After all, four years in Boston, where I went to college, can quickly make you pay attention to and adore Boston teams.
So, that Friday, beginning around 7 pm, Twitter feeds and Facebook updates inevitably bloomed with #TerryFrancona #RedSox buzz. So, at 8:18, I posted on Facebook, “Terry Francona’s done as Red Sox manager… What are your thoughts? Good move? Bad move?”
Within minutes – no seconds – responses came flooding in.
8:19 pm “He should have gotten one more year.”
8:20 pm “Thoroughly disappointed.”
8:21 pm “It is time for new faces and new management.”
8:22 pm “Great manager, great guy, but he lost the team.”
8:27 pm “Time for a change.”
You get the idea. More than a dozen comments and “likes” registered for the next few hours.
Millions do it. Millions sit in front of computer screens with an iPhone, a Blackberry or a Droid in hand and closely follow sports, gossip, celebrity scandals and whatever else interests us.
But – leaving aside for the moment the trauma understandably experienced by Red Sox Nation, the question is why?
On one hand, it’s extremely easy. With many different kinds of apps and platforms, accessing social media is something you can do with your eyes closed. (Speaking virtually, of course.)
On the other hand, it’s become a habit. Be honest. How many of us check our e-mails, text messages, tweets and Facebook notifications within the first hour of each day? I’d say 90 percent.
How many check every hour? Sometimes every 30 minutes? Once again, I’m thinking 90 percent. I am guilty of leaving my Tweetdeck running nonstop and checking into places at least twice a day on Foursquare.
Various studies of the social media usage patterns from Mashable and AdAge make clear that while we don’t necessarily update our statuses or post pictures every time we log on, we don’t fail to find new content posted by others. And because of the sheer number of people on Facebook and Twitter, fresh entertainment and information are constant.
In the last six months or so, I found everything I need to know about local, national and global news on social media.
I found out about the death of Osama Bin Laden via Twitter (just like many Americans did that night around midnight). I followed the Arab Spring via Twitter, Flickr and Facebook. And I found out about many Island restaurants to try via Twitter and Foursquare, when I first moved here.
Social media isn’t to be ignored, not now, certainly not forever, especially for the media and local businesses.
For The Times, Facebook and Twitter are ways for us to communicate with readers, to draw attention to important stories and to let the community know what’s happening on the Island.
Of course, there are questions. “How many posts are enough posts per day?” “What kind of stories do we post?” “How do we engage without being annoying?” Answers to these questions and others are elusive.
But for sure, social media is a well traveled two-way street. We express our opinions. We show off our pets. We share innovative recipes. We learn “Do-It-Yourself” decorating tips. We even reconnect with old friends. We all do all that and more.
Yoojin Cho is web coordinator at The Martha’s Vineyard Times.