What is the impact that social media has had on us as individuals? This question is one that we consider on a regular basis as internet marketers, and one that has recently been thrust into the public eye thanks to the Public Isolation Project. The Public Isolation Project is really two simultaneous art pieces: “An Examinable Life”, by Joshua Jay Elliot, and “The Future of Socializing”, by Cristin Norine. For the exhibit, Norine is spending 30 days in a street-level storefront at the Bside6 building in Portland, Oregon. She’s got a bed, a kitchenette, some exercise equipment, a guitar, and of course, a computer. Everything is on public view, with the exception of the bathroom. Whatever Norine does online is projected onto the wall, so that passers-by can literally see her every move. Talk about living inside of a fishbowl.
The artistic statement made by the Public Isolation Project is twofold. The most obvious is in the way that Norine’s life is completely on public display. I value my privacy, and my alone-time. I like being able to come home at the end of the day and to shut the door behind me. Still, I don’t feel so far off from Cristin Norine. I’m online for most of my waking hours. For most of the last ten years, my thoughts, emotions, and the events of my life have been chronicled on the internet in one form or another. It’s easy to live behind the invisible boundary of the computer screen. I think the boost of confidence that our imagined anonymity provides is something that many of us can relate to. While many of us have benefited from a certain level of openness online, the question remains, how much is too much? I believe in full disclosure, but does anyone really care what I had for lunch today? More importantly, what am I sacrificing by being so accessible?
It’s sometimes said that you can’t see the forest for the trees. This certainly applies when it comes to the second statement made by The Public Isolation Project. “Public Isolation”…doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron to you? Think about it, though. Cristin Norine is living her life in full public view. People walk by day and night. A few might stop and tap on the glass. But Cristin has no means of interacting with any of them, besides via the internet. How often do the rest of us actually unplug, and engage in real life? Most of my close friends and family members live out of state, so I love being able to keep up with them via my newsfeeds. At the same time, I’m also guilty of tweeting a message to my roommate across the hall, instead of getting up and walking into the next room. How has social media changed our relationships? Why is it that someone I haven’t seen since the 7th grade knows more about my daily life than those I actually live with do? How would things be different if I actually enjoyed the FULL experience of eating out with friends, rather than spending my time checking in via Foursquare, and taking photos to post on my wall?
So, it’s easy for us to figure out what this might mean for us on a personal level. Maybe I need to get out more. Maybe I need to filter my posts more. What does this mean for us on a business level, though? I think it means that we need to find a balance between the great resource that is social media, and the rest of the world that is in front of us. While it is great to have thousands of fans engaged on Facebook, or following you on Twitter, social media marketing ultimately means nothing unless those people are coming to you and using your business. When you’re using social media, think about what your goal is. What do you want your audience to do? Issue your call to action. Are you looking for feedback? Are you hoping they’ll enlist your services? Maybe you want to establish yourself as a particular authority. It’s important to pay attention to your audience or your customer base online, but you don’t want to lose those offline, either. How can you carry over the online experience into the real world?