How Social Media Has Changed Our Lives

In this last decade, social media has significantly changed the way we live our lives.  From access to information to staying connected with friends, we depend on social media more and more throughout our day.   There isn’t an hour that passes that my phone doesn’t buzz letting me know of a news article or a friend’s new post.   This blog entry will focus on the various changes that social media brings.

Sharing your world

You may remember that before social media, a person would collect all their photos from special events like birthdays and vacations and keep them in photo albums to share with friends and family when they came to their home to visit.  Even if you had digital photos, sharing them wasn’t easy.  You could only attach a certain amount to an e-mail meaning you would need to send numerous e-mails.  Now through sites likes Facebook and Instagram, you can store thousands of your digital photos on the web and share them with whoever you choose, wherever they may be.

Social media has made it possible to make friends and communicate regularly with people who you would probably never know otherwise.  It’s possible to video chat with people who live on different states, countries, and continents, sharing interests or discussing everyday life.  A few years ago, I had the pleasure of participating in a friend’s group video chat using Google+ as she was putting together an anti-bullying campaign.  I was impressed with how we could share our ideas in real-time and see each other face to face.

Not only are we able to meet new people through social media, we are also able to get reacquainted with childhood friends and long lost relatives by simply searching their names.   Through Facebook, I have found quite a few of my old classmates and we are able to keep in touch.  I can’t even think of a practical way to find that many people without the use of social media.

Social media has allowed us to share our opinions on limitless amounts of topics almost as quickly as it takes to type it.   Instead of sending your letter to your local newspaper and waiting days to see it printed in the editorial page, your words could reach people from all over the world through a blog post or commenting on an article on a website while the issue is still fresh in people’s minds.

Rethinking Your Marketing Strategy

Businesses have had to change the way they communicate to their customers because of social media as well.   In the past, a business like a department store would send quarterly or annual catalogs, information on upcoming sales, and discount coupons through the mail to customers on their mailing lists.  The costs for these kind of large scale marketing techniques can be considerable.  Now with social media, customers can be made aware of sales through tweets on Twitter, a company’s social media page, an e-mail or through a post from a fellow shopper.  Businesses maintain a social media presence to raise brand awareness as well as follow what customers are writing about their products or services.

News on your schedule

Watching and reading news articles has been changed forever by social media.   Your daily newspaper used to be your go to source for news as your started your day.  Now, you can access news right from your cellphone on any number of news sites social media pages.  In the past, unless it was a serious news story where the regular television program you were watching was interrupted by a ‘Special Report’, you used to have to wait to watch the news at specific times during the day to find out what was happening in the world.   Now, there is access to news the instant it happens 24/7 through countless websites.   Witnesses to newsworthy events will almost immediately start filming with their cellphones and the videos are seen and shared by thousands if not millions of others in a short period of time.

Finding the Lost

A huge benefit of social media is its ability to aid in finding missing persons.   Amber alerts are posted to sites such as Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AMBERalert) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/Amber_Alert ) when there are children missing.   This spreads the information to more people in a short amount of time raising the possibility of someone finding the lost child.   Thankfully this use of social media has shown some success.  (See  http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-amber-alerts-saved-a-child-2015-5 )

It’s Not Perfect

I feel there is also a huge downside to social media.  Everywhere you go, people are looking at their portable devices instead of their surroundings.  You see videos of people walking into walls or falling while looking at their phones.  “…in 2010, more than 1,500 pedestrians were checked into emergency rooms nationwide because they were distracted by cell phones – a number that had almost tripled from 2004.’ (Ho, 2013) An extreme example of this would be a news story that I remember from a few years ago where a person with a gun was walking around a train car full of passengers who did not notice him until after someone was shot.  (Ho, 2013)

You see less people socializing without having to turn to their phones.   People seem more willing to write a text or comment on a post than interact in person.   As more social media sites and apps are created, I don’t see that trend changing anytime soon

References:

Ho, V. (2013, October 07). Absorbed device users oblivious to danger. Retrieved from http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Absorbed-device-users-oblivious-to-danger-4876709.php

The Future of Social Media

Social media, in a nutshell, is comprised of all of the websites and applications that people use everyday to communicate, share ideas, opinions, information, etc.  It is constantly evolving and newer offerings arrive regularly to compete with the current market leaders.     Facebook, the social networking giant, Instagram the photo sharing site, Twitter, the brief blogging site, and video sharing site YouTube are the ones that easily come to mind but there are so many others out there seeking to fill the needs of the online community.   In this blog post, I am going to explain my thoughts on the what I believe social media will be like in the near future.

It is sometimes hard to keep up with all the different sites available.  I’m sure I have accounts on pages that I’ve only been to a couple of times years ago.

Like some of you reading this, my experience with social media started with a website called Myspace.   It was a good way to stay in touch with friends, make new friends and share pictures of your everyday life.   I thought that it was the perfect site until I discovered Facebook.   Facebook made it easy to find friends and family, play online games and, based on my interests, get offers from companies about different products and services that I might be interested in.   Many of my friends on MySpace had already moved on to Facebook and it was the logical move to abandon my MySpace account and create a profile on Facebook.   Since then, I can’t tell you how many social media sites I have tried out.  I’m sure I have accounts on long forgotten pages that I only visited a couple of times years ago.  You try them out to see if they do what you need them to do. Will this site be easier to navigate?  Will my pictures load quickly and will my news feed show me everything I’m interested in reading on this site?  Will my message reach the right audience?  Right now, there isn’t really any other site that meets my needs like Facebook so I will be staying with them for the foreseeable future.  In a few years, it wouldn’t surprise me if some new site were to come along and give Facebook some serious competition.  Then you would see everyone moving their profiles to that site.

Over the years, to remain the top social networking site, Facebook has constantly monitored what its users are interested in as well as internet trends so that it can evolve to retain and grow its following. Part of their strategy is to acquire other social media sites and companies that it sees as a good fit for their brand. These ‘acquisitions have been key to Facebook’s growth and success, and the company has acquired more than 50 companies or properties since it’s formation in 2004. These takeovers have been aimed at increasing Facebook’s functionality and features as well as gaining access to talented individuals and teams.’ (Hayes, 2015)

I think it is safe to say that technology will play a huge part in how social media evolves.  Currently, sites like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are allowing its users to live stream their experiences through the cameras on their cell phones.  You can use sites like Google+ to video chat with groups of friends using your webcam.  This was not always the case.  These sites are adapting their products to work with the latest gadgets, in order to build and retain their customer base.

One technology that has been around for a while but is only recently at a point where it can be applied commercially is virtual reality and augmented reality.  ‘Virtual reality refers to computer-generated environments or realities that are designed to simulate a person’s physical presence in a specific environment that is designed to feel real.'(techopedia.com)  Imagine putting on a virtual reality headset and ‘going out’ to the movies in a virtual theater with friends who live states away or virtually touring a museum in another country you would might never get a chance to see in real life.  Virtual reality has a huge potential for social media sites.

I believe, as the technology progresses, a good portion of these social media sites will begin focusing on integrating these features into our social networking experiences.  In the last few years, there have been significant advances in virtual and augmented reality devices.  In 2013, Google had developed a wearable headset called Google Glass that projects images onto the wearer’s eye so that they are still able to see the world around them and do regular everyday offline tasks and still connect to social media tasks like check their e-mails, chat online, look up information hands-free.  These augmented reality glasses did not catch on with customers and were discontinued in 2015.(2017)  Other companies still see the potential for this type of technology and various projects are still being researched and developed.  Companies such as Microsoft will soon be releasing  Microsoft’s HoloLens project. One of Facebook’s acquisitions, Oculus VR has developed the VR headset Oculus Rift.

There is no real way to tell exactly how social media will change in the future.  I think the best way to get a sense of it will be to keep an eye on what  the latest tech gadgets are capable of and I am pretty sure you will see social media sites start creating apps to integrate these features.

 

Hololens

Augmented  Reality and VR headsets like the Microsoft Hololens may change the way we use social media and  interact with each other. (Picture from Flickr.com)

 

References:

Hayes, C. A. (2015, February 11). Facebook’s Most Important Acquisitions. Retrieved from http://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/021115/facebooks-most-important-acquisitions.asp

What is Virtual Reality? – Definition from Techopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/4784/virtual-reality

 

Google Glass. (2017, March 18). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Glass

 

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