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A Decade Of Social Media

Audio

Aired 12/21/09

The way we use social media has evolved in the last decade. It's now part of our culture and most of our daily lives. We take a look at its evolution, what's hot right now, and what's to store for the future.

DOUG MYRLAND (Host): I’m Doug Myrland, filling in for Maureen Cavanaugh, and you’re listening to These Days on KPBS. During this hour, we’re going to continue our theme of talking about changes in our society during the last decade, and today we’ll focus on the rise of social media. Our guests today are MultimediaMomma blogger and print reporter/multimedia producer for Nicole Vargas, who is a reporter and multi-media producer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, and also teaches about social media at San Diego State University. Nicole, welcome.

NICOLE VARGAS (Multi-Media Producer, San Diego Union-Tribune): Thank you for having me.

MYRLAND: We also welcome Nate Ritter, who’s a web developer and an expert user of social media. Nate, glad you could be with us.

NATE RITTER (Social Media Consultant): Thank you.

MYRLAND: Well, I want to start with just an overview of social media platforms that we’ve seen come and go during the last decade. And, Nicole, I thought maybe we could start with you and just jump right into talking about Facebook.

VARGAS: Facebook. Well, Facebook’s a very interesting application. Originally, it was created as an opportunity for college students, particularly in the Ivy League, to communicate, and eventually it slowly grew and grew its customer base or its base of followers and fans and participants into what’s now enough people to pretty much populate a large country. It’s become incredibly popular, very easy to use, and it really suits a number of different needs for people whether they’re, you know, people who are just interested in connecting with long-lost friends, people who are interested in building a business, people who just want to pass the time and play some silly games. There’s an opportunity for that as well. But it’s really allowed for the people to have an ability to connect and to connect with people that either they don’t see on a regular basis or maybe that they’ve lost touch with. So that’s probably one of the things that Facebook is really interesting about because it really does make those connections that maybe would have been lost otherwise.

MYRLAND: And we, I think it’s fair to say, that here in 2009 it’s kind of the hottest social media that we’ve got going this month, right?

VARGAS: I think it’s pretty safe to say that. And that was…

MYRLAND: And, Nate, you agree with that?

RITTER: Oh, yeah.

VARGAS: Yeah.

RITTER: Yeah.

MYRLAND: Although it seems to me that tweeting or Twitter…

VARGAS: Yes.

MYRLAND: …is kind of right up there. And, Nate, maybe you can help us kind of understand the differences that a person – the different experience one has between tweeting and being on Facebook.

RITTER: Yeah, the – You know, it’s extremely different. The biggest – it’s pretty obvious when you look at the social network itself what exactly you do. The most obvious thing is that in Twitter, there’s only one box that you can update, one thing that you can really do and that is just to post a message and that’s it. So, you know, there’s little idiosyncrasies between how you utilize that and little parts about, you know, how you direct message or how you message somebody through the network or things like that but it’s really still one big box. And, otherwise, if you look at Facebook, there’s all kinds of other things that you can do, applications built on it that you can, you know, play games or, you know, bring up college classmates, make up your own directories, do all kinds of things, have your own fan pages and all kinds of things like that, lots of ways to interact on Facebook. And just one box on Twitter.

MYRLAND: Ah. I almost want to make a technological distinction and say that Facebook is something you do on your laptop or on your computer whereas tweeting is almost more of a handheld device, sort of an extension of text messaging, would you both agree with that?

VARGAS: Yes and no. I think that now with the – One thing that is very interesting towards the end of this decade has been the surge of mobile devices and, really, anything can be done on a mobile device now. And so it’s almost, yes, Facebook is maybe more friendly to a laptop, much more than Twitter. You see the Twitters numbers. The participation numbers directly to Twitter actually aren’t as high as they might be because of all these third-party applications that allow you to use them on other application – on other – on things like mobile phones. But, you know, I think it’s become so interchangeable now. I mean, the ability for a smart phone to do what it can do – I mean, we were talking about this in the Green Room before stepping in here. It really does, you know, I mean, it really does change the game completely.

MYRLAND: Well, and I want to ask maybe an unanswerable question and that is—and forgive me for rambling a bit here but—my wife just got a new phone and her phone has a touch screen and a very friendly keyboard interface and allows her to text message in a very easy way. I have an older phone, a more old-fashioned – it’s not really that old but it’s a more old-fashioned kind of flip phone, and text messaging for me is a matter of, you know, using the phone keyboard to do texting. And we were saying to each other that the quality of the experience and the relationship with that instrument sort of influences, in an odd way, one’s communication with one’s friends. And could you talk a little bit more about the experience of the interface as it relates to the experience of the social networking?

RITTER: That is a – that’s an interesting question. I haven’t had that one before.

VARGAS: That’s…

MYRLAND: Well, and we were even talking about the different typefaces that…

RITTER: Sure.

MYRLAND: …that her phone, sort of the typeface looks friendly and interesting and it’s readable and where on my phone it’s much, much colder and it just seemed like it had an influence on the way we felt about the messages…

VARGAS: Umm-hmm.

MYRLAND: …that we received.

RITTER: Well, yeah, I think, you know, I think, you know, without naming names, there’s definitely some brands out there that do user interface much, much better and it makes you want to use the phone. It makes you want to communicate more or do whatever it is that you do on that phone. And, you know, the old style phones, you know, the ones with just three letters on one, you know, key, those are difficult to type with, they take a long time, you know, and time is kind of the big deal, the big factor these days. So, you know, if it’s going to take a long time to do something, I’m generally not going to do it or it’s, you know, I’m going to find another tool. There’s – An interesting thing about these days right now is that there are so many tools available to us, we get to pick and choose what we want to use to communicate with our friends or our family or whatever.

VARGAS: That’s…

RITTER: So having a really nice user interface, something that’s got a nice keyboard and that kind of thing and maybe has applications on it or something that makes it easier to use, is going to make it a lot easier to communicate in that fashion. So, for instance, putting a Facebook application on an iPhone or on a Google Phone or something like that is going to be, you know, it’s going to lend itself to communicating through that medium a lot faster and a lot easier and you’re probably more apt to do it than on, say, just the mobile web, you know, that you would get on a regular phone.

MYRLAND: Now during this program we’re going to be talking about all kinds of different social networking platforms, not just Twitter and not just Facebook. But it seems to me that even bypassing a formal network and just having a phone, a simple one like mine, takes photos, sends text, I send photos, I send an occasional text, despite the fact that I’m clumsy at it because of the keyboard. I’m actually participating in social networking even though I’m not on Facebook, I’m not on Skype, I’m not on – I want to get into those kinds of implications about how all of us are part of this new social networking technology whether we really think we are or not. But we do need to take a break and to hear from some very, very interesting people with some very interesting messages. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS, and we’ll be right back after this break.

MYRLAND: You’re listening to These Days in San Diego. I’m Doug Myrland, filling in for Maureen Cavanaugh, and we’re talking about social media with Nicole Vargas from the Union-Tribune and Nate Ritter, who’s a web developer and expert user of social media. And we want to turn back the clock now a little bit to 1985 and, Nate, talk to us a moment about one of the first social networking applications on the web called The Well.

RITTER: Yeah, The Well is probably one of the first networks that we would probably consider social – a social media in somewhat of its traditional form – or, it’s current form. It was created originally actually as a paid model and still is a paid model. It still exists today. It’s mostly used by quite a few prominent journalists from the New York Times and people like that. And it, you know, it discusses everything from, you know, surface level type of topics to extremely deep or concerning topics, and everything in between. So it doesn’t have the traditional features that we think of as a social network right now but it was started originally basically to create community. And social – I mean, if we think about social networking in general, you know, it goes back to concepts built on the 1800s but The Well as an online organization is the – it was kind of the first one to span geographic boundaries and really provide some sort of sense of community.

MYRLAND: Then that brings us up to this decade and, Nicole, you were talking about Facebook being started in – just in this decade.

VARGAS: Right. Exactly. It was started in 2004 and was, like I said, an Ivy League. And it was, I believe it was Harvard students that were involved in building it and the goal was to connect students on that campus and then it slowly expanded to include other university students, then we saw it reach down into high schools and to lower education, and now, really, anyone who wants to sign up can, and that’s resulted in the last number I found just quickly surfing the web was 300 million users. And that’s a lot of, lot of, lot of people. And actually it’s a really interesting group of people because a lot of people tend to think social media is all for – it’s a teenybopper, you know, it’s all about, you know, youngsters and teenagers, you know, communicating with each other but, really, like Nate was saying, in the case of The Well, you know, it’s something that journalists and people who aren’t necessarily of the teenybopper generation are using. And you look at Facebook, one of the fastest growing demographics there are users who are 35 and older. And so many people now look to Facebook and while not only do they see their friends and people that they maybe work with but they also see their parents. And it’s really become this very interesting kind of model for bridging a generation gap because it doesn’t matter what your age is, there’s a very good likelihood that you’re on Facebook.

MYRLAND: Let’s talk a little bit about some other similar or even dissimilar forums that have come and gone or that are still here. How about Skype?

VARGAS: Yes, Skype, well, Skype’s kind of an interesting one because it’s kind of a social media application, not necessarily in the traditional sense of like a Facebook, a MySpace, a Linked In, a Twitter kind of thing. But what it does is it allows for basically communication. It serves almost like a phone online. And a lot of people use it for communicating with – it’s – a lot of people find out about it when they’re – when they have college-age students who go and study abroad. It seems like that’s the big way that people are connected to Skype. Or they have families who live in other countries or far away where the cost of contacting them would be very expensive. Skype kind of allows them to be able to make that communication in a way that’s much more cost effective. It’s also based on video. So it really adds a whole different level of – a whole different element to the phone conversation – to a traditional phone conversation, and the ability that it has to be able to conference people in. I actually used it last summer to be able to participate in a conference. I couldn’t travel because I was on maternity leave and was speaking at a conference via – through Skype. And so it actually is a really interesting tool to kind of—not in the traditional sense of a Facebook, but still does, like you said, bridge that social gap.

MYRLAND: Now you mentioned MySpace.

VARGAS: Umm-hmm.

MYRLAND: And it seems to me that MySpace is, compared to Facebook, is almost more of a performance-based space where people sort of tend to post their work more than simply just interact. Is that fair or…?

RITTER: I don’t know. I mean, you’d think so by the way that it was created but actually, you know, the population who has embraced MySpace, a lot of people have moved over – you know, MySpace was probably the first large mass media social network where a large adoption happened and they kind of came to the front of a competition of three or four different networks at the same time. But they’re not all artists and a lot of it was fans. A lot of it were a lot of people who were on Facebook – or, sorry, on MySpace were fans of some of these bands that were produced or indys – indy labels or those kinds of things. But what’s kind of come about is a separation in the demographic of people who are still on MySpace versus people who are now moving to Facebook. And there’s a large difference between – A lot of it has to do with customization because on MySpace you can customize your own backgrounds, your own colors, your own pictures, your own – all those kinds of things. On Facebook, you don’t have that ability. It’s very cleancut, it’s very, you know, straight lines and things like that. You can’t customize your own profiles, so there’s a lack of kind of personalization there. So the MySpace crowd that still is pretty much there, the people that I talk to on a regular basis and I ask this question, you know, whether it be in coffee shops or whoever’s talking about it, I’ll break into their conversation and ask them, why do you like MySpace? Why haven’t you moved to Facebook? And the answer that I continually get is because I can personalize it and I can keep it my own. So it’s not that they’re necessarily generating more content or that they’re even generating, you know, music, which was the first, you know, kind of attraction there, but it’s because they can personalize it and they have artistic expression even if it’s not necessarily musical whereas Facebook, you don’t have that. Facebook is pretty well defined by the fact that you have connections to lots of other people who you might not have had connections with for a long time.

MYRLAND: Nicole, I saw you nodding a lot…

VARGAS: Umm-hmm.

MYRLAND: …while Nate was talking so you must agree with that characterization of the two. Do you think both MySpace and Facebook have a future?

VARGAS: I think so. I – And they’re just different. And I think so much attention is payed to the fact that, oh, Facebook’s numbers are surging and MySpace numbers are kind of leveling off. Yes and no. I think that it just kind of depends, like Nate said, it depends on why you’re going to social media in the first place. It depends on what your motives are. Are you a creative person at heart? Is what you’re about creativity and, like you said, personalization and being able to, you know, showcase that? That’s – In that case then, a MySpace still is – is a place where you want to be. And as a reporter for the Union-Tribune, I actually do maintain a presence for our high school sports section both on MySpace and on Twitter, and we’re starting to expand onto Facebook because we still have a large number of students and a large number of people who follow the paper and who follow high school sports there. So just because people are thinking, oh, well, MySpace, you know, they’re starting to go – they’re starting to go, it’s going down, they’re – it’s going to disappear any minute, I really don’t think it’s necessarily going to disappear right away because it does have an audience, a very loyal audience, and it’s going to continue.

MYRLAND: Well, that leads us nicely into our next segment where we’re going to talk about – a little bit about what we think’s going to survive and what’s going to thrive. Hopefully, this old medium invented by Marconi will be around for a while. And you’re listening to These Days in San Diego, and we’ll be right back after this break.

MYRLAND: You’re listening to These Days in San Diego. I’m Doug Myrland, in for Maureen Cavanaugh. We’re talking about social media with Nicole Vargas from the San Diego Union-Tribune, and Nate Ritter, web developer and social media user. And we wanted to talk a little bit about what we think is going to stick around and what’s going to change, and during the break I heard you two talking about what you thought about MySpace actually lasting. And, Nate, you were saying you think it’s one of those things that’s going to morph into something else. Is that fair to say?

RITTER: Yeah, I – You know, my opinion on MySpace – So I have to preface this with the fact that I think I had a MySpace account for all of 30 seconds. So the only reason that I created one was to look at a friend’s photos because they were somehow locked behind his account but, you know, so take that into perspective here. But, yeah, my opinion on MySpace is that I think that they’ve kind of commercialized it to its furthest extent and that the more they try and stick with their mass market, the more they’re going to probably end up pushing people away. And there’s still a large – there’s a large niche of people who, you know, want to have their customization and their personalization and all that kind of thing but – and, you know, they want to be able to produce music and push that out to other people and have fans and that kind of thing. Some of those aspects are going to be able to be transitioned into other social networks but the personalization part is pretty well solidified in MySpace’s world. The thing is, is that they – I don’t think that they realize that they’re – they are a niche social network and, you know, some people might get on my case about saying that but I really do think that they are. I think they’re a niche. There’s – And when you commercialize the niche to the extent that MySpace is, I mean, being purchased for the outrageous amount that it was purchased for and now being valued quite a bit less than that, it’s interesting to watch from a business perspective how – my belief is that they’re eventually going to be pushing so many people away with their commercialization and thinking that it’s a mass marketable product but when in actuality it’s a niche product, if they don’t think about it like that, they’re going to end up hurting themselves in the long run.

MYRLAND: Well, Nicole, you must talk about these kinds of subjects in the classes that you teach…

VARGAS: Umm-hmm.

MYRLAND: …because the students who are taking the classes are probably not only wanting to learn how to use social networking, they’re thinking about making a living in it. And how do you see and how do you analyze the progression of the ability of all these different kinds of tools to actually be monetized and pay for themselves and to create commerce?

VARGAS: Well, I think that the goal of what I try to do in the classroom is to educate students on the fact that all of these different tools are going to come and go. You know, MySpace came up and it’s going down. Facebook comes up, comes down. There’s going to be something new and something shiny and something with bells and whistles that’s going to come along about every – before you know it, there’ll be something else that we’re all rushing to. What I try to really enforce and really emphasize with the students is understanding why and how these things work and how they can be applied in the sense of whatever they’re trying to achieve, whether it’s communicating their web brand, whether it’s being able to expand a web presence that they already currently have, whether it’s establishing a web presence. Basically, it’s trying to get everybody familiar with the different things that are required of a social network user and understanding that so often a lot of these skills do translate into the next network and into the next big thing. And so as long as they get a basic skill set that they can then use in any forum, that will help them regardless of what the tool is.

MYRLAND: Now we all have seen society change in that the way we communicate with each other…

VARGAS: Umm-hmm.

MYRLAND: …is now so much more in the electronic space rather than in a face-to-face kind of way. When you talk about that in your classes, what do you identify as the fundamental differences between communicating virtually and communicating in person as we’re doing here in this room?

VARGAS: Well, it’s – there’s a lot of person – You lose a lot of just the person-to-person, just the warmth, the interaction, the facial expressions, the body, you know, the body movements, you know, simply, you know, a raise of an eyebrow or, you know, a shudder of a head, you know. All of that gets lost in this translation. And so it’s very difficult to be able to maintain that kind of expression when you’re completely relying on words and so it’s all the more important to be as effective of a communicator as you can and it is especially difficult when you look at something like a Twitter where you have 140 characters to do it. I mean, that’s barely a sneeze for some people. So it’s, you know, that’s the challenge, is to try and maintain or try to build kind of a personality and a warmth that, you know, it kind of does get lost in the coldness of, you know, all of this technology and all of the boxes that we’re carrying around.

MYRLAND: But as the technology gets better, won’t our ability to more subtly communicate improve?

RITTER: Well, I think, I mean, it’s – I think it’s a hard – that’s a hard subject. I mean, the subtle communications, sure. I mean, we have video and, you know, we’ll eventually have, you know, the ability to, you know, like Japan does, basically turn on our phones and look at each other and actually communicate face-to-face, so to speak, through a digital medium. But I think the more – I think the part that you’re kind of leaning towards too was the communication that’s – it’s not just the subtleties. I mean, if you think about how I would communicate via text versus how I’d communicate right away in this conversation, you know, via text I might say some things that, off the cuff, I wouldn’t necessarily say. So I can very easily distill what I want to talk about. And as much as people hate the corporate talk, that comes out of individuals, too, because you think about what you’re going to say and then you write something out and you go, well, that doesn’t sound quite right so then you back it up. So it’s not just the subtleties, it’s the intention, too.

VARGAS: Umm.

RITTER: That intention that we get to have right now makes it very sterile, I would say.

MYRLAND: But this is also a concern not just for individuals communicating one to the other but also businesses, people who are using these social networking sites in order to advocate for a cause or to create a commercial product. They have to be using these tools in a more sophisticated way, too, right?

VARGAS: Absolutely, and I what I think it does is you have to go back to almost a grassroots effort when you’re looking at social networking and from a business sense. So much of what you do is much more interpersonal than you would if you were a business that – that wasn’t on social media. Like an example would be a journalist. A lot of journalists, you know, have gotten very used to one-way communication. I write a story, this is how it goes, and, you know what, you’re the reader, that’s how – you know, it’s all – it’s me to you and that’s all I want to hear. But, you know, with social media and with that growing, more and more of it’s become a conversation and not just a conversation between a journalist and their readership, how ever many that is, but it’s joe reader with that particular journalist and there’s an expectation of this personal – person-to-person communication now and I think that has opened up a whole new realm for businesses to do a lot of good and I think – I had a great example that came up in a San Diego State class for our college students where a student had put something on her blog about a food scare at a local fast food restaurant and was shocked that she got a response from the gentleman whose job it was to advocate on behalf of this organization to try and buy her back, and it was fascinating.

MYRLAND: We’ll talk about that and, I hope, we’ll have a few minutes to talk about where this is all going in the next decade when we come back. You’re listening to These Days in San Diego, and we will be right back right after this break.

MYRLAND: You’re listening to These Days. I’m Doug Myrland in for Maureen Cavanaugh. We’re talking about social media with Nicole Vargas, who is with the Union-Tribune and also teaches about social media here at San Diego State, and with Nate Ritter, who’s a web developer and all-around expert user of social media. And in this last segment, we want to talk a little bit about where we think this is all going over the next few years. I don’t think we can look farther ahead than that. And one of the things we wanted to talk about is the use of social media by businesses. And you had mentioned in your example just before the break about one of your students getting a personal contact and, Nate, I know that you think a lot about this because it’s because you’re in the business of using social media as a way to increase people’s business. And is it fair to say that we’ve seen an odd kind of leveling of the playing field between really big business and really small business because the accessibility to social media is pretty much equal for everybody?

RITTER: To a certain extent, yeah. I mean…

MYRLAND: Is that going to last, do we think? Do we think that advantage is going to last? Or are the large franchises and corporate owners going to figure out a way to get back in an advantaged advertising position?

RITTER: Well, I think, yeah, the advertising, of course, they’re going to have monetary power but, you know, when it comes to small businesses and – I mean, we talked about niche products and things like that earlier, there are a group – And Nicole had mentioned this off the air, but there are – you know, she’s a very big advocate for, you know, the group of people who, you know, were kind of – who are the strongholders in, you know, one social media space…

VARGAS: Umm-hmm.

RITTER: …which is great. And I think that’s the same thing in business. I think it does level the playing field because we have accessibility and it makes it the tools that we have available are really easy but part of the time right now, especially in this day and age right now, the small business doesn’t realize that they have a level playing field. The only difference is the number of people, essentially the brand who can understand what Nike is versus what, you know, a local community business might be. But other than that, it’s absolutely level.

MYRLAND: Well, it seems to me there’s another factor at play now, too, and that is with sites like Yelp and other ones where customers themselves are actually advocating for a certain business in their neighborhood or a certain restaurant, is probably the obvious example. And now we’re seeing people beginning to go to those sources to decide where they’re going to go eat or where they’re going to get their shoes fixed or whatever. Is this just sort of a temporary phenomenon, Nicole, or are we really seeing a real change in the way people are interacting with commerce?

VARGAS: I think sites like Yelp, like CraigsList, like a lot of sites like that that take this kind of hyper-local way of looking at social media, I think if anything they’re going to grow more because you look at the large sources for news and information and you – and they’re big national powers, and sometimes people just want to know what’s down the street. Sometimes people just want to know what’s in their backyard. And that’s why you see user-generated content be such a huge influence in social media, in media in general. We see it in, I mean, look at CNN and their iReports, you know. There’s a perfect example of bringing in the average joe to talk about what’s happening in their neighborhood because they’re the local expert. Yelp is going to be able to take that and run with it, and other sites that build off of that model are going to do well because people are – people want that connection to their community. Ultimately, yes, it is the world wide web but that’s a very scary thought and a lot of people still just want to, like I said, they just want a great place to eat down the street. They’re not worried about, you know, what’s happening on the other side of the country or on the other side of the world. They want people to tell them what’s happening right next to them.

MYRLAND: And does that, in and of itself, begin to level the playing field for small businesses, for local – for neighborhood businesses as opposed to competing with with a national chain?

VARGAS: I think it should but like Nate said, a lot small businesses don’t necessarily know that that’s really – that it’s that easy, that that’s…

MYRLAND: Well, do they even need to know? I mean, if you’re reviewing restaurants on Yelp, maybe the restaurant doesn’t even know the reviews are there but the neighborhood does. Your friends know about it.

RITTER: There’s – That’s true but there’s some dangers in that, too. You know, I had one experience where I went to a local restaurant and had an absolutely terrible time with it, and I wrote a review exactly of that. And the problem with that is that, obviously, that business doesn’t understand that that’s what happened. They understand that what happened in that moment but they didn’t understand the repercussions of it later on. So I think understanding the benefits and the drawbacks at the same time of the fact that those reviews exist, they’re not always positive and there’s, you know, there’s ways to counter that if that restaurant came and, you know, came back to me, found me, which is not that hard, but found me and, you know, made it right, per se.

MYRLAND: Well, I’m…

RITTER: We’d be – we’d be all right.

VARGAS: Well…

MYRLAND: Well, I’m wondering something else, too, about a tipping point. If you read five or six reviews on Yelp and they’re all obviously from people in the neighborhood, that has a certain credibility. If there are 100 or 200 or 300, well, I’m not sure if that really gives you usable information because you’re going to get so many different opinions, it’s almost like you’ve tipped over into a mass media kind of realm.

VARGAS: Yeah, but that’s where, you know, star systems and point systems and things like that become so invaluable. And a lot of sites, a lot of consumer sites use that, for instance Amazon. Yes, they’ll have 350 reviews for something but I can get a pretty good gauge on things just by simply looking at, you know, how many stars it’s received or how many, you know, the various point systems that these sites assign to them.

MYRLAND: And do you think that’s really trustworthy, though? I mean, we all look at the daily news – look at the Union-Tribune…

VARGAS: Umm-hmm.

MYRLAND: …and you read the comments on the stories, and you know darn well that that’s not a representative sample of people in San – maybe a…

VARGAS: What?

MYRLAND: …representative sample of people who are…

VARGAS: No.

MYRLAND: …are on the web making comments.

VARGAS: Yeah.

MYRLAND: But, again, and I wonder if we aren’t getting a little more skeptical as we get a little more sophisticated.

RITTER: I don’t think so. Well, I think the people – maybe I’m, you know, maybe I’m on that side of the people who’ll leave comments. But I think that there’s a large enough population of people who want and realize that they can voice their opinions safely now that we do get a pretty broad understanding of what’s going on in that space. So if it’s a good review or bad review or 300 reviews that, you know, end up having four stars, you know, I, as the person who’s looking at those reviews, can judge whether those people were being unreasonable or not.

VARGAS: Umm-hmm.

RITTER: And, you know, they may or may not have the exact same criteria as I do but at least it gives me a better understanding than I had before where I’d have to ask my friend, who’s one person, and I may or may not, you know, respect their judgment on, you know, a particular movie or place to eat or something like that. So I think that the fact that it’s kind of democratizing is good but then there’s also the side where you have individuals who are outing, you know, really good or really bad companies for doing really good or really bad things. And that knowledge would not be available to us without that kind of ability to publicize things at will. So it has its pluses and minuses for sure, being able to do all that, but do I think that it’s a representative of the entire community? No. I mean, there’s obviously – I think the last time I looked, there’s 75% of the people that have broadband but, you know, so…

MYRLAND: Well…

RITTER: …there’s a big portion of the country that doesn’t even have the access to the, you know, to broadband internet. So…

MYRLAND: Well, we’ll have to leave it at that and who knew we had so much to say to each other? I want to thank Nicole Vargas, multimedia producer and reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune and teacher of social media at San Diego State. And also thanks to Nate Ritter, who’s a web developer and expert user of social media. You’re listening to These Days in San Diego.

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