It would appear that social media is here to stay. To come to any other conclusion would require looking away from the facts or foretelling some unpredictable calamity or sudden and dramatic shift in user habits. Because quite simply, the numbers don’t lie.
For one, there are hundreds of social media sites, many of them with robust and active user bases. While it’s true Facebook and Twitter get all of the attention (for good reason; Facebook has approximately 1 billion monthly users while Twitter manages a quarter billion), let us not forget the popularity of Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, Google +, and of course, Pinterest. And let us also not forget that we spend a ton of time on these sites. How much time? Up to 114 billion minutes per month, just in the United States. To say that social media has played a role in shaping the 21st century would be a bit of an understatement.
And yet, the reach of social media is so wide-ranging that it can be sometimes difficult to pinpoint how social media has changed the world – and in turn, us. While it’s true that we’re collectively on social media a lot, thanks to our unlimited 4G data networks and ever present genius phones, does our connection with social media as a society go further or deeper than that? Most definitely.
Social Media in the Work Place
It’s important to consider that social media refers to far more than just Facebook and Twitter. By definition, any media (read: medium) that promotes social interaction is a social media. In the workplace, this can be an instant message program that is shared among employees, private company Internet forums, open bulletins, or company blogs.
What these mediums provide is a means of sharing and discussing information. Whereas in the past, a traditional company hierarchy might prevent an idea from reaching the desk of the person who could conceivably bring it to fruition, now information can be easily disseminated from person to person. Social media in the workplace creates transparency.
What social media allows for is the sharing of ideas, which ultimately can help promote problem solving, create solutions, and change best practices. Often, the person in charge of devising a solution does not in fact have it. This is where social media in the workplace can come in. It is the ultimate problem-solving tool because it opens up the brainstorming session not just to the individuals in the board room, but the entire organization. While decision by committee might bode poorly in the art world, in business, it’s an asset.
In the News: Staying Abreast Minute by Minute
Increasingly, individuals are turning to social media platforms to consume news. On Reddit, the “Front Page of the Internet,” 62 percent of users use the site for news, and upwards of 30 percent of Facebook users do the same (a number which adds up to roughly the entire population of the United States).This revelation should perhaps come as no surprise, given:
- The amount of time people spend on social media platforms; and
- The unique news-sharing properties of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter
The in-the-moment nature of Twitter, for example, means that in many cases news breaks there before it reaches official channels. Whether the news that gets passed around these social sites is always accurate is beside the point. There is a perception that these sites are good sources of news, and at the end of the day, more and more people are relying on them.
Friends: Real and Otherwise
Social media is now the top Internet activity. Not cat videos. Not, ahem, “adult” content. But social media. Conceivably, this means that more and more individuals are participating in relationships with friends and family. But is this actually the case? The numbers paint a more ambiguous picture.
Recent polls have begun to show an appreciable dissatisfaction with social media. Ironically enough, people have begun to blame these platforms that are built around building relationships on hurting their relationships. With unlimited 4G networks making it easier than ever to log on at a moment’s notice, it can sometimes be difficult to actually put the phone down. And this digitized version of life can hurt real-world relationships.
It should be noted, however, that painting sites like Facebook and Twitter in such a doom and gloom fashion is a bit unfair. Many people quite enjoy their time on these platforms, and do take advantage of the many benefits they afford. Others utilize them to network with people they might not otherwise be in contact with. It can be easy to forget that social media platforms – be it Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn – are merely tools. Can you fault the tool for the behavior?
It’s a New World
Regardless of how you interact with your friends, consume your news, or participate at work, there can be little doubt that social media has changed the world. Whether it’s for better or worse is up to the individual.