THE BLOG
07/18/2014 11:39 am ET Updated Sep 17, 2014

Defining Our Role in Social Media

Being connected nowadays means more than knowing a lot of important people. Social media and the Internet have made being connected less of a status and more of an activity. Whether your poison is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or one of the myriad of other formats, once you are connected, you become part of the virtual online community. What has changed the most in recent times is the advent of more powerful smartphones, which further extend the reach of social media from beyond our desktops to mountain tops, beaches, and shopping malls. Social Media is so ingrained into our collective lives that many of us would feel lost without it. But what is the role of a social media citizen? Just like in real life, it depends on what you do with it.

Real society defines who we are and what our roles are based on who we talk to, what we do, and who we know. A baker in Wichita, Kansas, might have a different role than, say, a software programmer in Silicon Valley. Part of it lies in our different lifestyles, how we live and what we do day by day. But we typically have an understanding of what our routines are like, who we are friends with, what we do for a living, and how we enjoy our time off.

Social media extends our reach to more people who might be farther away. It breaks through differences in time, distance, and in many cases through race and religion. With that much connection, what are we supposed to do? Some of us are commentators; people who hop onto threads and throw in our two cents here and there. Some of us are soap-boxers who have to let our feelings be known to the world for all to see. Some of us are wanderers, who don't necessarily participate in social media except to just be connected and take our place on someone's contact list. Many of us are sharers who enjoy showing others images, funny webpages and words of wisdom.

What is common to everyone is that we are connected in order to interact with others. As humans, we like to feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Being connected means that you're in the loop, and that you will always have access to the world around you.

Ultimately, your role in social media is defined by how you interact with it.

In philosophy there is a concept that many would consider "the meaning of life." Very simply put, "Your life is defined by how you interact with the environment around you and how your environment reacts to what you do." This message holds true in the social media world as well. What you do, good or bad, is reflected in how others react to your actions. You define your role the same way you define your real self -- by doing or saying good or bad things.

Social media is an extension of our real lives. It has both the power to enhance the world around us, or to ruin it. Whether you're a social media butterfly or a social media fly-on-the-wall, you are part of the virtual community. Think about your role in how you contribute to this community.

... it only takes a mouse click to define your role, online and in reality...