The Social Intern: Navigating life on- and offline

Social listening is one of my major duties at my internship. But don’t be fooled; there’s no hearing involved. Rather, I monitor bottomless feeds of text, scrolling down for so long that I feel like I’m being sucked down into the screen, into the vast expanses of the blogosphere (FYI, not a pleasant feeling. I’m not sure there’s oxygen out in that hostile environment).

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Intern’s-eye view. Photo by Gabrielle Nygaard

But then suddenly the door will open and I’m confronted face-to-face with a real, live person, wrenching me into an entirely different dimension. My desk sits smack in front of the door to the office, and I’m meant to greet guests.

It’s a jarring transition from the social world to the real social world, and one I stumble through. I inevitably come off a twinge awkward. After being chained to a computer all day, I seem to forget how to talk to people face-to-face. I’m only fluent in Twitter and data entry.

Social, in the context of my Digital and Social Media Internship, can be so unsocial, and digital communication so directly indirect. It’s paradoxical situation, and one we face increasingly in our everyday lives.

Does social media make us less social? Are we really connecting with people, or are these technologies just a sly barrier to real human interaction? Where do our “real” lives stop and digital ones start; how do we conduct ourselves differently and manage all our identities in person and online?

There’s no clear answer. We’re all trying to figure it out as we go, one day and one tweet at a time. And before we can pin down the answers, it seems like the next frontier has already opened, bringing with it a whole new set of quandaries (Graph Search, go away… I’m not ready to unravel you). My internship is simply an exaggerated case of what we all go through, struggling to find fluidity in negotiating the on and offline worlds.

I’ll let you know if I discover the key to a successful social switch… but I figure your chances are as good as mine.

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One thought on “The Social Intern: Navigating life on- and offline

  1. Bravo for addressing the key issues in social media today. Where is this all going? Do we really want to go there? This is much more interesting than reading a blow-by-blow account of Graph Search. If you’re able to, you might create a further post that examines how these issues are discussed at your internship site – or not.

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