Social media are interactive computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. The variety of stand-alone and built-in social media services currently available introduces challenges of definition; however, there are some common features:
- Social media are interactive Web 2.0 Internet-based applications.
- User-generated content, such as text posts or comments, digital photos or videos, and data generated through all online interactions, is the lifeblood of social media.
- Users create service-specific profiles for the website or app that are designed and maintained by the social media organization.
- Social media facilitate the development of online social networks by connecting a user's profile with those of other individuals or groups.
Users typically access social media services via web-based technologies on desktops and laptops, or download services that offer social media functionality to their mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets). When engaging with these services, users can create highly interactive platforms through which individuals, communities, and organizations can share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content or pre-made content posted online. They "introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organizations, communities, and individuals." Social media changes the way individuals and large organizations communicate. These changes are the focus of the emerging fields of technoself studies. Social media differ from paper-based media (e.g., magazines and newspapers) to traditional electronic media such as TV broadcasting in many ways, including quality, reach, frequency, interactivity, usability, immediacy, and performance. Social media outlets operate in a dialogic transmission system (many sources to many receivers). This is in contrast to traditional media which operates under a monologic transmission model (one source to many receivers), such as a newspaper which is delivered to many subscribers, or a radio station which broadcasts the same programs to an entire city. Some of the most popular social media websites are Baidu Tieba, Facebook (and its associated Facebook Messenger), Google+, Myspace, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter, Viber, VK, WeChat, Weibo, WhatsApp, and Wikia. These social media websites have more than 100,000,000 registered users.
In the United States, a 2015 survey reported that 71 percent of teenagers have a Facebook account. Over 60% of 13 to 17-year-olds have at least one profile on social media, with many spending more than two hours per day on social networking sites. According to Nielsen, Internet users continue to spend more time on social media sites than on any other type of site. At the same time, the total time spent on social media sites in the U.S. across PCs as well as on mobile devices increased by 99 percent to 121 billion minutes in July 2012, compared to 66 billion minutes in July 2011. For content contributors, the benefits of participating in social media have gone beyond simply social sharing to building a reputation and bringing in career opportunities and monetary income.
Observers have noted a range of positive and negative impacts of social media use. Social media can help to improve an individual's sense of connectedness with real or online communities, and social media can be an effective communication (or marketing) tool for corporations, entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, political parties, and governments. At the same time, concerns have been raised about possible links between heavy social media use and depression, and even the issues of cyberbullying, online harassment and "trolling". Currently, about half of young adults have been cyberbullied, and of those, 20% said that they have been cyberbullied regularly. Another survey in the U.S. applied the Precaution Process Adoption Model to cyberbullying on Facebook among 7th grade students. According to this study, 69% of 7th grade students claim to have experienced cyberbullying, and they also said that it was worse than face-to-face bullying. Both the bully and the victim are negatively affected, and the intensity, duration, and frequency of bullying are the three aspects that increase the negative effects on both of them
Social media has a history dating back to the 1970s. ARPANET, which first came online in 1967, had by the late 1970s developed a rich cultural exchange of non-government/business ideas and communication, as clearly evidenced by ARPANET#Rules and etiquette's "A 1982 handbook on computing at MIT's AI Lab stated regarding network etiquette," and fully met the current definition of the term "social media" found in this article. Usenet, which arrived in 1979, was beat by a precursor of the electronic bulletin board system (BBS) known as Community Memory in 1973. True electronic bulletin board systems arrived with the Computer Bulletin Board System in Chicago, which first came online on 16 February 1978. Before long, most major cities had more than one BBS running on TRS-80, Apple II, Atari, IBM PC, Commodore 64, Sinclair, and similar personal computers.
The IBM PC was introduced in 1981, and subsequent models of both Mac computers and PCs were used throughout the 1980s. Multiple modems, followed by specialized telecommunication hardware, allowed many users to be online simultaneously. Compuserve, Prodigy and AOL were three of the largest BBS companies and were the first to migrate to the Internet in the 1990s. Between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s, BBSes numbered in the tens of thousands in North America alone. Message forums (a specific structure of social media) arose with the BBS phenomenon throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. When the Internet proliferated in the mid-1990s, message forums migrated online, becoming Internet forums, primarily due to cheaper per-person access as well as the ability to handle far more people simultaneously than telco modem banks.
GeoCities was one of the Internet's earliest social networking websites, appearing in November 1994, followed by Classmates in December 1995, Six Degrees in May 1997, Open Diary in October 1998, LiveJournal in April 1999, Ryze in October 2001, Friendster in March 2002, LinkedIn in May 2003, hi5 in June 2003, MySpace in August 2003, Orkut in January 2004, Facebook in February 2004, Yahoo! 360° in March 2005, Bebo in July 2005, Twitter in July 2006, Tumblr in February 2007, and Google+ in July 2011.
Definition and classification
The variety of evolving stand-alone and built-in social media services makes it challenging to define them. The idea that social media are defined simply by their ability to bring people together has been seen as too broad, as this would suggest that fundamentally different technologies like the telegraph and telephone are also social media. The terminology is unclear, with some referring to social media as social networks or social networking services.
- social media are Web 2.0 Internet-based applications,
- user-generated content (UGC) is the lifeblood of the social media organism,
- users create service-specific profiles for the site or app that are designed and maintained by the social media organization,
- social media facilitate the development of online social networks by connecting a user's profile with those of other individuals or groups.
In 2016, Merriam-Webster defined social media as "forms of electronic communication (such as Web sites) through which people create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, etc."
Social media technologies take many different forms including blogs, business networks, enterprise social networks, forums, microblogs, photo sharing, products/services review, social bookmarking, social gaming, social networks, video sharing, and virtual worlds. The development of social media started off with simple platforms such as sixdegrees.com. Unlike instant messaging clients, such as ICQ and AOL's AIM, or chat clients like IRC, iChat or Chat Television, sixdegrees.com was the first online business that was created for real people, using their real names. The first social networks were short-lived, however, because their users lost interest. The Social Network Revolution has led to the rise of the networking sites. Research shows that the audience spends 22% of their time on social networking sites, thus proving how popular social media platforms have become. This increase is because of the widespread daily use of smartphones.
Mobile social media
Mobile social media refer to the use of social media on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. Mobile social media are a useful application of mobile marketing because the creation, exchange, and circulation of user-generated content can assist companies with marketing research, communication, and relationship development. Mobile social media differ from others because they incorporate the current location of the user (location-sensitivity) or the time delay between sending and receiving messages (time-sensitivity). According to Andreas Kaplan, mobile social media applications can be differentiated among four types:
- Space-timers (location and time sensitive): Exchange of messages with relevance mostly for one specific location at one specific point in time (e.g. Facebook Places What's app; Foursquare)
- Space-locators (only location sensitive): Exchange of messages, with relevance for one specific location, which is tagged to a certain place and read later by others (e.g. Yelp; Qype, Tumblr, Fishbrain)
- Quick-timers (only time sensitive): Transfer of traditional social media applications to mobile devices to increase immediacy (e.g. posting Twitter messages or Facebook status updates)
- Slow-timers (neither location nor time sensitive): Transfer of traditional social media applications to mobile devices (e.g. watching a YouTube video or reading/editing a Wikipedia article)
How social media works
Some social media sites have greater potential for content that is posted there to spread virally over social networks. This is an analogy to the concept of a viral infectious disease in biology, some of which can spread rapidly from an infected person to another person. In a social media context, content or websites that are "viral" (or which "go viral") are those with a greater likelihood that users will reshare content posted (by another user) to their social network, leading to further sharing. In some cases, posts containing controversial content (e.g., Kim Kardashian's nude photos that "broke the Internet" and crashed servers) or fast-breaking news have been rapidly shared and reshared by a huge number of users. Many social media sites provide a specific functionality to help users reshare content, such as Twitter's retweet button, Pinterest's pin function, Facebook's share option or Tumblr's reblog function. Businesses have a particular interest in viral marketing tactics because a viral campaign can achieve widespread advertising coverage (particularly if the viral reposting itself makes the news) for a fraction of the cost of a traditional marketing campaign, which typically uses printed materials, like newspapers, magazines, mailings, and billboards, and television and radio commercials. Nonprofit organizations and activists may have similar interests in posting content on social media sites with the aim of it going viral.
Retweeting on Twitter
A popular component and feature of Twitter is retweeting. Twitter allows other people to keep up with important events, stay connected with their peers, and can contribute in various ways throughout social media. When certain posts become popular, they start to get tweeted over and over again, becoming viral. Ellen DeGeneres is a prime example of this. She was a host during the 86th Academy Awards, when she took the opportunity to take a selfie with about twelve other celebrities that joined in on the highlight of the night, including Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. This picture went viral within forty minutes and was retweeted 1.8 million times within the first hour. This was an astonishing record for Twitter and the use of selfies, which other celebrities have tried to recreate. In May 2017, Carter Wilkerson's tweet at Wendy's asking what it would take to get free chicken nuggets for a year surpassed Ellen DeGeneres' famous tweet with over 3 million retweets. Retweeting is beneficial strategy, which notifies individuals on Twitter about popular trends, posts, and events. The use of hashtags can also be used in retweets, and can be used to take count of how many people have used that hashtag. For example, in the first five months of 2013, five new hashtags relating to climate change were created.
Bots and their effect on analytics
There are direct benefits of social media in the form of greater market share and increased audiences. To increase these benefits technologies that better facilitate social media marketing has been developed; an example of this technology is the development of bots.
Bots (short for robots) are automated programs that run over the internet. There are many forms of bots with varying behaviors. The bots most relevant to social media marketing are chatbots and social bots. Chatbots and social bots are programmed to mimic natural human interactions such as liking, commenting, following, and unfollowing on social media platforms. The ability of these bots to automate social media marketing needs has created a large demand and the establishment of a new industry of bot providers.
In addition to humans and bots, the third type of users are "cyborgs", described as a combination of a human and a bot, in an analogy to "real" cyborgs. They are used, for instance, to spread fake news or create a buzz. Cyborgs, in the social media context, are either bot-assisted humans or human-assisted bots. A concrete example of a cyborg in the social media context is a human being who registers an account for which he sets automated programs to post, for instance, tweets, during his absence. From time to time, the human participates to tweet and interact with friends. Cyborgs are different from bots, as bots use automation, whereas cyborgs intertwine characteristics of both manual and automated behavior. Cyborgs offer unique opportunities for fake news spreaders, as it blends automated activity with human input. When the automated accounts are publicly identified, the human part of the cyborg is able to take over and could protest that the account has been used manually all along. Such accounts try to pose as real people; in particular, the number of their friends or followers should be resembling that of a real person. Often, such accounts use "friend farms" to collect a large number of friends in a short period of time.
Social media becomes effective through a process called "building social authority". One of the foundation concepts in social media has become that you cannot completely control your message through social media but rather you can simply begin to participate in the "conversation" expecting that you can achieve a significant influence in that conversation. However, this conversation participation must be cleverly executed because although people are resistant to marketing in general, they are even more resistant to direct or overt marketing through social media platforms. This may seem counterintuitive but it is the main reason building social authority with credibility is so important. A marketer can generally not expect people to be receptive to a marketing message in and of itself. In the Edelman Trust Barometer report in 2008, the majority (58%) of the respondents reported they most trusted company or product information coming from "people like me" inferred to be information from someone they trusted. In the 2010 Trust Report, the majority switched to 64% preferring their information from industry experts and academics. According to Inc. Technology's Brent Leary, "This loss of trust, and the accompanying turn towards experts and authorities, seems to be coinciding with the rise of social media and networks."
Patents of social media technology
There has been rapid growth in the number of US patent applications that cover new technologies related to social media, and the number of them that are published has been growing rapidly over the past five years. There are now over 2000 published patent applications. As many as 7000 applications may be currently on file including those that haven't been published yet. Only slightly over 100 of these applications have issued as patents, however, largely due to the multi-year backlog in examination of business method patents, patents which outline and claim new methods of doing business.
Statistics on usage and membership
According to Statista, in 2019, it is estimated that there will be around 2.77 billion social media users around the globe, up from 2.46 billion in 2017.
Most popular social networks
|#||Network Name||Number of Users
Social media usage
A survey conducted (in 2011), by Pew Internet Research, discussed in Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman's Networked – The New Social Operating System, illustrates that 'networked individuals' are engaged to a further extent regarding numbers of content creation activities and that the 'networked individuals' are increasing over a larger age span. These are some of the content creation activities that networked individuals take part in:
- writing material, such as text or online comments, on a social networking site such as Facebook: 65% of Internet users do this
- sharing digital photos: 55%
- contributing rankings and reviews of products or services: 37%
- creating "tags" of content, such as tagging songs by genre: 33%
- posting comments on third-party websites or blogs: 26%
- taking online material and remixing it into a new creation: 15% of Internet users do this with photos, video, audio, or text
- creating or working on a blog: 14%
Another survey conducted (in 2015) by Pew Internet Research shows that the Internet users among American adults who uses at least one social networking site has increased from 10% to 76% since 2005. Pew Internet Research illustrates furthermore that it nowadays is no real gender difference among Americans when it comes to social media usage. Women were even more active on social media a couple of years ago, however today's numbers point at women: 68%, and men: 62%.
Use of social media by organizations
Use of social media by businesses
Although social media accessed via desktop computers offer a variety of opportunities for companies in a wide range of business sectors, mobile social media, which users can access when they are "on the go" via tablet computers or smartphones, benefit companies because of the location- and time-sensitive awareness of their users. Mobile social media tools can be used for marketing research, communication, sales promotions/discounts, and relationship development/loyalty programs.
- Marketing research: Mobile social media applications provide companies data about offline consumer movements at a level of detail that was previously accessible to online companies only. These applications allow any business to know the exact time a customer who uses social media entered one of its locations, as well as know the social media comments made during the visit.
- Communication: Mobile social media communication takes two forms: company-to-consumer (in which a company may establish a connection to a consumer based on its location and provide reviews about locations nearby) and user-generated content. For example, McDonald's offered $5 and $10 gift-cards to 100 users randomly selected among those checking in at one of its restaurants. This promotion increased check-ins by 33% (from 2,146 to 2,865), resulted in over 50 articles and blog posts, and prompted several hundred thousand news feeds and Twitter messages.
- Sales promotions and discounts: Although customers have had to use printed coupons in the past, mobile social media allows companies to tailor promotions to specific users at specific times. For example, when launching its California-Cancun service, Virgin America offered users who checked in through Loopt at one of three designated taco trucks in San Francisco or Los Angeles between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on August 31, 2010, two tacos for $1 and two flights to Cancun or Cabo for the price of one. This special promotion was only available to people who were at a certain location at a certain time.
- Relationship development and loyalty programs: In order to increase long-term relationships with customers, companies can develop loyalty programs that allow customers who check-in via social media regularly at a location to earn discounts or perks. For example, American Eagle Outfitters remunerates such customers with a tiered 10%, 15%, or 20% discount on their total purchase.
- e-Commerce: Social media sites are increasingly implementing marketing-friendly strategies, creating platforms that are mutually beneficial for users, businesses, and the networks themselves in the popularity and accessibility of e-commerce, or online purchases. The user who posts her or his comments about a company's product or service benefits because they are able to share their views with their online friends and acquaintances. The company benefits because it obtains insight (positive or negative) about how their product or service is viewed by consumers. Mobile social media applications such as Amazon.com and Pinterest have started to influence an upward trend in the popularity and accessibility of e-commerce.
E-commerce businesses may refer to social media as consumer-generated media (CGM). A common thread running through all definitions of social media is a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value for the business or organization that is using it. People obtain valuable information, education, news, and other data from electronic and print media. Social media are distinct from industrial and traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, television, and film as they are comparatively inexpensive marketing tools and are highly accessible. They enable anyone, including private individuals, to publish or access information easily. Industrial media generally require significant resources to publish information, and in most cases the articles go through many revisions before being published. This process adds to the cost and the resulting market price. Originally social media was only used by individuals, but now it is used by both businesses and nonprofit organizations and also in government and politics.
One characteristic shared by both social and industrial media is the capability to reach small or large audiences; for example, either a blog post or a television show may reach no people or millions of people. Some of the properties that help describe the differences between social and industrial media are:
- Quality: In industrial (traditional) publishing—mediated by a publisher—the typical range of quality is substantially narrower (skewing to the high quality side) than in niche, unmediated markets like user-generated social media posts. The main challenge posed by the content in social media sites is the fact that the distribution of quality has high variance: from very high-quality items to low-quality, sometimes even abusive or inappropriate content.
- Reach: Both industrial and social media technologies provide scale and are capable of reaching a global audience. Industrial media, however, typically use a centralized framework for organization, production, and dissemination, whereas social media are by their very nature more decentralized, less hierarchical, and distinguished by multiple points of production and utility.
- Frequency: The number of times users access a type of media per day. Heavy social media users, such as young people, check their social media account numerous times throughout the day.
- Accessibility: The means of production for industrial media are typically government or corporate (privately owned); social media tools are generally available to the public at little or no cost, or they are supported by advertising revenue. While social media tools are available to anyone with access to Internet and a computer or mobile device, due to the digital divide, the poorest segment of the population lacks access to the Internet and computer. Low-income people may have more access to traditional media (TV, radio, etc.), as an inexpensive TV and aerial or radio costs much less than an inexpensive computer or mobile device. Moreover, in many regions, TV or radio owners can tune into free over the air programming; computer or mobile device owners need Internet access to go to social media sites.
- Usability: Industrial media production typically requires specialized skills and training. For example, in the 1970s, to record a pop song, an aspiring singer would have to rent time in an expensive professional recording studio and hire an audio engineer. Conversely, most social media activities, such as posting a video of oneself singing a song require only modest reinterpretation of existing skills (assuming a person understands Web 2.0 technologies); in theory, anyone with access to the Internet can operate the means of social media production, and post digital pictures, videos or text online.
- Immediacy: The time lag between communications produced by industrial media can be long (days, weeks, or even months, by the time the content has been reviewed by various editors and fact checkers) compared to social media (which can be capable of virtually instantaneous responses). The immediacy of social media can be seen as a strength, in that it enables regular people to instantly communicate their opinions and information. At the same time, the immediacy of social media can also be seen as a weakness, as the lack of fact checking and editorial "gatekeepers" facilitates the circulation of hoaxes and fake news.
- Permanence: Industrial media, once created, cannot be altered (e.g., once a magazine article or paper book is printed and distributed, changes cannot be made to that same article in that print run) whereas social media posts can be altered almost instantaneously, when the user decides to edit their post or due to comments from other readers.
Community media constitute a hybrid of industrial and social media. Though community-owned, some community radio, TV, and newspapers are run by professionals and some by amateurs. They use both social and industrial media frameworks. Social media has also been recognized for the way they have changed how public relations professionals conduct their jobs. They have provided an open arena where people are free to exchange ideas on companies, brands, and products. Doc Searls and David Wagner state that the "...best of the people in PR are not PR types at all. They understand that there aren't censors, they're the company's best conversationalists." Social media provides an environment where users and PR professionals can converse, and where PR professionals can promote their brand and improve their company's image by listening and responding to what the public is saying about their product.
- Social capital represents the extent to which social media affects firms' and organizations' relationships with society and the degree to which the organizations' use of social media increases corporate social-performance capabilities.
- Revealed preferences represent the extent to which social media exposes customers' likings (e.g., "likes" and followers) and increase a firm's financial capabilities (e.g., stock price, revenue, profit), or for non-profits, increases their donations, volunteerism rate, etc.
- Social marketing represents the extent to which social-marketing resources (e.g., online conversations, sharing links, online presence, sending text-messages) are used to increase a firm's financial capabilities (e.g., sales, acquisition of new customers) or a non-profit's voluntary sector goals.
- Social corporate networking involves the informal ties and linkages of corporate/organizational staff with other people from their field or industry, clients, customers, and other members of the public, which form through social networks. Social corporate networking can increase operational performance capabilities in many ways, as it can enable sales staff to find new clients; help marketing staff to learn about client/customer needs and demand, and teach management about the public perceptions of their strategy or approach.
- Influence on consumer decisions With the ever-increasing technological development of social media, this has affected consumers' decision to buy the product or service provided by companies.On the other hand, social media has become an important factor in increasing the sales of brands, whether large or small, since the beginning of the Internet revolution. There is much research to prove this, based on the actions taken by the consumer through 2017. There will be many reports at the beginning 2018 confirming the degree to which social media has become effective in marketing companies and the importance of focusing on them.
There are four tools or approaches that engage experts, customers, suppliers, and employees in the development of products and services using social media. Companies and other organizations can use these tools and approaches to improve their business capacity and performance.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) is an approach to managing a company's interaction with current and potential future customers that try to analyze data about customers' history with a company and to improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on customer retention and ultimately driving sales growth. One important aspect of the CRM approach is the systems of CRM that compile data from a range of different communication channels, including a company's website, telephone, email, live chat, marketing materials, and social media. Through the CRM approach and the systems used to facilitate CRM, businesses learn more about their target audiences and how to best cater to their needs. However, adopting the CRM approach may also occasionally lead to favoritism within an audience of consumers, resulting in dissatisfaction among customers and defeating the purpose of CRM.
- Innovation can be defined simply as a "new idea, device, or method" or as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more-effective products, processes, services, technologies, or business models that are readily available to markets, governments, and society. The term "innovation" can be defined as something original and more effective and, as a consequence, new, that "breaks into" the market or society. It is related to, but not the same as, invention. Innovation is often manifested via the engineering process. Innovation is generally considered to be the result of a process that brings together various novel ideas in a way that affects society. In industrial economics, innovations are created and found empirically from services to meet growing consumer demand.
- Training in social-media techniques, tactics and unwritten rules may not be needed for "parseltongues", such as workers who are already comfortable and experienced with using social media. However, for workers who are not familiar with social media, formal or informal training may be needed. Brand management and engagement is done differently on social media platforms than over traditional advertising formats such as TV and radio ads. To give just one example, with traditional ads, customers cannot respond to the ad. However, if an organization makes a major gaffe or politically incorrect statement on social media, customers and other regular citizens can immediately post comments about the ad.
- Knowledge management could take place in traditional small businesses (such as coffeehouses and ice cream parlours) just by using the owner-proprietor's own memory of his key customers, their preferences, and their client-service expectations. However, with the shift to national or even multinational e-commerce businesses which operate online, companies are generating far more data on transactions for a single person or even a team to grasp just in their memory. As such, 2010-era global e-commerce firms typically use a range of digital tools to track, monitor and analyze the huge streams of data their businesses are generating, a process called "data mining".
Monitoring, tracking and analysis of consumers
Companies are increasingly using social media monitoring tools to monitor, track, and analyze online conversations on the Web about their brand or products or about related topics of interest. This can be useful in public relations management and advertising campaign tracking, allowing the companies to measure return on investment for their social media ad spending, competitor-auditing, and for public engagement. Tools range from free, basic applications to subscription-based, more in-depth tools.
Social media tracking also enables companies to respond quickly to online posts that criticize their product or service. By responding quickly to critical online posts, and helping the user to resolve the concerns, this helps the company to lessen the negative effects that online complaints can have about company product or service sales. In the US, for example, if a customer criticizes a major hotel chain's cleanliness or service standards on a social media website, a company representative will usually quickly be alerted to this critical post, so that the company representative can go online and express concern for the sub-par service and offer the complaining person a coupon or discount on their next purchase, plus a promise to forward their concerns to the hotel manager so that the problem will not be repeated. This rapid response helps to show that the company cares about its customers.
The "honeycomb framework" defines how social media services focus on some or all of seven functional building blocks. These building blocks help explain the engagement needs of the social media audience. For instance, LinkedIn users are thought to care mostly about identity, reputation, and relationships, whereas YouTube's primary features are sharing, conversations, groups, and reputation. Many companies build their own social "containers" that attempt to link the seven functional building blocks around their brands. These are private communities that engage people around a more narrow theme, as in around a particular brand, vocation or hobby, rather than social media containers such as Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. PR departments face significant challenges in dealing with viral negative sentiment directed at organizations or individuals on social media platforms (dubbed "sentimentitis"), which may be a reaction to an announcement or event. In a 2011 article, Jan H. Kietzmann, Kristopher Hermkens, Ian P. McCarthy and Bruno S. Silvestre describe the honeycomb relationship as "present[ing] a framework that defines social media by using seven functional building blocks: identity, conversations, sharing, presence, relationships, reputation, and groups".
Social media mining
Social media "mining" is a type of data mining, a technique of analyzing data to detect patterns. Social media mining is a process of representing, analyzing, and extracting actionable patterns from data collected from people's activities on social media. Social media mining introduces basic concepts and principal algorithms suitable for investigating massive social media data; it discusses theories and methodologies from different disciplines such as computer science, data mining, machine learning, social network analysis, network science, sociology, ethnography, statistics, optimization, and mathematics. It encompasses the tools to formally represent, measure, model, and mine meaningful patterns from large-scale social media data. Detecting patterns in social media use by data mining is of particular interest to advertisers, major corporations and brands, governments and political parties, among others.
Data mining is thought to be most useful when analyzing information from active users. When a user dies and becomes inactive, they are rendered to have no value to most companies. These companies like Facebook and Google have different approaches to digital death. For Google, it is not profitable to advertise on an inactive Gmail account, and therefore no advertising is displayed but the email remains on Google's servers. In order to access the account of a deceased relative, Google requests someone to mail specific official documents, including the death certificate of the person, and the company is still unlikely to reveal the relative's account. While an inactive account is of zero value to Google, the company respects the rights of the posthumous individual even if the email may be sentimentally worth more to a relative. When an inactive account, specifically Gmail, is deleted, any accounts linked to it, (YouTube or Google Drive) will also be deleted. This system discourages the action of deleting a Google account.
On Facebook, posthumous profiles can now be memorialized or erased altogether. Facebook's option to memorialize a user does not, however, allow for a relative to filter through which information is to be memorialized. Users can visit a memorialized page and connect with others who are friends of the posthumous user. This function gives a Facebook user a digital legacy since they may choose not to have their account deleted.
There are generally 4 steps that social media outlets use when data mining:
- Select a subject to study and use a tool to capture significant data
- Use a distinct evaluation system that clusters similar items in a study to represent the data set accurately and with precision
- Apply the information gathered from the evaluation system to update the metadata on the specific product
- Follow up with user's experience to refine the multimedia product
These four steps are the basis that social media outlets use when applying their data mining techniques but they are subject to change based on what the company is deems more important for the customer experience. Some social media outlets when doing data mining do not take in account the context of the individual's information. This can be problematic because sometimes the data they gather could not be accurate to what the consumer is interested in. To fix this problem some social media outlets have added capture time and Geotagging that helps provide information about the context of the data as well as making their data more accurate. In there are generally two types when data mining and that is supervised learning and unsupervised learning. Some of these data mining techniques include decision tree learning, Naive Bayes classifier, Bootstrap aggregating, and Boosting methods. Data mining social media outlets have better results when using techniques that focus more on the individual's behavior on social media rather than using a standardized model to find data.
Social media in politics
Social media's role in democratizing media participation, which proponents herald as ushering in a new era of participatory democracy, with all users able to contribute news and comments, may fall short of the ideals. Social media have been championed as allowing anyone with an Internet connection to become a content creator and empowering their users. But international survey data suggest online media audience members are largely passive consumers, while content creation is dominated by a small number of users who post comments and write new content.:78 Others argue that the effect of social media will vary from one country to another, with domestic political structures playing a greater role than social media in determining how citizens express opinions about stories of current affairs involving the state. According to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report in 2013, the percentage of online news users who blog about news issues ranges from 1–5%. Greater percentages use social media to comment on news, with participation ranging from 8% in Germany to 38% in Brazil. But online news users are most likely to just talk about online news with friends offline or use social media to share stories without creating content.:78
People in the United States who have access to the internet are increasingly getting political news and information from social media platforms. A 2014 study showed that 48% of web users in the United States turn to Facebook to find political news in a typical week. The rapid propagation of information on social media, spread by word of mouth, can impact the perception of political figures quickly with information that may or may not be true. When political information is propagated in this manner on purpose, the spread of information on social media for political means can benefit campaigns. On the other hand, the word-of-mouth propagation of negative information concerning a political figure can be damaging. For example, the use of the social media platform Twitter by United States congressman Anthony Weiner to send inappropriate messages played a role in his resignation.
Open forums online have led to some negative effects in the political sphere. Some politicians have made the mistake of using open forums to try to reach a broader audience and thus more potential voters. What they forgot to account for was that the forums would be open to everyone, including those in opposition. Having no control over the comments being posted, negative included, has been damaging for some with unfortunate oversight. Additionally, a constraint of social media as a tool for public political discourse is that if oppressive governments recognize the ability social media has to cause change, they shut it down. During the peak of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, the Internet and social media played a huge role in facilitating information. At that time, Hosni Mubarak was the president of Egypt and head the regime for almost 30 years. Mubarak was so threatened by the immense power that the Internet and social media gave the people that the government successfully shut down the Internet, using the Ramses Exchange, for a period of time in February 2011.
Social media as an open forum gives a voice to those who have previously not had the ability to be heard. In 2015, some countries were still becoming equipped with Internet accessibility and other technologies. Social media is giving everyone a voice to speak out against government regimes. In 2014, the rural areas in Paraguay were only just receiving access to social media, such as Facebook. In congruence with the users worldwide, teens and young adults in Paraguay are drawn to Facebook and others types of social media as a means to self-express. Social media is becoming a main conduit for social mobilization and government critiques because, "the government can't control what we say on the Internet."
When it comes to politics in social media, news use via social media is more of a democratic behavior. Although, social media is most commonly used for non-political purposes, it is believed that social media benefits democrats. Social interaction and news in regards to social media encourages diverse networks, exposure to many different political opinions, and encourages people to rethink their political views. A communication platform such as social media is persuasive, and often works to change or influence opinions when it comes to political views because of the abundance of ideas, thoughts, and opinions circulating through the social media platform. It is found that news use leads to political persuasion, therefore the more that people use social media platforms for news sources, the more their political opinions will be affected. Despite that, people are expressing less trust in their government and others due to media use- therefore social media directly affects trust in media use. It is proven that while reading newspapers there is an increase in social trust where on the contrary watching the news on television weakened trust in others and news sources. Social media, or more specifically news media- plays an important role in democratic societies because they allow for participation among citizens.Therefore, when it comes to healthy democratic networks, it is crucial that that news remains true so it doesn’t affect citizens’ levels of trust. A certain amount of trust is necessary for a healthy and well functioning democratic system.
Younger generations are becoming more involved in politics due to the increase of political news posted on various types of social media. Due to the heavier use of social media among younger generations, they are exposed to politics more frequently, and in a way that is integrated into their online social lives. While informing younger generations of political news is important, there are many biases within the realms of social media. It can be difficult for outsiders to truly understand the conditions of dissent when they are removed from direct involvement. Social media can create a false sense of understanding among people who are not directly involved in the issue. An example of social media creating misconceptions can be seen during the Arab Spring protests. Today's generation rely heavily on social media to understand what is happening in the world, and consequently people are exposed to both true and false information. For example, Americans have several misconceptions surrounding the events of the Arab Springs movement. Social media can be used to create political change, both major and minor. For example, in 2011 Egyptians used Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as a means to communicate and organize demonstrations and rallies to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak. Statistics show that during this time the rate of Tweets from Egypt increased from 2,300 to 230,000 per day and the top 23 protest videos had approximately 5.5 million views.
Social media was also influential in the widespread attention given to the revolutionary outbreaks in the Middle East and North Africa during 2011. However, there is some debate about the extent to which social media facilitated this kind of change. Another example of this shift is in the ongoing Kony 2012 short documentary film, which surfaced first on YouTube and later garnered a great amount of attention from mainstream news media journalists. These journalists now monitor social media sites to inform their reports on the movement. Lastly, in the past couple of presidential elections in the United States, the use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter were used to predict election results. U.S. President Barack Obama was more liked on Facebook than his opponent Mitt Romney and it was found by a study done by Oxford Institute Internet Experiment that more people liked to tweet about comments of President Obama rather than Romney.
Role in social conflict
Social media is revolutionizing the way people communicate. People around the world can communicate with each other by simply accessing a computer interface. The computer interface is easy to use and is accessible worldwide. Social media provides users an opportunity to communicate and share information across multiple platforms around the world. A drawback to Social media is that it can play a significant role in conflict.
- limits communication
- easily accessible
- technological advancements
Social media platforms allow information to be framed in mainstream platforms which limits communication. Social Media has become easily accessible allowing news stories to quickly go viral and later can lead to misinterpretation that can cause conflict. Strategies and the adaption of Social Media has caused a change in focus amongst leaders from administrative dynamics to new media technology. Technological advancements in communication can increase the power of persuasion leading to corruption, scandals, and violence on social media platforms. The role of technological communication and social media in the world can lead to political, economic, and social conflict due to its unmonitored system, cheap interface, and accessibility.
People around the world are taking advantage of social media as one of their key components of communication. According to King, 67 percent of US citizens ages 12 and up use social media of some type. With the expansion of social media networks there are many positive and negative alternatives. As the use of Twitter increases, its influence impacts users as well. The potential role of Twitter as a means of both service feedback and a space in which mental health can be openly discussed and considered from a variety of perspectives. The study conducted shows a positive outlook for using Twitter to discuss health issues with a patient and a professional, in this case alcohol. On the other hand, there can be negatives that arise from the use of social media. If a clinician prescribes abstinence from alcohol but then posts pictures on social media of one's own drunken exploits, the clinician's credibility is potentially lost in the eyes of the patient. In these two studies, both negative and positive outcomes were examined. Although social media can be beneficial, it is important to understand the negative consequences as well.
Use by militant groups
As the world is becoming increasingly connected via the power of the Internet, political movements, including militant groups, have begun to see social media as a major organizing and recruiting tool. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL, ISIS, and Daesh, has used social media to promote its cause. ISIS produces an online magazine named the Islamic State Report to recruit more fighters. ISIS produces online materials in a number of languages and uses recruiters to contact potential recruitees over the Internet.
In Canada, two girls from Montreal left their country to join ISIS in Syria after exploring ISIS on social media and eventually being recruited. On Twitter, there is an app called the Dawn of Glad Tidings that users can download and keep up to date on news about ISIS. Hundreds of users around the world have signed up for the app, which once downloaded will post tweets and hash-tags from accounts that are in support of ISIS. As ISIS marched on the northern region of Iraq, tweets in support of their efforts reached a high of 40,000 a day. Support of ISIS online is a factor in the radicalization of youth. Mass media has yet to adopt the view that social media plays a vital link in the radicalization of people. When tweets supportive of ISIS make their way onto Twitter, they result in 72 re-tweets to the original, which further spreads the message of ISIS. These tweets have made their way to the account known as active hashtags, which further helps broadcast ISIS's message as the account sends out to its followers the most popular hashtags of the day. Other militant groups such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban are increasingly using social media to raise funds, recruit and radicalize persons, and it has become increasingly effective.
Use of social media during recruitment and hiring
Some employers use social media as a tool to screen a prospective employee. This issue raises many ethical questions that some consider an employer's right and others consider discrimination. Except in the states of California, Maryland, and Illinois, there are no laws that prohibit employers from using social media profiles as a basis of whether or not someone should be hired. Title VII also prohibits discrimination during any aspect of employment including hiring or firing, recruitment, or testing. Social media has been integrating into the workplace and this has led to conflicts within employees and employers. Particularly, Facebook has been seen as a popular platform for employers to investigate in order to learn more about potential employees. This conflict first started in Maryland when an employer requested and received an employee's Facebook username and password. State lawmakers first introduced legislation in 2012 to prohibit employers from requesting passwords to personal social accounts in order to get a job or to keep a job. This led to Canada, Germany, the U.S. Congress and 11 U.S. states to pass or propose legislation that prevents employers' access to private social accounts of employees.
It is not only an issue in the workplace, but an issue in schools as well. There have been situations where students have been forced to give up their social media passwords to school administrators. There are inadequate laws to protect a student's social media privacy, and organizations such as the ACLU are pushing for more privacy protection, as it is an invasion. They urge students who are pressured to give up their account information to tell the administrators to contact a parent or lawyer before they take the matter any further. Although they are students, they still have the right to keep their password-protected information private.
Many Western European countries have already implemented laws that restrict the regulation of social media in the workplace. States including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin have passed legislation that protects potential employees and current employees from employers that demand them to give forth their username or password for a social media account. Laws that forbid employers from disciplining an employee based on activity off the job on social media sites have also been put into act in states including California, Colorado, Connecticut, North Dakota, and New York. Several states have similar laws that protect students in colleges and universities from having to grant access to their social media accounts. Eight states have passed the law that prohibits post secondary institutions from demanding social media login information from any prospective or current students and privacy legislation has been introduced or is pending in at least 36 states as of July 2013. As of May 2014, legislation has been introduced and is in the process of pending in at least 28 states and has been enacted in Maine and Wisconsin. In addition, the National Labor Relations Board has been devoting a lot of their attention to attacking employer policies regarding social media that can discipline employees who seek to speak and post freely on social media sites.
Use of social media by young people has caused significant problems for some applicants who are active on social media when they try to enter the job market. A survey of 17,000 young people in six countries in 2013 found that 1 in 10 people aged 16 to 34 have been rejected for a job because of online comments they made on social media websites. A 2014 survey of recruiters found that 93% of them check candidates' social media postings. Moreover, professor Stijn Baert of Ghent University conducted a field experiment in which fictitious job candidates applied for real job vacancies in Belgium. They were identical except in one respect: their Facebook profile photos. It was found that candidates with the most wholesome photos were a lot more likely to receive invitations for job interviews than those with the more controversial photos. In addition, Facebook profile photos had a greater impact on hiring decisions when candidates were highly educated. These cases have created some privacy implications as to whether or not companies should have the right to look at employee's Facebook profiles. In March 2012, Facebook decided they might take legal action against employers for gaining access to employee's profiles through their passwords. According to Facebook Chief Privacy Officer for policy, Erin Egan, the company has worked hard to give its users the tools to control who sees their information. He also said users shouldn't be forced to share private information and communications just to get a job. According to the network's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, sharing or soliciting a password is a violation of Facebook policy. Employees may still give their password information out to get a job, but according to Erin Egan, Facebook will continue to do their part to protect the privacy and security of their users.
Before social media, admissions officials in the United States used SAT and other standardized test scores, extra-curricular activities, letters of recommendation, and high school report cards to determine whether to accept or deny an applicant. In the 2010s, while colleges and universities still use these traditional methods to evaluate applicants, these institutions are increasingly accessing applicants' social media profiles to learn about their character and activities. According to Kaplan, Inc, a corporation that provides higher education preparation, in 2012 27% of admissions officers used Google to learn more about an applicant, with 26% checking Facebook. Students whose social media pages include offensive jokes or photos, racist or homophobic comments, photos depicting the applicant engaging in illegal drug use or drunkenness, and so on, may be screened out from admission processes.
As social media usage has become increasingly widespread, social media has to a large extent come to be subjected to commercialization by marketing companies and advertising agencies. Christofer Laurell, a digital marketing researcher, suggested that the social media landscape currently consists of three types of places because of this development: consumer-dominated places, professionally dominated places and places undergoing commercialization. As social media becomes commercialized, this process have been shown to create novel forms of value networks stretching between consumer and producer in which a combination of personal, private and commercial contents are created.
Use of social media by law enforcement agencies
Social media have been used to assist in searches for missing persons. When 21-year-old University of Cincinnati student Brogan Dulle disappeared in May 2014 from near his apartment in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio, his friends and family used social media to organize and fund a search effort. The disappearance made international news when their efforts went viral on Facebook, Twitter, GoFundMe, and The Huffington Post during the week-long search. Dulle's body was eventually found in a building next door to his apartment. Social media was brought up as a strategy to try and help bring together the community and police force. It is a way for the police force to show their progress to the community on issues they are dealing with.
Social media marketing
Social media marketing has increased due to the growing active user rates on social media sites. For example, Facebook currently has 2.2 billion users, Twitter has 330 million active users and Instagram has 800 million users. One of the main uses is to interact with audiences to create awareness of their brand or service, with the main idea of creating a two-way communication system where the audience and/or customers can interact back; providing feedback as just one example. Social media can be used to advertise; placing an advert on Facebook's Newsfeed, for example, can allow a vast number of people to see it or targeting specific audiences from their usage to encourage awareness of the product or brand. Users of social media are then able to like, share and comment on the advert, becoming message senders as they can keep passing the advert's message on to their friends and onwards.
Use of social media personalities in advertising
Social media personalities have been employed by marketers to promote products online. Research shows that digital endorsements seem to be successfully targeting social media users, especially younger consumers who have grown up in the digital age. Celebrities with large social media followings, such as Kylie Jenner, regularly endorse products to their followers on their social media pages. There has also been an increase in social media marketing in sport, as sports teams and clubs are recognising how important it is to build rapport with their fans and other audiences through social media. Sports personalities such as Cristiano Ronaldo have 73.5 million followers on Twitter and 135 million on Instagram, creating opportunities for endorsements.
Tweets containing advertising
In 2013, the United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) began to advise celebrities and sports stars to make it clear if they had been paid to tweet about a product or service by using the hashtag #spon or #ad within tweets containing endorsements. In July 2013, Wayne Rooney was accused of misleading followers by not including either of these tags in a tweet promoting Nike. The tweet read: "The pitches change. The killer instinct doesn't. Own the turf, anywhere. @NikeFootball #myground." The tweet was investigated by the ASA but no charges were pressed. The ASA stated that "We considered the reference to Nike Football was prominent and clearly linked the tweet with the Nike brand." Audiences and fans are also taking to social media to interact back with their favourite athlete, team or have conversations with other fans. 492 million tweets were about sport or sports events in 2014.
Use of social media by individuals
Social media as a news source
Just as television turned a nation of people who listened to media content into watchers of media content in the 1950s to the 1980s, the emergence of social media has created a nation of media content creators. According to 2011 Pew Research data, nearly 80% of American adults are online and nearly 60% of them use social networking sites. More Americans get their news via the Internet than from newspapers or radio, as well as three-fourths who say they get news from e-mail or social media sites updates, according to a report published by CNN. The survey suggests that Facebook and Twitter make news a more participatory experience than before as people share news articles and comment on other people's posts. According to CNN, in 2010 75% of people got their news forwarded through e-mail or social media posts, whereas 37% of people shared a news item via Facebook or Twitter.
In the United States, 81% of people say they look online for news of the weather, first and foremost. National news at 73%, 52% for sports news, and 41% for entertainment or celebrity news. Based on this study, done for the Pew Center, two-thirds of the sample's online news users were younger than 50, and 30% were younger than 30. The survey involved tracking daily the habits of 2,259 adults 18 or older. Thirty-three percent of young adults get news from social networks. Thirty-four percent watched TV news and 13% read print or digital content. Nineteen percent of Americans got news from Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn. Thirty-six percent of those who get news from social network got it yesterday from survey. More than 36% of Twitter users use accounts to follow news organizations or journalists. Nineteen percent of users say they got information from news organizations of journalists. TV remains most popular source of news, but audience is aging (only 34% of young people).
Of those younger than 25, 29% said they got no news yesterday either digitally or traditional news platforms. Only 5% under 30 said they follow news about political figures and events in DC. Only 14% of respondents could answer all four questions about which party controls the House, current unemployment rate, what nation Angela Merkel leads, and which presidential candidate favors taxing higher-income Americans. Facebook and Twitter now pathways to news, but are not replacements for traditional ones. Seventy percent get social media news from friends and family on Facebook.
Social media fosters communication. An Internet research company, Pew Research Center, claims that "more than half of internet users (52%) use two or more of the social media sites measured (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) to communicate with their family or friends". For children, using social media sites can help promote creativity, interaction, and learning. It can also help them with homework and class work. Moreover, social media enable them to stay connected with their peers, and help them to interact with each other. Some can get involved with developing fundraising campaigns and political events. However, it can impact social skills due to the absence of face-to-face contact. Social media can affect mental health of teens. Teens who use Facebook frequently and especially who are susceptible may become more narcissistic, antisocial, and aggressive. Teens become strongly influenced by advertising, and it influences buying habits. Since the creation of Facebook in 2004, it has become a distraction and a way to waste time for many users. A head teacher in the United Kingdom commented in 2015 that social media caused more stress to teenage children than examinations, with constant interaction and monitoring by peers ending the past practice where what pupils did in the evening or at weekends was separate from the arguments and peer pressure at school.
In a 2014 study, high school students ages 18 and younger were examined in an effort to find their preference for receiving news. Based on interviews with 61 teenagers, conducted from December 2007 to February 2011, most of the teen participants reported reading print newspapers only "sometimes," with fewer than 10% reading them daily. The teenagers instead reported learning about current events from social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and blogs. Another study showed that social media users read a set of news that is different from what newspaper editors feature in the print press. Using nanotechnology as an example, a study was conducted that studied tweets from Twitter and found that some 41% of the discourse about nanotechnology focused on its negative impacts, suggesting that a portion of the public may be concerned with how various forms of nanotechnology are used in the future. Although optimistic-sounding and neutral-sounding tweets were equally likely to express certainty or uncertainty, the pessimistic tweets were nearly twice as likely to appear certain of an outcome than uncertain. These results imply the possibility of a preconceived negative perception of many news articles associated with nanotechnology. Alternatively, these results could also imply that posts of a more pessimistic nature that are also written with an air of certainty are more likely to be shared or otherwise permeate groups on Twitter. Similar biases need to be considered when the utility of new media is addressed, as the potential for human opinion to over-emphasize any particular news story is greater despite the general improvement in addressed potential uncertainty and bias in news articles than in traditional media.
On October 2, 2013, the most common hashtag throughout the United States was "#governmentshutdown", as well as ones focusing on political parties, Obama, and healthcare. Most news sources have Twitter, and Facebook, pages, like CNN and the New York Times, providing links to their online articles, getting an increased readership. Additionally, several college news organizations and administrators have Twitter pages as a way to share news and connect to students. According to "Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2013", in the US, among those who use social media to find news, 47% of these people are under 45 years old, and 23% are above 45 years old. However social media as a main news gateway does not follow the same pattern across countries. For example, in this report, in Brazil, 60% of the respondents said social media was one of the five most important ways to find news online, 45% in Spain, 17% in the UK, 38% in Italy, 14% in France, 22% in Denmark, 30% in the U.S., and 12% in Japan. Moreover, there are differences among countries about commenting on news in social networks, 38% of the respondents in Brazil said they commented on news in social network in a week. These percentages are 21% in the U.S. and 10% in the UK. The authors argued that differences among countries may be due to culture difference rather than different levels of access to technical tools.
Rainie and Wellman have argued that media making now has become a participation work, which changes communication systems. The center of power is shifted from only the media (as the gatekeeper) to the peripheral area, which may include government, organizations, and out to the edge, the individual. These changes in communication systems raise empirical questions about trust to media effect. Prior empirical studies have shown that trust in information sources plays a major role in people's decision making. People's attitudes more easily change when they hear messages from trustworthy sources. In the Reuters report, 27% of respondents agree that they worry about the accuracy of a story on a blog. However, 40% of them believe the stories on blogs are more balanced than traditional papers because they are provided with a range of opinions. Recent research has shown that in the new social media communication environment, the civil or uncivil nature of comments will bias people's information processing even if the message is from a trustworthy source, which bring the practical and ethical question about the responsibility of communicator in the social media environment.
Effects on individual and collective memory
News media and television journalism have been a key feature in the shaping of American collective memory for much of the twentieth century. Indeed, since the United States' colonial era, news media has influenced collective memory and discourse about national development and trauma. In many ways, mainstream journalists have maintained an authoritative voice as the storytellers of the American past. Their documentary style narratives, detailed exposes, and their positions in the present make them prime sources for public memory. Specifically, news media journalists have shaped collective memory on nearly every major national event – from the deaths of social and political figures to the progression of political hopefuls. Journalists provide elaborate descriptions of commemorative events in U.S. history and contemporary popular cultural sensations. Many Americans learn the significance of historical events and political issues through news media, as they are presented on popular news stations. However, journalistic influence is growing less important, whereas social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, provide a constant supply of alternative news sources for users.
As social networking becomes more popular among older and younger generations, sites such as Facebook and YouTube, gradually undermine the traditionally authoritative voices of news media. For example, American citizens contest media coverage of various social and political events as they see fit, inserting their voices into the narratives about America's past and present and shaping their own collective memories. An example of this is the public explosion of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Florida. News media coverage of the incident was minimal until social media users made the story recognizable through their constant discussion of the case. Approximately one month after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, its online coverage by everyday Americans garnered national attention from mainstream media journalists, in turn exemplifying media activism. In some ways, the spread of this tragic event through alternative news sources parallels that of the Emmitt Till – whose murder became a national story after it circulated African American and Communists newspapers.
Forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships
Social media is used to fulfill perceived social needs, but not all needs can be fulfilled by social media. For example, lonely individuals are more likely to use the Internet for emotional support than those who are not lonely. Sherry Turkle explores these issues in her book Alone Together as she discusses how people confuse social media usage with authentic communication. She posits that people tend to act differently online and are less afraid to hurt each other's feelings. Some online behaviors can cause stress and anxiety, due to the permanence of online posts, the fear of being hacked, or of colleges and employers exploring social media pages. Turkle also speculates that people are beginning to prefer texting to face-to-face communication, which can contribute to feelings of loneliness. Some researchers have also found that exchanges that involved direct communication and reciprocation of messages correlated with less feelings of loneliness. However, passively using social media without sending or receiving messages does not make people feel less lonely unless they were lonely to begin with.
Relationships with strangers
According to research from UCLA, teenage brains' reward circuits were more active when teenager's photos were liked by more peers. This has both positive and negative features. Teenagers and young adults befriend people online whom they don't know well. This opens the possibility of a child being influenced by people who engage in risk-taking behavior. When children have several hundred friends online there is no way for parents to know who they are.
Terri H. Chan, the author of "Facebook and its Effects on Users' Empathic Social Skills and Life Satisfaction: A Double Edged Sword Effect", claims that the more time people spend on Facebook, the less satisfied they feel about their life. Self-presentational theory explains that people will consciously manage their self-image or identity related information in social contexts. According to Gina Chen, the author of Losing Face on Social Media: Threats to Positive Face Lead to an Indirect Effect on Retaliatory Aggression Through Negative Affect, when people are not accepted or are criticized online they feel emotional pain. This may lead to some form of online retaliation such as online bullying. Trudy Hui Hui Chua and Leanne Chang's article, "Follow Me and Like My Beautiful Selfies: Singapore Teenage Girls' Engagement in Self-Presentation and Peer Comparison on Social Media" states that teenage girls manipulate their self-presentation on social media to achieve a sense of beauty that is projected by their peers. These authors also discovered that teenage girls compare themselves to their peers on social media and present themselves in certain ways in effort to earn regard and acceptance, which can actually lead to problems with self-confidence and self-satisfaction.
Social media might can also function as a supportive system for adolescents' health, because by using social media, adolescents are able to mobilize around health issues that they themselves deem relevant. For example, in a clinical study among adolescent patients undergoing treatment for obesity, the participants' expressed that through social media, they could find personalized weight-loss content as well as social support among other adolescents with obesity The same authors also found that as with other types of online information, the adolescents need to possess necessary skills to evaluate and identify reliable health information, competencies commonly known as health literacy.
In the book Networked – The New Social Operating System by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman, the two authors reflect on mainly positive effects of social media and other Internet-based social networks. According to the authors, social media are used to document memories, learn about and explore things, advertise oneself and form friendships as well as the growth of ideas from the creation of blogs, podcasts, videos and gaming sites. For instance, they claim that the communication through Internet-based services can be done more privately than in real life. Furthermore, Rainie and Wellman discuss that everybody has the possibility to become a content creator. Content creation provides networked individuals opportunities to reach wider audiences. Moreover, it can positively affect their social standing and gain political support. This can lead to an influence on issues that are important for someone. As a concrete example of the positive effects of social media, the authors use the Tunisian revolution in 2011, where people used Facebook to gather meetings, protest actions, etc. Rainie and Wellman (Ibid) also discuss that content creation is a voluntary and participatory act. What is important is that networked individuals create, edit, and manage content in collaboration with other networked individuals. This way they contribute in expanding knowledge. Wikis are examples of collaborative content creation.
Social impacts of social media
The digital divide is a measure of disparity in the level of access to technology between households, socioeconomic levels or other demographic categories. People who are homeless, living in poverty, elderly people and those living in rural or remote communities may have little or no access to computers and the Internet; in contrast, middle class and upper-class people in urban areas have very high rates of computer and Internet access. Other models argue that within a modern information society, some individuals produce Internet content while others only consume it, which could be a result of disparities in the education system where only some teachers integrate technology into the classroom and teach critical thinking. While social media has differences among age groups, a 2010 study in the United States found no racial divide. Some zero-rating programs offer subsidized data access to certain websites on low-cost plans. Critics say that this is an anti-competitive program that undermines net neutrality and creates a "walled garden" for platforms like Facebook Zero. A 2015 study found that 65% of Nigerians, 61% of Indonesians, and 58% of Indians agree with the statement that "Facebook is the Internet" compared with only 5% in the US.
Eric Ehrmann contends that social media in the form of public diplomacy create a patina of inclusiveness that covers traditional economic interests that are structured to ensure that wealth is pumped up to the top of the economic pyramid, perpetuating the digital divide and post Marxian class conflict. He also voices concern over the trend that finds social utilities operating in a quasi-libertarian global environment of oligopoly that requires users in economically challenged nations to spend high percentages of annual income to pay for devices and services to participate in the social media lifestyle. Neil Postman also contends that social media will increase an information disparity between "winners" – who are able to use the social media actively – and "losers" – who are not familiar with modern technologies or who do not have access to them. People with high social media skills may have better access to information about job opportunities, potential new friends, and social activities in their area, which may enable them to improve their standard of living and their quality of life.
While selective exposure has been seen in many aspects of human life, social media has arguably created a greater avenue for people to actively participate in selective exposure. Selective exposure generally refers to people's tendencies to favor information that reinforces their ideas and reject information that opposes their ideas. As technology has become increasingly more personalized, the prevalence of selective exposure has increased. With technology such as televisions, people became able to choose from which organization they received news. A survey done by The Pew Research Center found Democrats 1.5 times more likely to watch CNN than Republicans and Republicans 1.5 times more likely to watch FOX News than Democrats. These results were magnified when examining more opinion based talk shows such as The O'Reilly Factor. Subsequently, the political opinions of Republicans or Democrats who exclusively tuned into media outlets affirming their own views were significantly more polarized. As social media makes selective exposure even easier through its features such as a news feed filled with media from sources which consumers actively follow, critics argue that the currently visible effects, both political and not, of selective exposure will only be magnified. A recent study by Hayat and Samuel-Azran (2017) looked at online media exposure during the 2016 U.S. election primaries. The authors found evidences for ideological homophily among the followers of the Twitter handles of different cable news shows. The followers of The O'Reilly Factor, were predominantly republicans, while the followers of The Rachel Maddow Show, where predominantly democrats. Hayat and Samuel-Azran further found that there was very little cross-camp interactions between democrats and republicans, and that users who were more active in posting content while watching news shows, were the least likely to be involved in cross camp interaction.
Recent researchs have demonstrated that social media, and media in general, have the power to increase the scope of stereotypes not only in children but people all ages. Three researchers at Blanquerna University, Spain, examined how adolescents interact with social media and specifically Facebook. They suggest that interactions on the website encourage representing oneself in the traditional gender constructs, which helps maintain gender stereotypes. The authors noted that girls generally show more emotion in their posts and more frequently change their profile pictures, which according to some psychologists can lead to self-objectification. On the other hand, the researchers found that boys prefer to portray themselves as strong, independent, and powerful. For example, men often post pictures of objects and not themselves, and rarely change their profile pictures; using the pages more for entertainment and pragmatic reasons. In contrast girls generally post more images that include themselves, friends and things they have emotional ties to, which the researchers attributed that to the higher emotional intelligence of girls at a younger age. The authors sampled over 632 girls and boys from the ages of 12–16 from Spain in an effort to confirm their beliefs. The researchers concluded that masculinity is more commonly associated with a positive psychological well-being, while femininity displays less psychological well-being. Furthermore, the researchers discovered that people tend not to completely conform to either stereotype, and encompass desirable parts of both. Users of Facebook generally use their profile to reflect that they are a "normal" person. Social media was found to uphold gender stereotypes both feminine and masculine. The researchers also noted that the traditional stereotypes are often upheld by boys more so than girls. The authors described how neither stereotype was entirely positive, but most people viewed masculine values as more positive.
Cognition and memory
According to writer Christine Rosen in "Virtual Friendship, and the New Narcissism," many social media sites encourage status-seeking. According to Rosen, the practice and definition of "friendship" changes in virtuality. Friendship "in these virtual spaces is thoroughly different from real-world friendship. In its traditional sense, friendship is a relationship which, broadly speaking, involves the sharing of mutual interests, reciprocity, trust, and the revelation of intimate details over time and within specific social (and cultural) contexts. Because friendship depends on mutual revelations that are concealed from the rest of the world, it can only flourish within the boundaries of privacy; the idea of public friendship is an oxymoron." Rosen also cites Brigham Young University researchers who "recently surveyed 184 users of social networking sites and found that heavy users 'feel less socially involved with the community around them.'" Critic Nicholas G. Carr in "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" questions how technology affects cognition and memory. "The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author's words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas... If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with "content," we will sacrifice something important not only in ourselves but in our culture."
Physical and mental health
There are several negative effects to social media which receive criticism, for example regarding privacy issues, information overload and Internet fraud. Social media can also have negative social effects on users. Angry or emotional conversations can lead to real-world interactions outside of the Internet, which can get users into dangerous situations. Some users have experienced threats of violence online and have feared these threats manifesting themselves offline. Studies also show that social media have negative effects on peoples' self-esteem and self-worth. The authors of "Who Compares and Despairs? The Effect of Social Comparison Orientation on Social Media Use and its Outcomes" found that people with a higher social comparison orientation appear to use social media more heavily than people with low social comparison orientation. This finding was consistent with other studies that found people with high social comparison orientation make more social comparisons once on social media. People compare their own lives to the lives of their friends through their friends' posts. People are motivated to portray themselves in a way that is appropriate to the situation and serves their best interest. Often the things posted online are the positive aspects of people's lives, making other people question why their own lives are not as exciting or fulfilling. This can lead to depression and other self-esteem issues as well as decrease their satisfaction of life as they feel if their life is not exciting enough to put online it is not as good as their friends or family. Studies have shown that self comparison on social media can have dire effects on physical and mental health because they give us the ability to seek approval and compare ourselves. Social media has both a practical usage- to connect us with others, but also can lead to fulfillment of gratification. In fact, one study suggests that because a critical aspect of social networking sites involve spending hours, if not months customizing a personal profile, and encourage a sort of social currency based on likes, followers and comments- they provide a forum for persistent "appearance conversations". These appearance centered conversations that forums like Facebook, Instagram among others provide can lead to feelings of disappointment in looks and personality when not enough likes or comments are achieved. In addition, social media use can lead to detrimental physical health effects. A large body of literature associates body image and disordered eating with social networking platforms. Specifically, literature suggests that social media can breed a negative feedback loop of viewing and uploading photos, self comparison, feelings of disappointment when perceived social success is not achieved, and disordered body perception. In fact, one study shows that the microblogging platform, Pinterest is directly associated with disordered dieting behavior, indicating that for those who frequently look at exercise or dieting "pins" there is a greater chance that they will engage in extreme weight-loss and dieting behavior.
Bo Han, a social media researcher at Texas A&M University-Commerce, finds that users are likely to experience the "social media burnout" issue. Ambivalence, emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization are usually the main symptoms if a user experiences social media burnout. Ambivalence refers to a user's confusion about the benefits she can get from using a social media site. Emotional exhaustion refers to the stress a user has when using a social media site. Depersonalization refers to the emotional detachment from a social media site a user experiences. The three burnout factors can all negatively influence the user's social media continuance. This study provides an instrument to measure the burnout a user can experience, when her social media "friends" are generating an overwhelming amount of useless information (e.g., "what I had for dinner", "where I am now").
It has been brought to the attention of health professionals and researchers around the world that excessive use of digital technology, like social media, by adolescents can cause disruptions in their physical and mental health, in sleeping patterns, their weight and levels of exercise and notably in their academic performance. Research has continued to demonstrate that long hours spent on mobile devices have shown a positive relationship with an increase in teenagers' BMI and a lack of physical activity. Moreover, excessive internet usage has been linked to lower grades compared to users who don't spend an excessive amount of time online, even with a control over age, gender, race, parent education and personal contentment factors that may affect the study.
According to a study published online in Computers in Human Behavior on December 20, 2016, the use of multiple social media platforms is more strongly associated with depression and anxiety among young adults than time spent online. The analysis showed that people who reported using the most platforms (7 to 11) had more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety than people who used the least amount (0 to 2).
The results of a study conducted by Ahi Evran University in Turkey concluded that social media addiction and its sub-dimensions have a high positive correlation. The more the participants are addicted to social media, the less satisfied they are with life.
According to a study released in 2017 by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, the link between sleep disturbance and the use of social media was clear. It concluded that blue light had a part to play—and how often they logged on, rather than time spent on social media sites, was a higher predictor of disturbed sleep, suggesting "an obsessive 'checking'".
Changes in mood
Many teenagers suffer from sleep deprivation as they spend long hours at night on their phones, and this, in turn, could affect grades as they will be tired and unfocused in school. Social media has generated a phenomenon known as " Facebook depression", which is a type of depression that affects adolescents who spend too much of their free time engaging with social media sites. "Facebook depression" leads to problems such as reclusiveness which can negatively damage ones health by creating feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem among young people. At the same time, a recent study entitled "Problematic Social Media Use: Results from a large-scale Nationally Representative Adolescent Sample" (Bányai et al., 2017) has shown that there is a link between social media addiction and negative mental health effects. In this study which took place in Hungary, 5,961 adolescent students were examined using the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale. 4.5% of these students were found to be "at risk" of social media addiction. Furthermore, this same 4.5%, when examined using the "Rosenberg's Self-Esteem Scale" and the "Centre of Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale" reported low self-esteem and high levels of depressive symptoms. This study concludes that these scales referred to above should be used in the future in the prevention and intervention of social media addiction in schools.
In the most extensive study of its kind to date, researchers from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom used a dataset of more than 800 million Twitter messages to evaluate how collective mood changes over the course of 24 hours and across the seasons. The research team collected, from users in the United Kingdom, 800 million anonymous Tweets from 33,576 time points over the course of 4 years. The team believe this to be the first study to have broken down negative emotions into anger and sadness and compare them with fatigue. As reported in Medical News Today, machine learning researcher Dr Fabion Dzogang noted, "Our research revealed strong circadian patterns for both positive and negative moods. The profiles of anger and fatigue were found remarkably stable across the seasons or between the weekdays/weekend." He also shared, "The patterns that our research revealed for the positive emotions and sadness showed more variability in response to these changing conditions and higher levels of interaction with the onset of sunlight exposure."
Effects on youth communication
Social media has affected the way youth communicate, by introducing new forms of language. Abbreviations have been introduced to cut down on the time it takes to respond online. The commonly known "LOL" has become globally recognized as the abbreviation for "laugh out loud" thanks to social media. Other catchphrases and neologisms include "YOLO", which stands for "you only live once", and "BAE", which stands for "before anyone else".
Other trends that influence the way youth communicate is through hashtags. With the introduction of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the hashtag was created to easily organize and search for information. As hashtags such as #tbt ("throwback Thursday") become a part of online communication, it influenced the way in which youth share and communicate in their daily lives. Because of these changes in linguistics and communication etiquette, researchers of media semiotics have found that this has altered youth's communications habits and more.
Social media has allowed for mass cultural exchange and intercultural communication. For example, people from different regions or even different countries can discuss current issues on Facebook. As different cultures have different value systems, cultural themes, grammar, and worldviews, they also communicate differently. The emergence of social media platforms collided different cultures and their communication methods together, forcing them to realign in order to communicate with ease with other cultures. As different cultures continue to connect through social media platforms, thinking patterns, expression styles and cultural content that influence cultural values are chipped away. Social media has offered a new platform for peer pressure with both positive and negative communication. From Facebook comments to likes on Instagram, how the youth communicate and what is socially acceptable is now heavily based on social media.
Criticism, debate and controversy
|“||We worry that social media is kind of the virtual bathhouse. -- Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, an infectious disease physician, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department||”|
Criticisms of social media range from criticisms of the ease of use of specific platforms and their capabilities, disparity of information available, issues with trustworthiness and reliability of information presented, the impact of social media use on an individual's concentration, ownership of media content, and the meaning of interactions created by social media. Although some social media platforms offer users the opportunity to cross-post simultaneously, some social network platforms have been criticized for poor interoperability between platforms, which leads to the creation of information silos, viz. isolated pockets of data contained in one social media platform. However, it is also argued that social media have positive effects such as allowing the democratization of the Internet while also allowing individuals to advertise themselves and form friendships. Others have noted that the term "social" cannot account for technological features of a platform alone, hence the level of sociability should be determined by the actual performances of its users. There has been a dramatic decrease in face-to-face interactions as more and more social media platforms have been introduced with the threat of cyber-bullying and online sexual predators being more prevalent. Social media may expose children to images of alcohol, tobacco, and sexual behaviors. In regards to cyber-bullying, it has been proven that individuals who have no experience with cyber-bullying often have a better well-being than individuals who have been bullied online.
Twitter is increasingly a target of heavy activity of marketers. Their actions, focused on gaining massive numbers of followers, include use of advanced scripts and manipulation techniques that distort the prime idea of social media by abusing human trustfulness. Twitter also promotes social connections among students. It can be used to enhance communication building and critical thinking. Domizi (2013) utilised Twitter in a graduate seminar requiring students to post weekly tweets to extend classroom discussions. Students reportedly used Twitter to connect with content and other students. Additionally, students found it "to be useful professionally and personally". British-American entrepreneur and author Andrew Keen criticizes social media in his book The Cult of the Amateur, writing, "Out of this anarchy, it suddenly became clear that what was governing the infinite monkeys now inputting away on the Internet was the law of digital Darwinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated. Under these rules, the only way to intellectually prevail is by infinite filibustering." This is also relative to the issue "justice" in the social network. For example, the phenomenon "Human flesh search engine" in Asia raised the discussion of "private-law" brought by social network platform. Comparative media professor José van Dijck contends in her book "The Culture of Connectivity" (2013) that to understand the full weight of social media, their technological dimensions should be connected to the social and the cultural. She critically describes six social media platforms. One of her findings is the way Facebook had been successful in framing the term 'sharing' in such a way that third party use of user data is neglected in favour of intra-user connectedness.
Trustworthiness and reliability
There is speculation that social media is becoming perceived as a trustworthy source of information by a large number of people. The continuous interpersonal connectivity on social media has led to people regarding peer recommendations as a reliable source of information. However, this trust can be exploited by marketers, who can utilise consumer-created content about brands and products to influence public perceptions.
Because large-scale collaborative co-creation is one of the main ways of forming information in the social network, the user generated content is sometimes viewed with skepticism; readers do not trust it as a reliable source of information. Aniket Kittur, Bongowon Suh, and Ed H. Chi took wikis under examination and indicated that, "One possibility is that distrust of wiki content is not due to the inherently mutable nature of the system but instead to the lack of available information for judging trustworthiness." To be more specific, the authors mention that reasons for distrusting collaborative systems with user-generated content, such as Wikipedia, include a lack of information regarding accuracy of contents, motives and expertise of editors, stability of content, coverage of topics and the absence of sources.
Evgeny Morozov, 2009–2010 Yahoo fellow at Georgetown University, contends that the information uploaded to Twitter may have little relevance to the rest of the people who do not use Twitter. In the article "Iran: Downside to the "Twitter Revolution"" in the magazine Dissent , he says:
"Twitter only adds to the noise: it's simply impossible to pack much context into its 140 characters. All other biases are present as well: in a country like Iran it's mostly pro-Western, technology-friendly and iPod-carrying young people who are the natural and most frequent users of Twitter. They are a tiny and, most important, extremely untypical segment of the Iranian population (the number of Twitter users in Iran — a country of more than seventy million people.)"
Even in the United States, the birth-country of Twitter, currently in 2015 the social network has 306 million accounts. Because there are likely to be many multi-account users, and the United States in 2012 had a population of 314.7 million, the adoption of Twitter is somewhat limited. Professor Matthew Auer of Bates College casts doubt on the conventional wisdom that social media are open and participatory. He also speculates on the emergence of "anti-social media" used as "instruments of pure control."
Criticism of data harvesting on Facebook
On April 10, 2018, in a hearing held in response to revelations of data harvesting by Cambridge Analytica, Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, faced questions from senators on a variety of issues, from privacy to the company’s business model and the company's mishandling of data. This was Mr. Zuckerberg’s first appearance before Congress, prompted by the revelation that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign, harvested the data of an estimated 87 million Facebook users to psychologically profile voters during the 2016 election. Zuckerburg was pressed to account for how third-party partners could take data without users’ knowledge. Lawmakers grilled the 33-year-old executive on the proliferation of so-called fake news on Facebook, Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election and censorship of conservative media.
Critique of social media activism
For Malcolm Gladwell, the role of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, in revolutions and protests is overstated. On one hand, social media make it easier for individuals, and in this case activists, to express themselves. On the other hand, it is harder for that expression to have an impact. Gladwell distinguishes between social media activism and high risk activism, which brings real changes. Activism and especially high-risk activism involves strong-tie relationships, hierarchies, coordination, motivation, exposing oneself to high risks, making sacrifices. Gladwell discusses that social media are built around weak ties and he argues that "social networks are effective at increasing participation — by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires". According to him "Facebook activism 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".
Ownership of social media content
Social media content is generated through social media interactions done by the users through the site. There has always been a huge debate on the ownership of the content on social media platforms because it is generated by the users and hosted by the company. Added to this is the danger to security of information, which can be leaked to third parties with economic interests in the platform, or parasites who comb the data for their own databases. The author of Social Media Is Bullshit, Brandon Mendelson, claims that the "true" owners of content created on social media sites only benefits the large corporations who own those sites and rarely the users that created them.
Privacy rights advocates warn users on social media about the collection of their personal data. Some information is captured without the user's knowledge or consent through electronic tracking and third party applications. Data may also be collected for law enforcement and governmental purposes, by social media intelligence using data mining techniques. Data and information may also be collected for third party use. When information is shared on social media, that information is no longer private. There have been many cases in which young persons especially, share personal information, which can attract predators. It is very important to monitor what you share, and to be aware of who you could potentially be sharing that information with. Teens especially share significantly more information on the internet now than they have in the past. Teens are much more likely to share their personal information, such as email address, phone number, and school names. Studies suggest that teens are not aware of what they are posting and how much of that information can be accessed by third parties.
There are arguments that "privacy is dead" and that with social media growing more and more, some heavy social media users appear to have become quite unconcerned with privacy. Others argue, however, that people are still very concerned about their privacy, but are being ignored by the companies running these social networks, who can sometimes make a profit off of sharing someone's personal information. There is also a disconnect between social media user's words and their actions. Studies suggest that surveys show that people want to keep their lives private, but their actions on social media suggest otherwise. Another factor is ignorance of how accessible social media posts are. Some social media users who have been criticized for inappropriate comments stated that they did not realize that anyone outside their circle of friends would read their post; in fact, on some social media sites, unless a user selects higher privacy settings, their content is shared with a wide audience.
According to a 2016 article diving into the topic of sharing privately and the effect social media has on expectations of privacy, "1.18 billion people will log into their Facebook accounts, 500 million tweets will be sent, and there will be 95 million photos and videos posted on Instagram" in a day. Much of the privacy concerns individuals face stem from their own posts on a form of social network. Users have the choice to share voluntarily, and has been ingrained into society as routine and normative. Social media is a snapshot of our lives; a community we have created on the behaviors of sharing, posting, liking, and communicating. Sharing has become a phenomenon which social media and networks have uprooted and introduced to the world. The idea of privacy is redundant; once something is posted, its accessibility remains constant even if we select who is potentially able to view it. People desire privacy in some shape or form, yet also contribute to social media, which makes it difficult to maintain privacy. Mills offers options for reform which include copyright and the application of the law of confidence; more radically, a change to the concept of privacy itself.
A 2014 Pew Research Center survey found that 91% of Americans "agree" or "strongly agree" that people have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by all kinds of entities. Some 80% of social media users said they were concerned about advertisers and businesses accessing the data they share on social media platforms, and 64% said the government should do more to regulate advertisers.
Criticism of commercialization on social media
The commercial development of social media has been criticized as the actions of consumers in these settings has become increasingly value-creating, for example when consumers contribute to the marketing and branding of specific products by posting positive reviews. As such, value-creating activities also increase the value of a specific product, which could, according to the marketing professors Bernad Cova and Daniele Dalli, lead to what they refer to as "double exploitation". Companies are getting consumers to create content for the companies' websites for which the consumers are not paid.
Debate over addiction to social media
As one of the biggest preoccupations among adolescents is social media usage, researchers have begun using the term "F.A.D.," or "Facebook addiction disorder," a form of internet addiction disorder. FAD is characterized by a compulsive use of the social networking site Facebook, which generally results in physical or psychological complications. The disorder, although not classified in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or by the World Health Organization, has been the subject of several studies focusing on the negative effects on the psyche. One German study, published in 2017, investigated a correlation between extensive use of the social networking site and narcissism; the results were published in the journal PLoS One. According to the findings: "FAD was significantly positively related to the personality trait narcissism and to negative mental health variables (depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms)."
Debate over using social media in academic settings
Having social media in the classroom has been a controversial topic in the 2010s. Many parents and educators have been fearful of the repercussions of having social media in the classroom. There are concerns that social media tools can be misused for cyberbullying or sharing inappropriate content. As result, cell phones have been banned from some classrooms, and some schools have blocked many popular social media websites. However, despite apprehensions, students in industrialized countries are (or will be) active social media users. As a result, many schools have realized that they need to loosen restrictions, teach digital citizenship skills, and even incorporate these tools into classrooms. The Peel District School Board (PDSB) in Ontario is one of many school boards that has begun to accept the use of social media in the classroom. In 2013, the PDSB introduced a "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) policy and have unblocked many social media sites. Fewkes and McCabe (2012) have researched about the benefits of using Facebook in the classroom. Some schools permit students to use smartphones or tablet computers in class, as long as the students are using these devices for academic purposes, such as doing research.
Using Facebook in class allows for both an asynchronous and synchronous, open speech via a familiar and regularly accessed medium, and supports the integration of multimodal content such as student-created photographs and video and URLs to other texts, in a platform that many students are already familiar with. Further, it allows students to ask more minor questions that they might not otherwise feel motivated to visit a professor in person during office hours to ask. It also allows students to manage their own privacy settings, and often work with the privacy settings they have already established as registered users. Facebook is one alternative means for shyer students to be able to voice their thoughts in and outside of the classroom. It allows students to collect their thoughts and articulate them in writing before committing to their expression. Further, the level of informality typical to Facebook can also aid students in self-expression and encourage more frequent student-and-instructor and student-and-student communication. At the same time, Towner and Munoz note that this informality may actually drive many educators and students away from using Facebook for educational purposes.
From a course management perspective, Facebook may be less efficient as a replacement for more conventional course management systems, both because of its limitations with regards to uploading assignments and due to some students' (and educators') resistance to its use in education. Specifically, there are features of student-to-student collaboration that may be conducted more efficiently on dedicated course management systems, such as the organization of posts in a nested and linked format. That said, a number of studies suggest that students post to discussion forums more frequently and are generally more active discussants on Facebook posts versus conventional course management systems like WebCT or Blackboard (Chu and Meulemans, 2008; Salaway, et al., 2008; Schroeder and Greenbowe, 2009).
Further, familiarity and comfortability with Facebook is often divided by socio-economic class, with students whose parents obtained a college degree, or at least having attended college for some span of time, being more likely to already be active users. Instructors ought to seriously consider and respect these hesitancies, and refrain from "forcing" Facebook on their students for academic purposes. Instructors also ought to consider that rendering Facebook optional, but continuing to provide content through it to students who elect to use it, places an unfair burden on hesitant students, who then are forced to choose between using a technology they are uncomfortable with and participating fully in the course. A related limitation, particularly at the level of K-12 schooling, is the distrust (and in some cases, outright prohibition) of the use of Facebook in formal classroom settings in many educational jurisdictions. However, this hesitancy towards Facebook use is continually diminishing in the United States, as the Pew Internet & American Life Project's annual report for 2012 shows that the likelihood of a person to be a registered Facebook user only fluctuates by 13 percent between different levels of educational attainment, 9 percent between urban, suburban, and rural users, only 5 percent between different household income brackets. The largest gap occurs between age brackets, with 86 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds reported as registered users as opposed to only 35 percent of 65-and-up-year-old users.
Twitter can be used to enhance communication building and critical thinking. Domizi (2013) utilized Twitter in a graduate seminar requiring students to post weekly tweets to extend classroom discussions. Students reportedly used Twitter to connect with content and other students. Additionally, students found it "to be useful professionally and personally". Junco, Heibergert, and Loken (2011) completed a study of 132 students to examine the link between social media and student engagement and social media and grades. They divided the students into two groups, one used Twitter and the other did not. Twitter was used to discuss material, organize study groups, post class announcements, and connect with classmates. Junco and his colleagues (2011) found that the students in the Twitter group had higher GPAs and greater engagement scores than the control group.
Gao, Luo, and Zhang (2012) reviewed literature about Twitter published between 2008 and 2011. They concluded that Twitter allowed students to participate with each other in class (by creating an informal "back channel"), and extend discussion outside of class time. They also reported that students used Twitter to get up-to-date news and connect with professionals in their field. Students reported that microblogging encouraged students to "participate at a higher level". Because the posts cannot exceed 140 characters, students were required to express ideas, reflect, and focus on important concepts in a concise manner. Some students found this very beneficial. Other students did not like the character limit. Also, some students found microblogging to be overwhelming (information overload). The research indicated that many students did not actually participate in the discussions, "they just lurked" online and watched the other participants.
YouTube is a frequently used social media tool in the classroom (also the second most visited website in the world). Students can watch videos, answer questions, and discuss content. Additionally, students can create videos to share with others. Sherer and Shea (2011) claimed that YouTube increased participation, personalization (customization), and productivity. YouTube also improved students' digital skills and provided opportunity for peer learning and problem solving Eick et al. (2012) found that videos kept students' attention, generated interest in the subject, and clarified course content. Additionally, the students reported that the videos helped them recall information and visualize real world applications of course concepts.
Social media often features in political struggles to control public perception and online activity. In some countries, Internet police or secret police monitor or control citizens' use of social media. For example, in 2013 some social media was banned in Turkey after the Taksim Gezi Park protests. Both Twitter and YouTube were temporarily suspended in the country by a court's decision. A new law, passed by Turkish Parliament, has granted immunity to Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) personnel. The TİB was also given the authority to block access to specific websites without the need for a court order. Yet TİB's 2014 blocking of Twitter was ruled by the constitutional court to violate free speech. More recently, in the 2014 Thai coup d'état, the public was explicitly instructed not to 'share' or 'like' dissenting views on social media or face prison. In July that same year, in response to WikiLeaks' release of a secret suppression order made by the Victorian Supreme Court, media lawyers were quoted in the Australian media to the effect that "anyone who tweets a link to the Wikileaks report, posts it on Facebook, or shares it in any way online could also face charges".
- Arab Spring, where social media played a defining role
- Augmented reality
- Citizen media
- Coke Zero Facial Profiler
- Connectivism (learning theory)
- Connectivity of social media
- Culture jamming
- Human impact of Internet use
- Internet and political revolutions
- List of photo sharing websites
- List of video sharing websites
- List of social networking websites
- Media psychology
- Metcalfe's law
- Networked learning
- New media
- Online presence management
- Online research community
- Participatory media
- Social media marketing
- Social media mining
- Social media optimization
- Social media surgery
- Social media detoxification
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