Social media is a landscape that can only be navigated through relationships.
The fact that our access to people and information is now instant and global (or universal, taking into account Curiosity’s Foursquare check-in on Mars and tweets from the International Space Station) is a testament to the power of relationships.
News of the Arab Spring reached most people by way of the ripple effect across overlapping social circles: I follow Tyler, but I don’t follow Tariq. Tyler retweets Tariq, and now Tariq has entered my social circle. If I want to follow him and engage with him, I can make his place within that circle more permanent.
Even news organizations on Twitter are now in the habit of retweeting first-person sources, rather than providing their own content—this is a convenient way of getting to stories quickly while placing the responsibility for veracity on the original sources. Those original sources enter your stream, and thus your social circle, only because someone you choose to follow has chosen to relay them to you as part of her audience.
Ever see a bubble split into two bubbles? It’s like that in reverse. That's the real "social media bubble."
Spending time with speakers on the social media conference circuit, one often sees a big difference between their social media and in-person interactions. Though this is an effect that is present in our society in general today, it’s especially apparent in this circle. The most digitally outgoing people can seem reserved at mixers; folks who are “all business” online will often show an edgier side at group dinners. This isn’t disingenuous; it’s a reflection of a new reality in which social media helps us to grow into the people we want to be. People who get tongue-tied or sheepish but want to change themselves for the better can start with their social media selves, where it’s much easier to begin. It makes you wonder what skills are transferring from the digital realm to other areas of life. Does tweeting to thousands of followers every day make a person more comfortable speaking to a crowd of a few hundred strangers? Do a person’s interactions in social media make that person’s everyday encounters a little easier?
In my life the answer has been yes, and I know I’m not alone. Social media, then, is aspirational. It can help you become a better version of yourself.