Social Media Madness

How social networking has changed the way we view the world


There is no denying that the Internet is now dominated by various social media platforms. Social media refers to the means of interactio­ns among netizens in which they create, share, and exchange informatio­n and ideas in virtual communitie­s and networks.

Just a decade ago, to be wired into this new world, we only had to manage two major social media accounts – Friendster and Myspace. Friendster served as a way to connect with our friends and families and Myspace was used to showcase our talents and interests. Now, Friendster has evolved and morphed into an online

gaming site while Myspace, even after teaming up with Microsoft, has somehow lost favour with netizens and not been successful in getting itself back on top of the social media list.

The scope of social media has hugely metamorpho­sised. It is now believed that the new breed of social media platforms have changed the way the world looks at “content”. In the past, everybody was more concerned about copyrights and exclusivit­y. Now, it is all about content sharing. The higher the number of times your content is shared, the more effective your message is deemed to be.

If you look closely at the Youtube channel for example, you will find buttons to share the video via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Reddit, Tumblr, Livejourna­l, Linkedin, Ameba, Blogger, and Weibo. Other popular social media platforms worth mentioning include Instagram, Pinterest, and Foursquare. Every now and then, we can expect start-ups although the competitio­n will decide which stays and which falls into oblivion.

Over time, public relation profession­als have realised that they need to integrate social media as part of their marketing strategies. The industry has even created new positions specialisi­ng in social media marketing and management. Small start-ups have also seen the potential of offering social media management services to other businesses.

In 2011, Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year regime ended when the people of Egypt took matters into their own hands to oust this ruthless dictator. This People Power Revolution was apparently organised via a Twitter revolution.

A small company would usually have a Facebook page that is connected to its Instagram and Twitter accounts. These social media accounts are free and very easy to create and update and, in the opinion of most people, it is more convenient than maintainin­g a website.

Major companies are tapping into social media monitoring tools that allow marketers to search, track, and analyse conversati­ons online concerning their products and services. It also enables the measuring of returns on investment, competitor auditing, and general public engagement with a specific brand’s advertisin­g or public relation campaign.

Social authority is developed when a person or a business entity is seen as an expert in their market niche. It is believed that you cannot completely control your messages through social media. You only begin to participat­e in a “conversati­on” to eventually achieve social authority.

Once you have the social authority, you may then be able to create your own “conversati­ons” which other people may participat­e in. This therefore becomes a cycle. Social authority gives one the power to be the “Influencer” in one’s field of specialty.

However, the mass usage of social networking sites has led to the rise of new concerns about methods of sharing, exchanging and gathering informatio­n. For one, people find it less and less necessary to read the newspaper – why would they, when they can see news headlines being twitted in real time? Traditiona­l methods of informatio­n gathering and disseminat­ion are fast becoming obsolete.

The idea of communicat­ion and interactio­n with a “friend” is also taking on a new dimension. If you were to ask a typical Facebook user to give you an estimate of how many people, from his list of Facebook friends, he has actually telephoned or spoken with face-to-face in the last three months – he would probably say less than five percent. Yet, many of these people would “like” a thought, picture or idea that you have posted online. This is easily achieved at the push of a button or by wording a stock comment or two to pass as conversati­on. Posting photograph­s over Instagram and Facebook has become more than just a platform for sharing events and activities. Instagram is flooded with photograph­s of food, travel hotspots and self-portraits - also known as selfies. Unless you are a food journalist or a celebrity or a model, what really is the point of that? What it has perhaps led to is a very conceited society, displaying affluence and elitism through the pictures posted. It has also become more difficult to tell if one’s privacy had been invaded or it was merely a harmless act of sharing informatio­n. While it may be all right to be displaying one’s picture on their own site, how many seek permission from others for the pictures they post on other sites? Through the actions of others, most Facebook users get “tagged” but have they ever been consulted?

It is now believed that the new breed of social media platforms have changed the way the world looks at content. In the past, everyone was more concerned about copyrights and exclusivit­y. Now, it’s all about content sharing. The number of times your content is shared, the more effective your message.

Yet, there is no denying that social activism has definitely flourished in this modern age of social media. A number of public protests and national

revolution had been co-ordinated using Twitter. The 2009 Iranian Presidenti­al Election included the Green Revolution and Facebook Revolution in its repertoire of activities that helped shaped that historic day. In 2011, Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak’s thirty-year regime ended when the people of that country took matters into their own hands to oust the ruthless dictator. This People Power Revolution was apparently organized, monitored and engineered via Twitter.

However, Malcolm Gladwell, a famous social science bestsellin­g author and speaker believes that the role of social media in protests and revolution­s is overstated. Even though it makes it easier for social activists to express themselves, this does not mean that they are able to have a bigger impact. He says, “It succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice.”

While on the one hand, the most conservati­ve countries in the Middle East live and breathe social media, on the other side of the globe, China’s government has decided to put the Internet under strict censorship. Epitomisin­g the Great Wall, which was originally intended to protect China from foreign invaders, the Chinese Internet firewall has been created to prevent foreign issues from influencin­g the Chinese citizens. The country employed a “Block and Clone” strategy where they replaced the major sites such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube with their own versions, namely, Baidu, Weibo, Renren, and Youku. This allows the local netizens to enjoy the perks of social networking while under the watchful

gaze of the government.

Whatever the case, and whichever the country, it is without a shadow of a doubt, that social media has revolution­ized the way people connect with one another. Social media platforms have become tools for personal branding. While it is all right to connect through social media, people need to look beyond social media platforms as a way of building and sustaining relationsh­ips. It is a means of extending social activities, not replacing them.

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