What the Heck is Social Media?

For those old enough to remember telephone party lines, social media is similar. According to Wikipedia, the Internet’s version of an encyclopedia, “The completely non-private party lines were a cultural fixture of rural areas for many decades, and were frequently used as a source of entertainment and gossip, as well as a means of quickly alerting entire neighborhoods in case of emergencies such as fires.”

Social media is today’s party line. It is a 24/7 connection that allows communication with family, friends, and others in the worldwide Internet community. You can use it for personal or business — or both.

What can you do with social media?

  • Chat with family and friends
  • Learn what’s going on in your neighborhood
  • Share recipes
  • Find sales, coupons, specials, and deals
  • Discuss your hobby
  • Promote your company
  • Find a new job
  • Brag about yourself or your family
  • Share photos
  • Sell a product
  • Tell others about a great book
  • Get a recommendation for a service provider
  • Read what others are saying about a restaurant
  • Discover something new

The list is virtually endless.

One of the best ways I describe social media is with 4 Cs – Connections, Conversations, Communities, and Chameleon.


Just like in the “real” world, social media is about making connections and finding others who have similar likes, hobbies, histories, and goals. Through social media I caught up with a junior high friend, chatted with my daughter who is away at college, got a free taco from Taco Bell, received advice on how to make a Yule cake, became a “fan” of AARP, and made a connection with a guy who makes wire names at events for a living – all in one afternoon.


Social media and Web 2.0 are based on two-way conversations – sharing what we know with others. Social media etiquette focuses on “giving” rather than “receiving” – on providing information rather than selling. You can direct your conversations to just one person, a few people, or anyone who may be on the Internet. You can even choose to just “listen in” on conversations.


Social media and parties have a lot in common. You can be a wallflower, but you’ll have more fun if you engage others. Ask how someone is doing or comment on their “status,” then share your thoughts and accomplishments. Just as in the real world, online communities are built with those who share common interests and conversational exchanges.  Give compliments freely.


Social media is constantly changing. Just when you get comfortable with an application or program, a new, improved version comes out. Like a chameleon, you learn to adapt. That’s part of the fun – there’s always something new to learn or to explore – and since you’ve read this far, you’re obviously ready to begin the adventure.

Why Should You Care about Social Media?

Frankly, you don’t need to. You could spend the rest of your life without being involved in social media, and you’d be just fine. But just like the cell phone and email have become part of your daily life, social media is also a great way to connect. You can keep up to date with family, friends, co-workers, companies, and customers as well as potential employers, employees, clients, and even new friends.

Ready to “hit the road” of social media? All you need to get started is your computer, an email address, a photo (a headshot works best) and your enthusiasm. Before we begin our journey in the next blog, answer the short poll on the right side of this page so we can see where we are starting.  In the meantime, if you haven’t done so already, click the “Sign up!” button on the right to receive an email every time I write a new blog.

I’m not selling anything. No strings attached. Just “reciprocating.” Welcome to the world of social media. Share what you know. Feel free to comment below. Send questions, and I’ll try to address them in future blog updates. 

Next blog topic:  Who do you want to be online?

Technotari Claim:  A6WTCPAR5C5W

4 comments to What the Heck is Social Media?

  • Joan Brainard

    Here’s my question and perhaps it will be answered as your blog goes on from week to week. Regarding conversations – how do you find, pick and chose who to converse with on the various social media? Or will that be evident if I went to the web site i.e., twitter, face book etc. And why am I getting email saying someone is seeking me? Already told you about the right hand side of the page info does not print out, in fact, just checked, it doesn’t show on the screen either. Joan

  • Hi Joan!
    Great questions.
    Regarding how to find, pick and chose conversations: In the coming weeks, I plan to highlight each of the social media sites. In the introductory explanation of each site, I will discuss how you find “friends,” “connections,” “subscribers,” or “followers” and the basic etiquette of each site. As I explain each site, it should become clearer. So, stay tuned!
    I’m not sure I understand your email saying someone is “seeking” you. Since I am not familiar with a site that has people “seek” others, I am hesitant to tell you to reply. Just as in the “real world,” you need to be careful about who you interact with. It may be a harmless site but don’t engage if you don’t feel comfortable. Forward the email to me with a note and I’ll let you know if the request is legitimate.
    Regarding your issue with not seeing all of my blog content: Email subscribers receive each blog as soon as I post it. As an email subscriber, if you want to participate in the polls and see the information posted in the sidebar section of my blog, you just need to click on the blog’s title in the email. You will be directed to the http://www.karenemanreciprocate.wordpress.com site where you can participate in my polls and comment on my blogs.

  • Leticia Pavon Villasenor

    Social networking also means looking up significant people in your life. My childhood best friend, Angelica, attended SF Conservatory of Music in the 70’s. Looking to reconnect with piano teacher/mentor Joan Brainard. Please respond, if correct, directly to my email Lpavon@aol.com.

  • Karen Emanuelson

    Hi Leticia,

    I don’t know if the Joan Brainard who has commented on my blog posting is the Joan Brainard you are seeking. I have forwarded your comments to her — I hope there is a connection. The Joan Brainard who previously commented on my post is a strong, wonderful woman who has taught me many life lessons.