Breakdowns in Social Media Conversations

by Guy Ralfe on February 10, 2010

In general the growth of the internet in people’s lives has been closely segregated by demographics, primarily age and location. The old didn’t think they would ever learn how to use these new tools yet alone see the benefit in them and those living in the poorer nations just took longer to get access to the internet. But today you have to go quite far out the way to get away from a connection to the internet which in itself has become a much simpler task, coupled with the user interface becoming so intuitive that more and more of the older generations are now using the internet and its wonders too.

In a recent special article in the Economist, it quotes that if Facebook was a country it would be the third largest by population and this is just one of the social media networks out there. What this brought forth for me is that even though we are can now easily connected to many more people in our networks, our networks are generally age and geography independent as a result.

I have had two interesting situations in the last week that opened my eyes to potential breakdowns in the fast paced and fleeting electronic interactions of social media communications. I am a South African living in Boston, USA. I illustrate in real life what a long distance social media network relationship is like if we were to live them, as I come from a far away land where I call things by different names and I speak with a funny accent to the local American community.

The other day I was at the Home Depot store, where I made an inquiry to a store attendant about the ‘fall’ required in a particular DIY plumbing application. The store attendant looked at me blankly and did not understand me. He actually gave up on me until I picked up some parts and showed him what I was asking – “oh you mean the ‘pitch’ he replied”, YES!

The very next day we were interviewing and we asked the applicant if they had any experience performing data queries? The applicant looked at us blankly, and responded NO! Then my colleague gave some examples just to dig a little further, to which the applicant responded like running a catalog inquiry? YES.

If you have traveled internationally lately you will have noticed HSBC Bank’s advertising campaign “The World’s Local Bank” that seem to cover most airports today. This campaign illustrating these differences brilliantly as in the sample below.

In our online social conversations we need to be mindful of peoples backgrounds, particularly as the amount of time spent in these conversations today are briefer and shorter, many opportunities may be missed.

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