Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Social media makes everything better

Thank you to BING Social Search for sponsoring my post about social media. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

104 people wished me a happy birthday on Facebook this week. I also got one e-greeting card (Thanks, Mom) and just two old fashioned paper cards in the mail. Some scoff that Facebook birthday wishes somehow "don't count" because the social networking site dutifully reminds us and writing a message on someone's wall takes mere seconds. But getting a constant scroll of shout-outs from former colleagues, high school classmates, roller derby gals and people from my synagogue who otherwise would never celebrate with me? Well, that they thought about me at all on my birthday felt pretty awesome, really.

Now that everyone and their mother are on Facebook, some are saying interest has peaked and people are going to start disabling their accounts (or at least going dormant in order to get through finals or a new business pitch). But while I have no doubt Facebook will eventually evolve or get replaced by something altogether different, social media overall is here to stay. Not because we desperately want to see our long-lost friends' newborn baby pictures or get links to funny Daily Show episodes, but because it's useful.

Imagine for a minute you need a plumber. A massage therapist. Or a babysitter. Once upon a time that meant "letting your fingers do the walking" or calling up all your friends and neighbors for a recommendation. Now I don't have to set aside half a day for leaving voice mails or hope that the roofer with the biggest Yellow Pages ad is honest; I can look for detailed reviews and feedback on him--as well as massage therapists, dermatologists and hair removal specials--on Angie's List and Yelp. When I need a babysitter, I check Sittercity. When I'm planning a vacation, I use TripAdvisor. Job seekers have LinkedIn, photography enthusiasts connect on Flickr and parents can look research schools on a variety of websites. Even recipe websites have gone social--on Foodily, you can connect with your friends and see which recipes they've enjoyed.

Facebook and Twitter might be time-sucks and a drain on my personal productivity, but social media has saved me money, research time and frustration by giving me instant access to the recommendations of friends and strangers alike.