The dictionary’s entry on social network contains 2 definitions. The first one; a network of social interactions and personal relationships, is what your grandparents would have used to describe their social life. A collection of people they know in their immediate, closely geographical, day-to-day circles; neighbors, colleagues and not-so-distant relatives.
The 2nd definition gets a little more complicated;
a dedicated website or other application that enables users to communicate with each other by posting information, comments, messages, images, etc.
Even as a standalone sentence, this description makes a strong case for how modern social interactions are utilized – as a way to post information unto the world.
So let’s check just how much these information-sharing websites are affecting our daily lives.
A decade ago, it was very difficult to find and connect with people that you once knew in high school or college, even with the power of the web. When you moved away, most people lost touch permanently. Social media sites are making it much easier for people to find one another, stay in touch and reconnect, even after decades of being apart. But is it necessary?
Haven’t our ancestors benefited from having their social circles refreshed from time to time? Do you really need to stay informed of someone’s life forever, even if you’ve briefly worked together for a few months? Will you not enjoy learning about what has happened in their life when casually running into them after 6 years? With the power of social networks, you’ll be constantly updated of their engagement, wedding (including photos) and their new family, making your next real-life meeting shallow of real conversation, as you already know everything about them.
Social media makes us compare our lives with others, and envy isn’t a positive emotion. Posts on social media many times present an idealized version of what’s happening, what something looks like, or how things are going. This can lead users to constantly compare themselves to others and think less of their own lives. If things are going particularly well for people in your newsfeed and you’re having a rough day, of course this will likely negatively affect your mood. In fact, in 2012 a team of researchers in the UK surveyed users, 53% of whom said social media had changed their behavior for the worse, because of decline in confidence they felt due to unrealistic comparisons to others. The image may look casual, the comment attached to it describing the perfect life, but in reality it was probably staged or carefully prepared to exhibit a magical moment in an otherwise normal life.
Consider just how easy it is to see what is happening on the other side of the world, through the accounts of real people rather than filtered news channels. Many a time, governments will stop public access to social networks, as they see them as the people’s tool for truth and communication, when keeping them in the dark is in their best interest. Twitter and Facebook were huge parts of the Arab Spring, and helped people keep in contact and updated during these chaotic times.
Social networks are a useful to create an awareness about important issues, and help generate public awareness faster, by digitizing the ancient mouth-to-ear communication method.
And forget about press conferences or professional spokespeople, politicians these days connect with the public and their voters with posts and tweets, bypassing the middleman and making sure their say is said, directly to you.
Across industries, social media is going from a “nice to have” to an essential component of any business strategy. Many companies are actually choosing to become a part of the social network site rather than merely buying advertising. This allows for a closer connection with customers, which could lead to better service and better quality products. As long as companies are not too overt about ads and promotion, most users have become accustomed to it.
In the old days, mass media ruled. A company had to pony up thousands or even millions of dollars to be heard in most cases. Very large companies with deep pockets ruled the roost. Only big businesses could afford to have a wider reach. Now, a small company can achieve global reach within days of launching their business when the cards fall right. Perhaps it’s via a viral video, by sharing opinions that resonate and haven’t been stated in the past, or creating new knowledge that spreads like wildfire. Maybe it’s by simply sharing the business concept and bigger voices latching onto it. In any case, social media has provided a means to have a voice on par with the big ones for everyone, including the smallest startups or local businesses.
So, as you can see, want it or not, your life is intertwined with social media, even if you’re active in them yourself.
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