I don’t think anyone can deny the effect social media has had on the world. Not only does it monopolize the vast majority of our time on the internet, it has a habit of sneaking into our thoughts when we are away from our technology. When out of the country, or even when swimming or driving, we wonder what’s happening on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest; the prospect of not being able to access our favourite sites is a bitter one indeed. Even MySpace still has fans, even if they are few and far between.
More social media sites crop up each year, and while some are pretty successful (Facebook), others crash and burn. What is it about social networks and other media, that makes us sit up and pay attention? I mean they get bad press on occasion, and yet we still make time to tag photos, comment on peoples statuses, and blog about our inner thoughts.
In short, what is social media good for?
- Keeping us in direct contact with people we don’t see on a day to day basis… or more likely to satisfy our nosey side. Gone are the days of peeping through the drapes and meeting up for lunch to find out what one another is up to. Now you can check Facebook and Twitter on your iPhone to see what the girl you sat next to on the bus every day for three years is doing.
- You get to meet other like-minded individuals across the world. You could spot someone’s favourable tweet, and decide to start a dialogue with them. Before you know it, you’re good friends with someone who lives halfway across the world thanks to a shared interest you broadcast on the internet. There is the downside of people pretending to be someone else, but so long as you’re careful, social media should be very friendly.
- News spreads fast thanks to social media. Whether it’s news of an environmental issue, a breaking news story, or a celebrity has passed away, it’s almost a guarantee the news will spread across Twitter and Facebook long before the news media has had time to write an article with the details. Chinese Whispers happens often, but that’s half the fun.
- You don’t need to know an old friend’s phone number or address to contact them any more. Just find them on Facebook, write them a message, and add them as a Friend. It’s direct contact you never had before, unless you flipped through the phone directory.
- Promotion of your business, or even shameless self-promotion is a regular occurrence on social media sites. Celebrities use Twitter to update fans on their projects and everyday lives. Businesses use Facebook to promote their site. Charities use it as a means to raise awareness of a good cause. It’s essentially a free marketing tool.