Commentary: Is social media a waste of time?

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I had the chance to participate in an hour-long Twitter chat about weed resistance issues this week and I was left wondering if ag professionals use Twitter for chats and gathering information. As the ag media, we constantly hear that the agriculture industry is embracing social media. But do they have time to sit and read Twitter messages for an hour? How can you get in-depth answers to puzzling questions through a Twitter chat?

During that hour, while waiting up to two to five minutes for each response, my attention wandered when staring at the screen failed to enlighten me with new information. Social media, the result of our Attention Deficit Disorder-like world, seems to demand instantaneousness and superfluousness. Although the information can be transferred quickly, it seems to lack a depth many are seeking.

I thought the point of social media, particularly Twitter, was to gather tidbits of information quickly and concisely so that you didn’t have to spend a bunch of time searching for the information you were looking for. I’m not sure that Twitter chats are particularly informative compared to a 30-minute phone interview or even a webinar. I can usually glean a lot more information from 30 minutes than I received in 60 minutes of a Twitter chat. So, from a journalist’s perspective, I’m not sure chats are an effective use of my time. But for someone who has time to kill, it can be fun and informative (on a surface level).

I am still a proponent of picking up the phone and calling someone over e-mailing and texting. I overheard in a company meeting this week one executive telling participants that if anyone had a question, come see him, don’t e-mail him. He considers e-mails transactional, not conversational. I have to agree with him.

Instant message chats, texts and e-mails lose context and emotionality in their content. We’ve lost the art of transpersonal communication in our society, in my opinion. Facial and body cues are important communication tools that society has shunned in favor of high-tech gadgets that allow us to message anyone anywhere anytime in our bathrobes.  

I struggled to find the best qualities of the Twitter chat. If someone loves being on Twitter, has an entire 60 minutes free to dedicate to reading and loves social media, then Twitter chats are for you. I just wonder if other ag retailers and consultants have the time and if they prefer this form of communication for gathering information. If so, please tell me. Otherwise, I’m left wondering if these chats are the best communication tools for the ag community.

Although it is winter and considered the industry’s down time, do ag professionals have time to engage in this kind of social media? Ag professionals are incredibly busy people. If they use social media, what are they using it for?

Like the smartphone and precision agriculture, social media appears to be one more tool for ag professionals to use. But judicious use is the key for optimizing one’s time and gathering pertinent information.


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