Social media can make you a better writer

Poynter covered a South by Southwest panel of media gurus who discussed how social media has affected the way we write and speak. The panelists included Fast Company’s Neal Ungerleider; McKinney’s Gail Marie; Digitaria’s Kristina Eastham; and Sean Carton, director for digital communication commerce and culture at the University of Baltimore.

They said that journalistic use of social media actually encourages writers to proofread because they are being read immediately by a large audience who will point out errors. The social media sphere also offers journalists the chance to become the cream of the crop with their writing: with so many people delegating themselves to a wonky shorthand, a well-constructed sentence will catch the smart reader’s eye.

In addition to advancing our lexicon with terms like “friended” and “liked,” social media reminds us that changes in language don’t necessarily reflect degeneration, but more likely a shift we must embrace and try to preempt. It should make us excited that diction and syntax is so malleable.

And online media has taught us to value short storytelling, which can often be more interesting because it forces the writer to fill the post with meaning. “Shorter is better–if you can do it well,” Gail Marie said at the panel. “It takes some level of skill.”

Pew releases social media demographics for 2012

This isn't your mom and dad's Internet anymore. (Credit: LSE Library/Flickr)

This isn’t your mom and dad’s Internet anymore. (Credit: LSE Library/Flickr)

Pew released its research on the demographics of social media users for 2012. Jim Romenesko put them together in a pithy breakdown. Two-thirds of adults who use the Internet use Facebook, which was way ahead of all other sites. Sixteen percent are on Twitter, doubled from November 2010. Young people are more likely to use Facebook and Twitter, and women are more likely to use Facebook than men. Pinterest attracts more white people. Instagram has more African-American and Hispanic users than whites. Though Tumblr brings up the rear with only 6 percent of Internet users, it’s much more popular among young people, with 13 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds online signed up.

Social Media Sites Cover Politics

Tumblr’s GIFs entered the 2012 political conversation. (Flickr Creative Commons: elephantonadiet)

The 2012 debates were definitely important for momentum in the campaign.  But in covering them, we know that one or two moments make for the lasting impressions (Romney’s Big Bird; Biden’s malarkey).  Tumblr has made GIFs and memes so popular that they have become part of the political conversation–and the website hasn’t stopped there.

They’ve hired people to blog about the election, and in doing so have furthered the notion of social media’s primacy in the future of journalism.

YouTube has an election channel, and Yahoo provides extensive news coverage to go with its email services.

While everyone’s still feeling out the best way to use digital tools for journalism, we need to be watching for successful prototypes of what may be successful soon.  Since the 2008 election, social media has earned the respect it’s always deserved.  Now what’s next?