Social Media: The Broader the Better

In my first post for MI621 I wrote about how I went from being a skeptic of Twitter, to someone who embraced Twitter and who had an open mind to all forms of social media. What I didn’t realize, was how many social media outlets are actually out there. In my mind, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine were the only sites/apps that fell under the realm of social media. And then class happened and I learned… the reply button counts as social media?


Mind blown. Now, when I think about all of the different types of social media my mind explodes because it seems never ending. I didn’t have a clue as to how many ways the term “social media” could be interpreted or the countless shapes and sizes social media could take. I knew about the social networks, but somehow I forgot about bookmarking sites (StumbleUpon, Delicious), various blogs and forums, wikis, media sharing sites (How could not think of Youtube?), social news sites (Digg, Reddit, Buzzfeed), and all of the apps that wrap up social into their mix. I also left out internal social media for companies and economies that are based off of social media (ex. gaming + sharing).

So what is social media again?

In one of the earlier Kane blogs that we read in class, we learned that we (managers included) should not focus on what social media is, but rather what it allows people to do. And when it comes down to it, SM is about organizing groups, sharing information, and collaborating. And while technology has made this easier, faster, and cheaper, the internet is not the only place where these three actions have all taken place together, for social media was taking place centuries ago.


Again, my definition of social media had changed. My last two blog posts challenged the idea of what social media is: Can social media be a scroll that is carried across the land and written on by multiple people? Did Martin Luther go viral? Can a self-portrait be a selfie? In the end, I have decided that social media does not have to be online, and indeed social media has existed offline in the past.

In his book about ancient forms of social media, Tom Standage raises three lessons that we can learn from social media’s history. And after taking MI621, I have learned these lessons as well.

1. Social Media is Not a Waste of Time

Can social media be a distraction? Sure. Social media can certainly be a timesuck. However, social media itself is not a waste. Pre-internet, the social media-esque Thomas Paine coffeehouses were places of real innovation. SM as a place for collective intelligence is proof that it is not a waste; I think all of us can agree that Wikipedia is certainly a better use of people’s time than watching a television show. Some managers have seen this value in SM, and internal networks, wikis, forums, etc. are leading to more engagement and innovations in companies.

2. Social Media Can Make Change

Social media has helped create change in the past (ex. Payne and Luther) and is continuing to impact the world in the present. Today in the Arab-Spring, social media is making its mark. Ai Weiwei and other social media activists are changing/trying to change their governments off and online. And people are coming together online and fighting for their causes on Real change can happen on social media.

3. Social Media is Here to Stay

If social media really began 2000 years ago (and I think it did) and it is still here today, than it obviously has staying power. Although it has survived and will continue to survive, does not mean we know what it will be like in the future. However, we don’t need to know what the future of SM looks like, we just need to be able to adapt to it. Focusing on what social media allows us to do and the lessons that we can learn SM’s past will help us do that, no matter what shapes or sizes social media will take. So when it comes to defining social media the broader the better. Be open, be adaptable, and be ready to expand your idea of what social media really is.


  1. Spot on summary, Syd. I think defining SM in more broad terms is the key to bringing more people on board with the power and potential of social media–older generations especially, but younger generations, too. I wonder if the modern dictionary definition of SM in dictionaries will shift as peoples’ perceptions of it broaden? Here it is today, defined in Merriam-Webster online:

    “Forms 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 (as videos)”

    …I think Merriam-Webster has some catching up to do.

  2. I agree with Kristie, this really was concise and spot on! When I thought of social media initially I thought Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I never even bothered to broaden my scope and realize that while interactions may not be as direct on other websites, whenever there is an exchange of ideas between people, social media exists. I love what Professor Kane said in class this week: Even the telephone is social media! I had never even thought of it that way, and now I’m seeing SM everywhere! Awesome post ☺

  3. Sydney- I agree with you, who would have known how many different social media sites there could be! When I googled “how many social media sites are there” Wikipedia claims their are OVER 200 major active social networking websites, and this is even excluding dating websites. Some of them dating back to 1998, but as we have learned from many of your blog posts social media dates back way beyond that. I have to say, I have enjoyed reading your posts throughout the semester and how you’ve taken a new outlook on the origins of social media.

    I like that you say when it comes to social media “the broader the better.” @Kristie I agree with you that Merriam-Webster has some catching up to do as I don’t believe social media has to be only through online communities. I think social media expands beyond the computer. It’s interesting because Wikipedia (which itself is a social media network) defines social media as the following: Social media refers to interaction among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. So it appears that sites are still defining social media based on it’s use today and not looking at the long history of the concept.

    While it’s impossible to predict where social media will go, as you stated, I thought you might like this article on what could be the “Nextt” big social media website. It discusses an application called Nextt which is about increasing the quality of your social interactions and working towards the future. What do you think about this? Would you be open to trying “Nextt”?

  4. @Margo I actually wrote about Nextt for my first blog post. They just released their app so I am excited to take a look at it — I am skeptical that Nextt will be able to foster offline hangouts better with an online network, but its worth a shot! And I am open to trying it!

  5. Sydney – I really enjoyed all your posts this semester and knew I wanted to read your final post. I appreciate your introspective thoughts about SM, and completely agree with @Olivia when Prof Kane brought up the telephone. It’s pretty incredible to think how many forms of SM there are, but it just feels new since I think it is a relatively new term. I most appreciate your last topic – that social media is here to stay. Some doubters out there believe it’s just a trend, but as Joe Tucci from EMC says, SM is highly disruptive and highly opportunistic. I think anyone that does not recognize that it’s here to stay will be rapidly forgotten.

    Great summary of what you’ve learned this semester!

  6. I worry about going overly broad about social media (for social media to be something it can’t be everything), but I haven’t found a good place to draw the line. I tend to require the use of information technology (thus reply all is first social feature), but I concede that the line is somewhat arbitrary.

  7. Sydney, your posts have been very eye opening and this wrap-up was another great example! Although I do not think Social Media is as broad as you do (sympathizing a little with the Prof. Kane here), you have hit some great points about how our society has and hasn’t changed over the years. As you mentioned, we talk about how EVERYONE is taking selfies nowadays, but what about painters from hundreds of years ago? We as a society have to very careful how narrow minded we become as new technology develops and we find new ways to share. Although we never had a way to take pictures and share this quickly before, it still existed in the past.

    So despite the definitional issue, which honestly is not important, your 3 lessons were all spot on and hopefully something that everyone will come to accept. As Kathryn said in her reply, “SM is highly disruptive and highly opportunistic” and it is here to stay.

  8. Sydney, I totally agree with everything that you’ve said here. Although, I definitely agree with Professor Kane as well. It can be hard to draw the line of how broad social media really is. I definitely lean more to your opinion of making it broader because I think Kristie makes a great point by saying that more people will be drawn towards social media when it is defined by broader terms.
    Your three lessons were really true and I think make a lot of sense. I love the first one because so many people consider social media a waste of time which I disagree with. You are always able to learn even if you are stalking facebook for hours! Great post!

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