Social media: Billions and billions served every day.
But what is social media? Sure, it’s a form of media; but is it social? And if so, how social is it and has the act of socializing changed as a direct result? Do social media users have more friends (real friends, not “friends” in Facebook lingo), and are those friendships strengthened through social media?
What we commonly refer to as social media has been around for a couple decades now. It didn’t start with Facebook and Twitter. And it didn’t start with MySpace, either. Back in the 90s before those things existed, there were AOL chat rooms and Instant Messaging. There was email, there were pagers and clunky cell phones. Before that there were other mediums to socialize on, and this is nothing new. The terminology behind it just is.
Those channels and others that have evolved from them are now referred to as social networks – from Pinterest and Twitter to YouTube and Google+. I personally have been on Facebook since October 2004, making me one of the site’s first million users. Thus, I’ve seen it evolve – for better or worse – over the years. And with it, I’ve seen my social life evolve too. It has helped me stay in touch with some whom I probably would not have otherwise. It has helped me meet people I probably wouldn’t have. On the flip side, it has hampered conversations – things I might normally ask when getting to know someone – What’s your favorite movie? Musical artist? TV show? Now, I can just look at their Facebook profile.
Be it making plans with a long-lost pal or conversing about similar interests while dressed in your PJ’s with some bloke from Down Under, social networking has expanded the idea of what being social exactly means. Looking at it from that perspective, what “social” constitutes is more subjective now than ever before. As a society, what was considered social a decade ago is not social today. And, it won’t be “social” a decade from now. Plus, social media is still finding its footing in the social hierarchy of life. Perhaps one of my former college professors said it best when he said that tools like Facebook were “excellent for communicating with people whom you don’t want to talk on the phone with.” Isn’t that what texting is for?
Social media, in my humblest of opinions, is making us more social – just in different and new ways. It’s directly rebelling against the notion of what being social traditionally means.
The truth (or just common sense, if you prefer) is that people need people, and as people, we desire and seek out human interaction – such is natural; social media is just another tool to go about doing so. Social media is yet another distraction in a modern world chock full of ‘em. How social or not it makes a person really all depends on how they use it, and how social they are to begin with.
Omnipresent in our daily lives, social media is like gum on a sidewalk: It’s everywhere and it’s not disappearing anytime soon. Whatever role it currently plays in your life, accept the fact that it is here to stay and embrace it for the social possibilities contained therein – it can be a veritable hoot-and-a-half if you let it.