Blog

The secret to understanding social media...? A pint.

Image by Travel Junction

Image by Travel Junction

This is a conversation I have at least once a week (usually over a beer)...

Friend: “What’s the point of [insert social media network here]? I just don’t get it."
Me: "Have you ever tried it?"
Friend:  "I’ve got an account and I look at it on my lunch hour sometimes, but it still makes no sense."
Me: "Five minutes on your lunch break as you scratch your head and chomp on a tuna sandwich probably won’t help.  Have you ever posted anything?"
Friend: "No!" 
Me:  "Well there you go then.  That’s like standing in the middle of a pub, not ordering a drink, not talking to anyone and leaving after 5 minutes."

Bored of having this conversation over and over again (sorry friends), I have decided to write a definitive guide to three of the main social media platforms using this pub analogy because there’s nothing that hits the metaphorical spot than a metaphorical pint in a metaphorical drinking establishment.

Twitter is a pub

Image by Jakub Hlavaty - Flickr

Image by Jakub Hlavaty - Flickr

You know those old English boozers that are open all day for the regulars, get all the after work crowd and at weekends, it's so loud you can't think?  That’s Twitter.  It’s noisy, it’s smelly, it’s full of bullsh*t and you can find some of the funniest people in the world in there.  There are people having business meetings next to idiots who only frequent the place to cause trouble.  There’s a knitting group huddling in a corner discussing the relative merits of crochet. There’s a celebrity who’s trying to be ‘one of the people’, but won’t talk to you or meet your eye.  There are posters advertising businesses and someone handing out flyers for a gym round the corner. There's a wally from a big corporation talking loudly about this year's sales figures. No one pays any attention to him.  Occasionally, a fight breaks out.  You can walk into this pub knowing no one, and strike up a conversation with ANYONE, as long as you’re polite and friendly. It's the place to go for banter, for news and for lots of different opinions from people you’ve never met - journalists, writers, comedians, musicians - they’re all just chewing the fat, berating politicians and sharing things that make them smile.  And when you’ve had enough, you leave the pub knowing you can come back at any time and find a totally different group of people talking about totally different things.

Facebook is a family party

Image - Stepping Stones by Chris (Flickr)

Image - Stepping Stones by Chris (Flickr)

If Twitter is a pub, then Facebook is the function room upstairs where you and your friends and family gather for a party.  It’s VERY popular (and you seem to be in there ALL the time), but it’s a bit bland, it’s a bit uncool and it’s mostly people aged 30 and up (with a few young kids thrown in for good measure).  This is the place you and your friends and family commemorate births, deaths and marriages.  Everyone in there is someone you’ve worked with, slept with or got drunk with and the conversation is very polite until late at night when you’ve had one too many and you say something embarrassing/revealing/overly emotional.  The only time there’s any real argy bargy is when the topic turns to politics and you have to intervene when your Uncle Jeff starts spouting nonsense about immigrants to that lovely Afghan colleague you met at a conference last year.  It's all very friendly on the surface, but you get the impression that the staff are watching you very closely.  Too closely.  It's creepy.  Whatever you do, don’t try and put up any promotional posters. You have to pay for that. 

Instagram is a cocktail bar at sunset

Image by Robert Ventre

Image by Robert Ventre

The light is golden and flattering. The setting is atmospheric. Everything seems beautiful. That glass on the table is breathtaking.  Your toenails look ravishing.  Look at that pattern on the floor!  Instagram is the place to see and be seen. It’s cool. It’s full of young people who effortlessly glide around this environment in a way you wish you could. There are adverts everywhere, but they're so stylish and aspirational that you just don’t mind, because EVERYTHING IS SO BEAUTIFUL.  Before you go to this bar, you spend HOURS getting ready, making sure you perfect that ‘natural’, just thrown together sort of look.  There are people doing yoga on the beach, there are motivational quotes on the walls behind you and there is delicious looking food everywhere.  Literally everywhere.  You can’t move for plates of food. No one really cares who’s there, and no one really talks to each other, because when everything’s this beautiful, who needs conversation? 

So...that's it.

Twitter = boozer.

Facebook = family party.

Instagram = cocktail bar at sunset.

If you ever find yourself looking at an unfamiliar social network wondering 'Who will I find in there?'; 'What should I say in there?'; or 'Why do people go there?'. Just imagine it's a real place, with real people, and pop in for a virtual pint. It'll all make sense after a beer and a chat.


Debbie Sheringham

@DebShez