Cat Videos to DJ Khaled

When did social media stop being about cat videos? When did it stop being about what you ate for breakfast or sharing your favorite Green Day lyric? When did it become an essential for social change or the backbone of modern marketing? When did it become the platform for the best/worst political arguments? When did it become about sharing and creating with some of the most influential people in the world?Screen Shot 2016-09-12 at 9.34.04 PM.pngI don’t quiet remember entering the world of social media. It was mostly a blur of overzealous 8th graders on the last day of middle school sending out friend requests at an unnatural rate. At the time, 100 Facebook friends seemed like an overwhelming number of people to keep in touch. Slowly, more and more friend requests came from old neighbors, kindergarten classmates, and distant cousins, taking that number past 1,000. About a year ago, the average number of Facebook users had 338 friends. However, according to Robin Dunbar, an Oxford University anthropologist who studies social network, a group larger than 150 people begins to strain the cognitive capacity of our brain. So why do we still willingly subject ourselves to virtually interacting with groups of 500 or more almost everyday?

I think it’s a combination of needing to be present at every moment (basically FOMO) and the creative and expressive freedom it gives its users. There are very few mornings where I don’t immediately roll-over in bed and scroll through my social media apps. The moment my alarm goes off, it has become a routine to open Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and lastly my e-mail (and now Twitter because #IS6621). But this need to be present goes beyond our immediate friends. It keeps me in the loop about current events, hot political topics, and social movements. With a single tweet or hashtag, I’m now part of a bigger virtual community. This is where expressive freedom comes in. I personally am not the type of social media user who uses their account as a platform to share opinions or try to create change. For some users, this is the most important part. This aspect of social media has allowed us to exchange comments and thoughts with celebrities and intellectuals from around the world.

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Companies have strategically taken advantage of our obsession to “be social” in realms outside of just marketing. Websites such such as Hulu, Youtube, and ABC have added social features to their seemingly simple websites. Connecting your Facebook to Hulu allows users to rate and discuss specific episodes while ABC uses live hashtags for users to comment in real-time. Websites that weren’t intended for social purposes such as ASOS, Amazon, or Google Docs are now essentially social platforms. A few years ago, this concept would have been foreign. But today, a website or company that lacks a social presence is almost destined to fail.

Political campaigns have also positioned themselves to be constantly active on social media. As an election year, I am most excited for our class to discuss how social media has played a role in the election results. It has become so easy for candidates to fuel political arguments. We’ve seen it time and time again with Hilary and Trump Twitter battles. If one tweet is exchanged between or about the two candidates, millions of tweets are sent out in response. Twitter has allowed candidates to constantly engage with supporters and has perhaps made voters more informed.

But let’s not forget all the fun and humor social media hheres-whats-happening-with-that-dress-with-the-confusing-colors-882-body-image-1424998233as to offer. The memes, the gifs, and the vines all have a special place in my heart. How is it possible for a picture of one ugly dress reach 16 million people in 6-hours? (It’s white and gold, no argument). I think this is one the best examples of the power of social media. Breaking the traffic record for BuzzFeed, this simple picture stirred up
so much controversy. The $77 dress led to millions of new user-generated content. At one point, BuzzFeed reported over 600,000 people viewing the article all at the same time. But breaking the internet isn’t only for objects. A few people, such as the Kardashians, have mastered that too. Daniel Lara (aka Damn Daniel) and DJ Khaled learned how to perfectly troll the Snapchat world, landing them both a spot on Time’s “30 Most Influential People on the Internet”. This just goes to show how social media has changed the word “influential”.

I’m excited to begin my Social Media and Digital Business journey. Although I know the ins and outs of how to use my personal accounts, there are so many technical and strategic skills I have yet to learn. Going forward, I know these skills will be absolutely invaluable.

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7 comments

  1. The Dunbar number gets thrown around a bunch, but I’m a bit skeptical. SM has changed the way we define a “real connection.” For instance, I may not talk to my best friend from High School anymore, but I still like seeing the pictures of his kids on the first day of school. Really nice post, though (so much so, I retweeted it).

  2. I found it interested when you mentioned how we’re virtually interacting with over 500 people. Once you get to that high of a number (even 100, really) I feel like it doesn’t even feel like that many people. I only see posts in my newsfeed from about maybe a group of 50 people. I even forget that I’m friends with certain people on Facebook since I never see anything about them pop up on my newsfeed. It sort of feels like you have a smaller group of friends, but have the option to reach out to any of the 500, which is kind of nice. I also like your point about how the photo of The Dress spread so quickly, and I think the sheer amount of people who jumped in with their opinion (including lots of celebrities and public figures) is also crazy. Who knew social media would help a dress go viral?

  3. I like the parts of your post that focus on the positive side of social media. Very often I find myself dwelling and focusing on the negative aspects. Often times social media feels so insincere and egocentric. The dress is a simple example of a way that people shared genuine reactions in way that focused not on themselves but the different perceptions of the dress we all had.

  4. mashamydear · ·

    The dichotomy of social media is really interesting to think about. It’s crazy how people go from tweeting about their commute, to expressing their outrage at the Orlando night club shooting, to then tweeting about the premier of American Horror Story. Although that juxtaposition will always throw me off, I think the back and forth between the mundane and entertaining to the scary realities of the world we live in is representative of what the 21st century is like. There are monumental happenings in human rights, politics, and economics that we don’t know how to deal with, and social media is a testament to how we try to make sense of it all in the context of our daily lives.

  5. I also find it interesting that sites not traditionally designed for social media are starting to integrate social platforms into their services. Whether is be ABC or Hulu, companies are constantly trying to get users to connect with each other regardless of whether or not it’s actually necessary…I’m skeptical of some of these attempts and how successful they really are. I don’t know if I’d personally go through the trouble of connecting all my different accounts to FB, but apparently that’s what all these businesses are hoping we do.

    1. At this point I find that it is difficult to separate what would be considered web 1.0 content from web 2.0 content. Social concepts have pushed their way into just about every aspect of our online interaction. Companies such as Google and Facebook are positioning themselves and the connectors to bring all of these separate opportunities for collaboration together under a single profile. You get the advantage of one account, Google and Facebook get access to even more data about you.

  6. Great post! Definitely on the #teamwhiteandgold side of the dress argument. Anyone who says otherwise is full of it!

    I really liked your point about the pervasivness of social media in Politics. I think that social media has made us as a culture (myself included) a little lazy in this arena. Rather than seeking out political information and news we default to the articles that fly up to the top of our news feed. I am very guilty of only keeping up with politics based on what I see on Facebook. I know Hilary stumbled last week (literally) for instance, but haven’t read a single article!

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