I’ve always been a bit behind the curve—joining Facebook in 2008 (a full four years after the site was founded), creating an Instagram account long after it was cool, and sending my first tweet only last year. But the decision to pursue a degree in journalism and the not-so-gentle nudge by professors and society as a whole to engage more in social media has led me to explore the online world and the various sites within it.
I’ve created accounts on most of the top social media sites in an attempt to create some sort of semblance of an online presence, and I’ve noticed—as I’m sure most have—that these sites tend to overlap in their functions. They all connect me with friends and the world at large, in addition to helping me to create what many have referred to as a “personal brand.”
So with so many different sites to choose from, which is the best social media website for me? I’ve compiled a list of the various sites that I am active on, along with thoughts on each through the eyes of a college-age female looking to interact with friends, eventually enter the workforce, and maybe even pollute the Internet with a few more bad puns.
1. Facebook: Hello Facebook, my old friend. Of all the sites, this is the one that I have used the longest. I first joined in the time when we could send each other “bumper stickers” and it was common courtesy to “poke” your friends on a daily basis.
Those were the days.
Facebook has reportedly dropped in popularity in recent years as the younger generations have immigrated to newer platforms while our parents and grandparents are more frequently setting up camp on the site.
And while some will disagree, I would argue that Facebook is still relevant. To me, Facebook is a necessity simply to cover your social media bases. I know that I personally find it odd if someone doesn’t have a Facebook profile. I see nothing wrong with choosing to remain inactive on the site—so long as you have a Facebook page to speak of.
Facebook is important because of the groups that it allows you to create. I have at least one class each semester with its own private Facebook group, allowing students to communicate with each other and share links. One professor shuns the more formal email and uses Facebook exclusively to update our class.
Facebook may not be “cool” and “hip,” but it does serve a purpose. And it allows my mom to keep up with me, so that’s a plus I guess.
2. Twitter: I was peer pressured into creating an account last year. While I was pretty skeptical of the site at first, I’ve come to love it.
I’m definitely not as skilled at managing my Twitter as some. I have a respectable number of followers and tweets for a generally well liked but not overly popular college sophomore. I’ve yet to crack that secret code that brings in the followers by the thousands. I haven’t been tweeted at by any celebrities despite my attempts to interact with them—though one of my posts was favorited by a Cherie Berry parody account, so there’s that.
For me, twitter is a place to show off my lame attempts at humor and rant about the television shows I watch. It’s kind of empowering to know that I have an audience of almost 200 people that get to hear my thoughts on the latest episode or my musings on my love of chips and salsa.
But it’s not all trivial—Twitter has become a major news source for me since I first began using it. I follow major news accounts like CNN, my college paper, and even Buzzfeed who alert me to breaking news before anyone else. For example, my campus was just recently under lockdown because of an armed man on campus (it ended up being a disgruntled man with a knife) and the campus alert system in place is only able to relay vague messages, oftentimes hours (or even days) late. Naturally, when we received the alert that an “armed man” was on the loose, everyone panicked. But I was able to keep up with what was going on from the tweets of my friends on the college paper who were keeping in contact with the Department of Public Safety and students on campus who had witnessed the initial attack.
Having the blow-by-blow account of the events show up on Twitter gave me a sense of reassurance. Twitter is able to provide up to the minute accounts of anything happening anywhere (so long as there’s an Internet connection), which makes it unlike any other site. And what’s more, it doesn’t always have to be from a major news source. Twitter is where news can be reported on by CNN or by Susan down the street with a smartphone.
I’ve also used Twitter as a way to become more involved with my learning. Three of my classes have their own Twitter accounts that we are asked to follow and engage with. With one in particular we are encouraged to tweet pictures from the class or tweet phrases from lecture that we find particularly interesting. It’s the only class where I’m encouraged to have my phone out at all times, and I’m certainly not complaining.
3. Tumblr: I’ll admit, I use Tumblr more for my own amusement than to really connect with others. I’ve spent hours upon hours scrolling endlessly through that dark blue-screened abyss reblogging scenic pictures, witty phrases and cat gifs.
Tumblr is one of the most expressive social media sites, which is probably due to the fact that a lot of people’s Tumblrs tend to be anonymous. I keep up with a few friends on the site, but the majority of the people whom I follow are total strangers. I have, however, struck up a friendship with “Elizabeth,” a young woman who attends university in Australia and is about my age. We mostly talk about our love of the British comedy-drama My Mad Fat Diary and a few other shows we watch, but we’ve also talked about our siblings and have shared stories about our time at our respective universities.
Tumblr is also a really progressive and diverse collection of individuals. I’ve read some really interesting political and societal commentary on the site, and granted, it’s probably coming from fourteen-year-olds in their bedroom in Michigan, but it’s interesting and insightful nonetheless.
I’d like to note that Tumblr could be used for more than the superficial things I use it for. My best friend has created quite the online following (she’s accumulated a few thousand followers) and interacts with them regularly. She’s even had romantic relationships that started on the site. I suppose I could be leveraging Tumblr to better create my “personal brand” or create connections, but I’m perfectly content for now to mindlessly scroll through the posts after a long day.
4. Pinterest: I love Pinterest because it’s like a more organized Tumblr. Instead of reblogging posts one after the other onto a blog and being unable to find them a few days later, Pinterest allows you to neatly categorize your Pins into nice little boards.
I have separate boards for recipes, quotes, books, movies, clothing, beauty products, and more. It’s a bit like a very unrealistic wish list. The most useful thing that Pinterest does for me is allows me to search for and create boards for different recipes and crafts that I want to try. Whenever I’m in charge of dinner or am asked to bring a dish to a get-together, I usually consult my trusty Pinterest food-themed board or search the site for recipes. The same can be said for crafts. It especially proved useful when I had to create gifts for my Little Sister in my sorority. I dedicated a board to the different gift ideas for her and could look back to it or add to it whenever I needed.
5. Instagram: I’ll be honest; I first created my Instagram account solely to use the different filters. I kept my account on private and uploaded pictures only to apply the “Mayfair” or “Toaster” filters to pictures of trees or my cat in a pathetic attempt to be artsy.
But now that I’ve finally opened my account, I’ve found that I really enjoy it. Like my Twitter, I have a modest following and post fairly sporadically. But unlike Twitter, I think it’s more socially acceptable to have less posts. There’s some sort of unspoken rule where you can post only one picture a day, which takes the pressure off of me to constantly have my phone out to take pictures of my meal or my day spent out at the lake (#BeautifulWeather #lake #blessed).
For me at least, Instagram really doesn’t really serve any other purpose than to allow me to post flattering pictures of myself and of different things I see around campus, as well as creep on my friends and their lives.
6. Google+: I’m incredibly new to Google+ (as in, I just created my account last week). And I know, I know—I should give the site more time before making any judgments. But in my incredibly limited experience with it, I haven’t found anything in Google+ that I haven’t already been offered from the other sites that I’m on. None of my friends are really on it, and I’m having a difficult time understanding the Google+ culture. I know that Twitter is fast paced, witty, and concise. I know that Tumblr is opinionated, expressive, and offbeat. I know that Pinterest is helpful, fun, and organized. But I just can’t quite make out what Google+ is supposed to be.
7. LinkedIn: I’m at that point where LinkedIn is beginning to be a greater presence in my life. My profile is embarrassingly bare—but I do have one, so I have that going for me. Almost every class that I’ve taken these past two semesters has stressed the importance of LinkedIn and cultivating connections.
We had Rob Humphrey, a senior manager from LinkedIn, speak to my “The Branding of Me” class earlier this year. He spoke mostly about the importance of putting yourself out there—which is a concept that I know that I struggle with. He told a story about how his young son went out of his way to procure an internship with the swim team at a university in California—a position that didn’t exist until he contacted the swim coach. It seems to me that LinkedIn really encourages this “go-getter” attitude, but Humphrey also expressed the importance of not overstepping your boundaries when attempting to create connections.
When sending an invitation to connect with someone, creating a personal message is highly recommended. In addition, it’s absolutely imperative (from what I understand) that you know the person to whom you’re sending the invitation. So far my connections consist of friends and a few peers who work on the newspaper with me, but I know that I need to start actively making connections—both on and offline—if I want to be able to be successful after school.
And to some degree, that’s what all of these sites are about: success. Everyone who creates a profile on any one of these sites is attempting to create a personal brand through their online presence (whether they realize it or not). In today’s world, being active online is necessary to get ahead in any field.
So what is the best social media site for me? The truth is that I don’t have an answer, mostly because I don’t think there is one. Each of these sites, from Tumblr to LinkedIn, can be used in different ways to achieve different means. The site that I use to share cat videos with my friends is different from the site where I want to create a professional profile, which is in turn different from the site where I want to post in 140 characters or less what I thought about the new Beyoncé music video.
To me, there’s no best social media site because there’s no best way to use social media.