I got 140 problems and they’re all characters

WEB-social media-Mark Burnham

Bemoaning the modern connection between social media and success

By Alison Roach
Photos by Mark Burnham

Guys, I’m realizing something about myself, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. My name is Alison, and I’m not very good at social media.

Sure, I’ve been using Facebook since I was 14, and goddammit do I love a good hash tag, but when it comes to web interconnectivity I sometimes just don’t have the fucks to give.

It first hit me when our entire paper headed off to Toronto for a big student newspaper conference. One of the first things I learned about getting a couple hundred twenty-something journalists into a room together: the tweeting is outrageous.

The official hash tag thread of the conference was like an explosion of in-jokes, kudos, live-tweeting, and Twitpics. And while most of my newspaper buddies were eagerly thumbing out 140-character pieces of gold, I realized that I hadn’t been on my twitter account for over a year.

Coming into the news editor position this semester made social media seem a lot more important. I’d go to tweet from the @PeakSFU account and I’d realize that I didn’t really know what was appropriate to tweet about. I feel weird about posting every single news story onto our Facebook page and clogging up people’s feeds.

A lot of this is just lack of practice, but I think that some of it may be a deep-seated tendency to not want to shove myself into people’s faces. Maybe it’s shyness, or maybe it’s because when I was young I spent more time reading by myself than telling those long-winded, pointless kid-stories. If I don’t have anything interesting or relevant to say, I’m the type to not say anything at all.

But that doesn’t seem to work now, in an age where “web presence” reigns supreme. Several people lately have asked me why I don’t have a blog. A blog? I thought blogging was a fad that pretty much went extinct save from a bunch of 15-yearolds blogging pictures of attractive people in toques on Tumblr. What am I going to blog about?
I am not against social media. Far from it, I admire anyone who is savvy enough to attract an audience to witness their passing thoughts and fancies.

Maybe it’s because I’m not the greatest at it, but a little part of me resents the fact that to work in media, I have to have
that attractive, on-message profile picture. I have to create a cult of capital-P personality. And this applies to so many fields now; it seems like any sort of successful or innovative career is linked to your Twitter handle.

Notoriety that was formerly reserved for world leaders, innovators, and artists is now available to the people who write about them. A news anchor isn’t just a trusted older gentleman you see on your TV at 6 p.m. every night anymore, he’s Anderson Cooper staring up at you foxily from his pillow in his Twitter profile picture. Not that I have a problem with that — the man is good looking.

Suddenly the question is: how can you be a journalist in this day and age if you’re not live-blogging the same event that you’re planning to write about for your next issue? It all seems a little superfluous to me.

I’ve always thought of news reporting as divorced from personality. News is objective, and it shouldn’t matter where the person you’re hearing it from buys their nice soaps. Maybe this is a dated outlook. I don’t understand The View as a “news source,” and maybe I never will. That isn’t to say that I’m not trying. I try to tweet at least once a day, even if it’s just about buying soap from London Drugs.

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