Social Media: The What, the How, and the Why

Social media has been around for a few years now, and even in that short amount of time, it has seen huge growth, surpassing even the growth of the internet as a system. What that means is one thing: it’s not a fad. It’s here to stay.

Now, just like most people, I’ve got a Facebook. I also have a Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn. It really adds up to quite the list if you really take a look at it.

We know that social media is huge but the real question is why. Facebook really started it off back in 2004. It was a way to talk to people, a way to communicate and share news across the globe. It became the thing for people to have. It was hip. Then parents hopped on the bandwagon, and later grandparents and no longer was it the hip thing to have. But everyone still has one, even if, like me, they don’t use it that often.

But that was ok, because there was a new kid on the block: Twitter, with its own take on social media. With that, social media became the thing and new companies keep popping up claiming to have the best new way to network with people.

And that’s why people use it. They create networks on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, and they also consume content, curating feeds, using Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. But the biggest change we’ve seen is not in people consuming content, but in creating it.

That’s what I see as the biggest thing to come out of social media. No longer is creating content some far off dream accessible only to huge companies and industries, but anyone can grab a camera or their phone and take a picture, or make a movie. Let’s say, for example, you shoot a short video. You want to show it to your friends so you upload it to YouTube, post the link to Facebook, Tweet it, and post a quick “behind-the-scenes” shot on Instagram. You might not think of it this way, but it’s marketing, and it’s huge. So huge, in fact, that the companies that previously had the only real access to content creation are now struggling to follow suit.

Social media has leveled the playing field, but the same thing that allows everyone to start making content is also hurting the industry. There’s this new mentality that people expect content to be free. It’s the question: if everyone is doing it, why should I have to pay you? If the technology has gotten so good that anyone can take a decent picture, then there’s really no need to keep an entire photography department, because a journalist with an iPhone can do the same job.

That’s the type of dichotomy that social media has created. On one hand, it’s created the ability for people to create content and interact with each other from across the world, but it has also, along with the rest of the internet, commoditized content.

So, I’ll leave you with this. When I was a kid I would travel nearly every summer to Germany to visit my mom’s side of the family. At my grandparent’s house there was no internet, not even a computer. It seemed to me that, except for a phone line, I was cut off from the rest of the world. Fast-forward a few years and last Christmas I went back and everything had changed. I could watch YouTube videos right on my laptop, I could scroll through Twitter on my phone, and as I sat in the train on my way back from the city, posting a photo to Instagram and messaging people back home, I knew that the world had changed forever.

Social media has transformed the way we interact. It’s here to stay, and I think it’s good, but that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.

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