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?I 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.
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 has 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.