Social media queen: Her take on the Internet scene

Avid blogger and media socialite Sholeh Loehle answers questions about her Internet experiences and impressions.

Sholeh Samadani Loehle's blog

SHOLEH’S SOCIAL MEDIA CRED

  • Classmates – 2002
  • Friendster – 2003
  • Myspace – 2004
  • Facebook – 2005
  • Flickr – 2005
  • Skype – 2005
  • Twitter – 2007

Q 1: When new social media spring up, how do you determine whether to use or ignore? Are there some that you use for whatever reason (all your friends do) that you don’t like? Vice versa?

Blogging was my first love, really, and I don’t think I’ll ever give it up.  I’ve been a fairly early adopter for many social networking sites, encouraged by friends who are also early adopters.  I think it is easier to get into this stuff if you have a group of people around you who are enthusiastic about it.

The first thing for me is usability in a site.  If it is clunky or awkward, I generally don’t use a site.  I don’t like paying for services, but I did pay to have a full account on Livejournal for a few years, and I still pay for a Flickr pro account.

I use Facebook, but I have so many friends on the site now that it is information overload.  Quite frankly, I use it more like an address book these days, as I simply don’t have the time to look at everything people post (nor do I care!).

Q 2: Talk about blogging, which you’ve done in some shape or form since early 2001. What kind of evolution have you seen in this trend? How did your early ‘Web log’ experiments prepare you for flickr, facebook, Twitter?

Originally I had a very primitive website where I would write thoughts, but there wasn’t enough room there.  One of my friends who lived in Georgia had a Livejournal, and he suggested that I start journaling there.  In those days the term “blog” was rarely, if ever, used.  We were all very trusting and open.  I still have everything I wrote then, but a few years back I made everything private.  The ramblings of a 17 year old are not something that I necessarily want floating around the internet.

I was on an internet forum back in 2001 that a friend of mine started called Bahaiyouth.com, which was a religious community for young people who were Bahá’ís or interested in the Bahá’í Faith.  It was the early days of avatars and profiles, and I was quite active on the forum.  I made a number of friends around the world through that site, and my communication with them probably made me more inclined to use social networking sites.  Interestingly enough, I can probably name at least 10 people that I knew on the site then that continue to be active social networkers, and who are still friends of mine.

Q 3: What do you think is the future for online social media? How is the direction the technology is moving in decided?

I still prefer blogs.  Maybe I’m “old-fashioned”, but I have a hard time connecting with people through all of the chatter.  I like well thought-out posts, being able to see the evolution of someone’s thought process, and the “permanence” of blogs.  I use Twitter daily, as do many of my friends, but I don’t always like it.

I think that users are moving toward mobile usage.  We all like having things instantly.  I was at a dinner in March, someone asked a question that no one knew the answer to, and 10 people pulled out iPhones to look it up.  The combination of users, companies, and innovative new media is driving our usage.  Could most of us have imagined Twitter in 2006? No, but now it is part of our cultural vocabulary.

Q 5: What role does all your social media play in your life? What role do you think you play in this virtual space?

Embarassingly enough, I do walk around thinking “Oh, that would make a good blog post.” or “I should take a photo of this to post on Flickr.” or “I’m going to tweet that.”  It is pretty well integrated into my daily life.  My friends are all aware that I’m a walking social media network.  As one of my friends said: “If the internet disappeared, Sholeh would also disappear.” –Sarah

According to Malcolm Gladwell, I’d probably be considered a “connector”, at least within a certain social sphere.  I don’t know how this all happened, quite frankly.  However, I get emails/messages/texts/tweets on a daily basis, asking me to make introductions, get information, or trying to find someone to photograph their wedding or babysit their kid.  I sometimes feel like a cross between Google, Craigslist, and Facebook, with a dash of Myspace drama thrown in.

Q 6: Do you consider yourself in any way a citizen journalist?

Not really.  I’m more of a passive information gatherer.  I used to share information and trends more, but I’ve found that there are already people out there doing such things.  My role is more of a…moderator between people, perhaps?  I think that the key is to find something that you’re passionate about, find your niche, and build on it.  Mine is a bit murky, as I don’t seem to write about anything in particular.  I write poetry and prose, I post pictures, and I write about my religion, the Bahá’í Faith.

I do rely on my social contacts to relay information to me.  There have been many significant recent historical events that I found out about when I opened up my social networking sites.

Q 4: Will the Internet ever really start to make money?

Oh, I think parts of it already are.  We’re accustomed to paying extra for certain services, and we will continue to find ways to make money.  Sometimes we forget that the internet has not really been around all that long, and its potential is still being understood.  I have no doubt that people will always find a way to make money.

Q 7: Are there any drawbacks to social media use today? What are they? And what are the positive aspects? Talk about these developments might be a sign of society advancing.

People seem to have very little control over themselves online.  There are things that I have learned about acquaintances that are really quite inappropriate, or just things that I would personally never share.

Early on in my networking life I made a few rules for myself.  I would not write about work, I would not gossip, and I would try very hard not to be critical of people.  There is so much garbage out there, and as I began to study business in university, I realized that all of my social networking was a form of brand management.  I was managing my personal brand in 2003 when I launched my independent blog, carefully maintaining a certain image.  You can Google “Sholeh” and the first thing that comes up is my blog.  I’m lucky that my first name is very uncommon.

I love that I have friends all over the world and am able to stay in close contact with many of them, often on a daily basis.  It is exciting to see people connected to events that are happening thousands of miles away from them, especially in the rather self-involved Western world.  You see this in organizations that address problems in developing countries by using the resources of social networks to fund and manage their projects.  This is very exciting to me, and I hope to see this develop further.  The possibilities for educating people using social networks are many, but I do get frustrated when I see people wasting their time on social networks instead of using them for a higher purpose.

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