Overwhelmed by social media? (File photo)

COLUMN: The power of a social media message

An engagement announcement generated hundreds of responses and comments

Over the last decade, I’ve watched the rise of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. In the past few weeks, I have experienced firsthand the immense power of social media.

On Boxing Day, Kim and I announced our engagement with a Facebook status update and a short post.

Seconds later, the responses and congratulatory messages began to come in, and throughout the day there were plenty of comments from friends.

Later that day, while we were out for a walk downtown, a friend stopped to congratulate us. She had learned of the news from the Facebook status update and post.

Within 48 hours, we had received more than 500 responses and hundreds of comments. The comments are still coming in.

Although we both know quite a lot of people in Summerland and beyond, I’m still overwhelmed with the number of responses we have received.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. A lot of people are using social media.

Facebook alone has two billion monthly active users worldwide. Instagram has more than 800 million active users, while Twitter has 330 million. The numbers are growing.

This means a social media message has the potential to reach a lot of people in a short time.

Social media provides a platform for all who have something to say. Anyone with access to a computer, tablet or smartphone can post a message.

However, not every post or message will generate a large response.

If I replied to every social media message I see, I would have little time left for anything else.

Instead, I’ve had to pick and choose which messages will receive my attention. It’s much the same as choosing the books or articles I’ll read, the movies I’ll watch and music on my playlists.

None of us has time for all the material available to us.

I’ve been thinking about how I make this choice and why I’ll pay attention to some social media posts but not to others.

For instance, I don’t spend much time on meme images, brain-teaser puzzles, single-panel cartoons or links to pundits — unless the person posting the link also tells me why he or she cares about it.

One-line political statements or other pithy sentiments, especially if they are posted without comment, leave me feeling jaded. These are the online equivalent of bumper stickers. Too often these statements express outrage, without explaining the reasons behind the anger or frustration.

Those who chose to take on the role of keyboard crusaders do so because they believe in the importance of their message. They believe others need to know about their cause.

Such messages may be important, but I’ll care far more about other posts I see online.

If someone in the community posts on a local Facebook group about bad winter driving conditions, I’ll take note. This information affects me directly.

And I’ll pay special attention when a friend talks about a milestone birthday or anniversary, a graduation, a new job, a death or illness in the family, a vacation or other personal news.

I’ve chosen to follow these people online because I care about them and I want to know what’s happening in their lives. Their news matters to me.

The overwhelming response after Kim and I shared the news of our engagement showed that those following us online care about us and want to know what is happening in our lives.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review

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