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Favorite Social Media Tools For 2011


Sites like Twitter intertwine our social lives and new websites make it easier to share, not just thoughts and photos, but what we're listening to, or reading, or even exactly what's on our plates.

Sree Sreenivasan is a digital media professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. We asked him to share his favorite new social networking tools with us.

SREE SREENIVASAN: And one of the tools is something called Spotify - S-P-O-T-I-F-Y - and what it allows you to do is to listen to thousands and thousands of songs, but as you listen to them you're also telling your friends what you're listening to at that moment, so that they'll be encouraged to tune in and listen to those songs as well.

WERTHEIMER: So how does the Spotify sharing actually happen? How do they find out what you're listening to?


SREENIVASAN: Yeah. Well, you're as part of what the life of a digital user today is that you might be sharing even when you're not aware of it. But with Spotify you are sharing within Facebook and that then is kind of fun for your family and friends to hear what you're listening to and maybe they will add that to their playlist. But then again, it also says something about you that you may not want said. People start making judgments on your taste and jumping to all these conclusions that you may not want them to.


SREENIVASAN: I listen to on occasion, I'll confess, "Dancing Queen" by Abba and I don't want everyone to know that I'm listening to it at that moment.

WERTHEIMER: Now what about this business of sort of a niche way to use social media sites - specific niche sharing sites?

SREENIVASAN: Right. People are sharing all kinds of things in very specific ways. There's a service called Instagram, which allows you to share just the pictures you're taking but to share it within a photography community. There's a service called Foodspotting, which allows you to share what dishes you're eating at a specific restaurant so that people can know what dishes to pick.

Now the background of all of this is that you could do any of this stuff on Facebook. But then you're doing that with a much larger community and your photos get mixed in with your recipes, which get mixed in with your complaints about your boss.

In these niche networks they are specifically for those topic areas and people are spending a lot of time there.

WERTHEIMER: Is Facebook on its way out because of all this new competition?

SREENIVASAN: Well, there's been some softening of the numbers in the U.S., but it still remains the big powerful way in which people are sharing and communicating online. This year Google introduced Google Plus, which went directly after Facebook by saying part of the problem on Facebook is whatever you share you shared with everybody, so Google Plus allowed you to share with specific cohorts.

Now, Facebook this fall has done what I call the empire strikes back, because it has come back strong against Google Plus by allowing you to share in specific groups and they've also gone after Twitter in the sense that they now allow you to connect with people who want to be connected to but who may not be your friends directly.

WERTHEIMER: One of the changes they made was to introduce something called Timeline. And Timeline appears to me to reduce whatever shreds were left of privacy by...


WERTHEIMER: ...permitting people to, you know, to go back and look at something you might have put on your Facebook account when you were a mere child and didn't know any better.

SREENIVASAN: Right. Before it was introduced, there was a sense of what we call security by obscurity. That is, you have stuff on Facebook but there's so much stuff there nobody will find it. Well, now comes Timeline and instantly I can go back to 2007 and see pictures you may not be proud of just sitting there and easily surfaced.


WERTHEIMER: Well, Mr. Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, I have to ask, what was he thinking when he did this?


SREENIVASAN: Well, this is what Mr. Zuckerberg is always thinking - is how to get people to share information, to be more connected to each other. But the other thing is clearly, the more information they have about you the more they can sell your information to marketers, the more useful you will be for advertisers. And that's part of this process. And there is no doubt in my mind that people will react in different ways to the Timeline, but as with many things at Facebook, they'll get used to it and we will continue to over-share with our friends, our family and with marketers.

WERTHEIMER: Sree Sreenivasan, thank you very much for this.

SREENIVASAN: My pleasure.

WERTHEIMER: Sree Sreenivasan is a digital media professor at the Columbia University School of Journalism. You can follow him on Twitter @Sree, that's spelled S-R-E-E. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.