I used to love Twitter. Back in 2008, when I first signed up, it was the coolest place to hangout on the Internet; a vibrant online community where people from all over the world readily bared their souls in 140 characters or less.
Nowadays, though, the magic has gone. As more and more people have jumped on board, it’s become harder to separate the conversation from the noise.
And people are becoming far less eager to share their lives.
Twitter has evolved into our online business card. We put our user names on our email signatures and use it as our main communication platform with people we don’t want to add on WhatsApp. What that means, though, is we’re not as open; it’s all watercooler chatter, not genuine insight into our lives.
We’re building personal brands, not forging connections. Instead of bringing us closer together, Twitter now feels like a colossal networking event where everyone’s stood around talking about themselves.
And Facebook isn’t much better.
Zuckerberg’s lofty ambitions might be “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” but what that boils down to is being trapped in an infinite reunion where everyone you’ve ever met shows you endless photos of their holidays, their weddings, and their children.
Yes, I’m interested in my friends’ lives, but seeing them everyday doesn’t make me feel more connected; it makes me feel like a voyeur. Or like a remote viewer who, instead of spying on the Russians, is looking in on all the cool things his mates are doing.
It wasn’t always this way.
In the 1990s and 2000s chatrooms, forums and IM clients were cool (well, nerdy but cool). We made friends with people we’d never met (who had weird gamer / graffiti tags for names) who we talked with about passions our “real life” friends weren’t interested in. It was a brave new world for freaks and weirdos and the disengaged.
Thankfully, that world still exists online; if you look in the right places.
I’ve stopped spending so much time on social media’s big hitters, but I’m networking more than ever. Here’s how:
Sharing the Interesting Day-to-Day with Real-Life Friends on Snapchat
Snapchat bills itself as the anti-Facebook. With good reason. While Zuckerberg’s all-seeing eye watches over every move on the world’s largest social network, Snapchat’s ephemeral nature feels like a breath of fresh air.
On Facebook, everything we do lasts forever. Who wants some grainy pics of a night out with friends to be available to everyone we’ll ever connect with for the rest of time?
Snapchat, on the other hand, feels different. I’m happy to share disposable snaps of stuff I find interesting with my friends, safe in the knowledge they’ll be gone in a 24 hours so I don’t need to worry about their impact on my “Personal Brand” (if there really is such a thing).
Facebook and Snapchat are like Microsoft and Apple used to be. One is an industry titan that everyone feels uncomfortable with but uses out of necessity. The other feels like the hip kid on the block that you’d much rather hang out with. I know which I’d rather use.
Networking with Peers and Mentors on Slack
One of the fastest-growing tech companies of all time, Slack is a unicorn by anyone’s standards. It’s become the choice of everyone from Nasa to The Sunday Times to skyrocket their online team communication.
It’s not just a platform for sharing meeting notes and gifs at work, though. Slack has quickly been embraced by the tech community for building online communities.
I’m a member of several Slack hangouts focusing on product management, software testing, UX and creativity.From Product Manager HQ and Mind The Product, to CreativeTribes, Slack chats have become the new forums for tech innovators.
If you want to network effectively online, then you’ve got to follow the conversation. When it comes to product development and technology, that conversation is happening on Slack.
Shooting the Breeze about Hobbies and Passions via Reddit
The front page of the Internet, Reddit isn’t just a time sink full of comedy gifs; there are communities for any interest you can possibly think of.
As a former freelance music journalist, I love finding out about new music. I’m also passionate about horror movies, comic books, guitars and my beloved Newcastle United. There are some awesome subreddits for all them.
Reddit has filled the void left by the early-2000s chatrooms and forums. It’s the perfect place to hangout with like-minded individuals from all over the world.
My Facebook friends aren’t interested in my thoughts on the most-recent seventies slasher movie I’ve watched. On Reddit, on the other hand, there’s a captive audience.
Social media has evolved considerably in the decade or so since Facebook and Twitter hit the mainstream. What we used our networks for in the early days isn’t what we’re using them for now.
Social media has grown up and become an integral part of our professional persona. If we want to continue to have the online conversations we used to, then we’ve got find new channels.
I’m not going to cancel my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts; I’m just using them in a different way.
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