Social Media as a Medium

Social media can be understood as a medium. A medium is a system that engages our senses. From the information gathered from it, our emotions and feelings can be developed. According to Merriam Webster, social media is a form of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (Merriam Webster). Because social media is able to transmit information by sharing ideas, emotions, and sentiments through content and message in online communities it is understood as a medium.

The beginning of social media started with BBS (Bulletin Board System). A BBS is an online board where users can share files and games. Before wireless connection, users had to use telephone lines to connect to a BBS. BBS and CompuServe (the first commercial online service) aren’t exactly what we think of when we think of social media. AOL (America Online) is similar to current social media. AOL, similar to current social media, had users create a “Member Profile” in which it would list details about the users. Social media started to grow with sites such as Classmate.com and SixDegrees.com. Sites like that allowed users to connect with other users such as classmates and the start of making groups and creating online profiles (Digital Trends).

By 2002, social media sites such as Friendster (similar to SixDegrees) created communities by having a concept of “Circle of Friends” that let users with common bonds to connect. Because the success of Friendster only lasted for a little especially in countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, Friendster decided to abandon social networking and become only an online gaming site.

In 2003, LinkedIn and Myspace were launched. Although both social media were very different, both became very successful. LinkedIn was a more professional social networking site that enable professionals to connect and network with other professionals. LinkedIn is also known as a professional social media. It is one of the largest and most well-known professional social network that started in the USA. It is used to connect and expand professional networks by showing skills, career information, and academic background. LinkedIn can help users explore opportunities, network, and look for careers.

On the other hand, Myspace started as a popular social media in which users could customize their page, add pictures, profile, friends, music, and etc. Myspace was popular among celebrities and musicians as they shared their music and projects on it. Myspace was created by people in the entertainment industry and not by technology gurus. Because of that, it couldn’t make advances and changes as fast as Facebook. That caused the failure of Myspace and allowed for the popularity of Facebook to increase. Facebook started as a college site by Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook was only for Harvard students but slowly expanded into other colleges and finally becoming open to the public. Facebook was similar to Myspace. Users could post pictures, videos, notes, and etc. The main difference was that when Facebook came into the social media world, it didn’t have many competitors. It only had Myspace and also it was exclusive to college students.

With Facebook already becoming so popular, other social media such as YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest started to become part of people’s daily life. Every different social medium offered something different to the users. Video bloggers, musicians, and actors would use YouTube to show trailers of movies, songs, tutorials, and etc. Photographers and artists would show their work through Instagram. Businesses try to use most social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and etc. They would keep their social media updated by posting something about a new product or promotion. Celebrities would incorporate all social media to become more well-known in the industry. They would tweet new projects, their opinion, post trailers of their movies on YouTube, post pictures on Instagram.

YouTube is a video sharing website that was created in 2005 by three PayPal employees. YouTube allows users to upload, view, and share videos. The content on YouTube includes video clips, TV clips, movie trailers, video blogging, music videos, and etc. The idea behind YouTube came from Janet Jackson’s incident in the 2004 Super Bowl and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The three PayPal employees wanted to create a social media in which people could share videos of topics being talked about. YouTube success wouldn’t have happened if it was limited to the United States. Being a social medium, YouTube could reach other countries. Currently YouTube is located in 53 countries with 61 languages. About 70% of the traffic comes from outside of the United States.

YouTube was able to change the way many different things work. It has changed education and knowledge by having videos of tutorials of “how-to” and with Khan’s Academy’s channel. Tutorials and educational channels have allow users to learn something new or get help on homework and projects. It has sparked innovation and creativity in users by creating new products and new projects and sharing them on YouTube. It created awareness on social issues such as Ice Bucket Challenge and Kony 2012. The Ice Bucket Challenge was a challenge in which people would raise awareness for ALS. Kony 2012 was a movement to capture Joseph Kony.

There aren’t solid ideas of the future of YouTube. Some social media are able to succeed but some aren’t. Although YouTube is very successful right now, that can change with the creation of a better and newer social medium that can replace YouTube. As of now, with the help of other technology and website such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Smart TVs, YouTube can replace the way we watch television. Although televisions might not vanish in the near future, the way we watch TV has changed a lot. Many have Smart TVs that have YouTube, Netflix, Hulu Plus connected to it. This has decreased the number of households that will get cable to watch television.

Social media is a medium that is used to connect, interact, and meet other users. Social media has changed the way we communicate and interact with others. Not only are we able to reach a greater community through social media but with social media we can personalize and custom the way we want to be seen. Many celebrities, like Justin Bieber, became famous because of social media like YouTube by showcasing his talent. Like Smith and Watson says, we are able to brand ourselves on social media. We can put ourselves out there like a product. Making ourselves look the best way possible. Users can alter their identity and no one would know. Overall, social media is able to help and make human life more convenient but at the same time, has caused privacy issues and other problems. Social media can be used for our advantages such as promoting a business, getting help from friends, communicating with others. (Smith & Watson, “Studying the Digital Self”)

On the other hand, it can cause problems such as privacy, identity theft, and cyberbullying. How much of ourselves are we willing to put out to the public? Social media makes money by collecting your information and selling it to marketing sites. They customize your ads, to items you have searched or liked in the past. They are able to track what we are doing without being obvious. A new problem caused by social media is cyberbullying. According to Merriam Webster, cyberbullying is the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person often done anonymously. Because of social media, cyberbullying has become a problem because we think that we can criticize and say mean comments online because no one will know who posted it. One can create a fake profile just to cyberbully others. Cyberbullying has become a big problem that has causes some users to commit suicide.

Although we use social media to connect with others, in the end is it really for that reason? Do we use social media to our advantage and use it as a way to make communication easier or is it pulling us apart? Turkle mentioned how even though it seems like we use social media to keep each other updated and communicate with each other through social media, we are actually alone. We are alone together. Turkle explains the impacts of social media using different examples of how people use it and change because of it. She says that technology and social media is able to meet our human vulnerabilities because we are alone but at the same time we are fearful of intimacy. Technology such as social media is able to offer the illusion of a friendship and companionship without demands (Turkle, 1). When we are online, we can ignore others because we can pretend we weren’t online or we didn’t see the message. When we are communicating face to face we aren’t able to hide and ignore others. Talking requires an immediate response while texting and using social media does not require an immediate response.

Another great point that Turkle mentions is the anxiety from social media. As mentioned earlier, people can lie when they set up their profile on social media. No one is checking so one can easily lie. This causes deception in social media. Social media is there for us to represent ourselves in a simple way but knowing that there is an audience, we tend to feel pressured to conform the simplifications. An example Turkle uses is Brad. He makes sure that through Facebook he is seems as “Mr. Cool”. He would omit different likes such as Harry Potter because it isn’t cool (Turkle, 185). Trying to perfect a social media profile and knowing that colleges and work places search for your social media profile had cause a lot of anxiety in humans. We believe that social media is supposed to be there to make ourselves look better but, we know that there is an audience, we spend a lot of time trying to perfect it and because of it, people are stressed.

The online world and social networks makes it seem like we are supposed to share everything on our mind. It doesn’t matter whether those thoughts are ignorant, ill considered, informative, or funny. We should all share our thoughts to broadcast it to the widest possible audience. (Turkle, 276) Sometimes the thought we have can become helpful to spread awareness on certain topics such as the ASL Ice Bucket Challenge. People would share videos of having ice buckets dump on them to spread awareness to educate and support ALS Association. Because of how popular the challenge was, more than $115 million have been donated to support people with ALS (“The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”). Another popular event was Kony 2012. Kony 2012 is a short film produced by Invisible Children, Inc to promote and spread education on who Kony was and how he recruited child soldiers. The video was uploaded to YouTube and got a lot of attention. Users would share the video on other social media, tweet about it, and it even got celebrities such as Rihanna and Bill Gates talking about it. The video became viral really fast that within days of the video being posted, it got national and global media attention (Sanders).

Social media has not only created a digital self but it is also an archive of feeling. Even though social media is digital, our feelings and emotions are invested into social media. As Cvetkovich says that peoples’ personal lives were deeply entangled with their intellectual lives. (Cvetkovich, 2) Social media has become an archive of feeling for many because people have feelings and emotions towards them. Technology and social media has become a big part of our lives that a study from IDC Research found out that about 80% of smartphone users will check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up. People wake up to check what was posted on social media, check their emails, and etc. (Pinkham).

This shows that social media has its advantages and disadvantages and the way we use it to create our digital self can be positive or negative. Some will use it to create a digital timeline, advertise, and communicate while others will use it to hurt others and lie to others by pretending to be someone else. Social media can be good to spread awareness but some people abuse that power and are able to post other things.

The future of social media is unknown but with a lot of speculations. YouTube and other video based social media can replace televisions. Other social medias such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube is already a new form of medium in which news are spread. As print media starts to decrease, digital media will increase. New social media will be created to adjust humans’ lives.

Whether one sees social media as a good thing or bad thing. It is here to stay. Some social media might become less popular over time but because we are moving towards a more advanced and more technological world, other social media and technology will be created with the goal of making human life easier. All social media and technology will have its advantages and disadvantages. Some will use to make their lives easier while others might abuse that power and use it to harm others. At the end of the day, will all the technological advances and new social media, it is a medium whether that is used in a good or bad way. Social media was created to become a medium in which engages the senses and information, emotions, and sentiments will be developed and transferred.  It requires our senses to work. We use our sight, touch, and hearing to interact with social media.

Reference

Cvetkovich, Ann. An Archive of Feelings. Duke University Press. 2003. Web

“cyberbullying.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2015. Web. 3 March 2015. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cyberbullying&gt;

Digital Trends Staff, “The History of Social Networking” Digital Trends. Digital Trends 5 August 2014. Web. 3 March 3, 2015. <http://www.digitaltrends.com/features/the-history-of-social-networking/&gt;

Pinkharm, Ryan. “80% of Smartphones Users Check Their Phones Before Brushing Their Teeth… And Other Hot Topics” Constant Contact. Constant Contact. 5 April 2013. Web. 3 March 2015. <http://blogs.constantcontact.com/smartphone-usage-statistics/&gt;

Sanders, Sam. “The “Kony 2012” Effect: Recovering From a Viral Sensation”. NPR.org. NPR. 14 July 2014. Web. 3 March 2015. <http://www.npr.org/2014/06/14/321853244/the-kony-2012-effect-recovering-from-a-viral-sensation&gt;

Smith, Sidonie and Watson, Julia. “Studying the Digital Self.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. N.p. 21 April 2014. Web. 3 March 2015. <http://chronicle.com/article/Studying-the-Digital-Self/145971/&gt;

“social media.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2015. Web. 3 March 2015. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20media&gt;

“The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.” ALS Association. ALS Association. N.d. Web. 3 March 2015. <http://www.alsa.org/fight-als/ice-bucket-challenge.html&gt;

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together. New York. BASIC BOOKS. 2011. Web

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