I've been participating in the PR Student Chat, a monthly feature run by a great group of public relations professionals, educators and students on Twitter (Twitter hashtag: #prstudchat – a somewhat less than apt abbreviation, but that's Twitter for you).
I've "met" a number of folks via the chat, including Josh Morris, a senior at the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa and soon-to-be PR pro. Several of Josh's post-chat tweets intrigued me.
"What's more relevant these days: my real name or my Twitter handle? I'm tempted to include both on everything I do," Josh tweeted, followed shortly thereafter by "And trust me, more people know me by my Twitter handle than by my birth name. Is this where we're headed for good?
I wondered about those questions. Social media applications like Facebook and Twitter have certainly extended our social "range." Just a few clicks and I was part of a list of PR educators – a list that would have taken who-knows-how-long to assemble just a few years ago. But in our quest for more breadth on the social spectrum – following or friending more people, being followed or friended by more – are we sacrificing depth in those relationships, simply for lack of time? Are we now more social in theory and less social in practice?
In a way, I suppose this trend simply mirrors a slower evolution in media consumption habits over a generation or two. The lengthy newspaper piece that left you flipping to find the jump page gave way to the 90-second television news story that now gets repeated in the 30-second or less web clip. In the process, our understanding of key issues like the economy has increasingly narrowed to the width of a foot path – particularly among young people.
Is the same thing happening with social media? Will we "know" a greater number of people by their Twitter handle more so than their name, as Josh suggests? I would tend to agree. Whether that's good or bad for us remains to be seen. Josh, I'm glad to have met you. Someday I hope to shake your hand.
My thanks to Josh Morris for permission to quote his tweets. You can find him at @PRjoshmorris on Twitter or on his blog at http://prisonerofinterest.wordpress.com/.