Why Social Media Got Huge: #SundayMusing

Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler

I was answering some questions for a journalism student in the UK about how social media has emerged as a major component of our day-to-day lives when a quote by a smarter man than me (yes, there are billions, but one in particular stood out) came to mind. It got me thinking (scary, I know) about what really has happened over the past 4 or 5 years that took an obscure niche of the Internet and turned it so mainstream.

Pretend like there are 2 or 3 other paragraphs building up to the list (now would be a good time to refill your coffee cup), then proceed and enjoy:

How Social Media Got Huge

  • Speed of Information – This is the obvious one so let’s get it out of the way. The Internet brought a way to exchange information more quickly than any other in history. Social media put the speed of the Internet to use by adding the human influence. In news, rather than waiting for the various correspondents and reporters to gather the information, everyone with a smart phone and a Twitter account became the “eyes on the ground” when news broke. In sentiment, the crowdsourcing of opinions became even more prolific, allowing people who weren’t watching the Oscars to know in real-time that it achieved a new level of awfulnacity (new word; add it to your dictionary) before the show was even over.
  • Cultural Shift – There is good and there is bad in the world. Both are achieving new highs and lows in a way that we are more polarized as a society than ever before. Social media enables and encourages this shift in a pronounced manner. The bad can be really bad. The good can be awesome. Social media doesn’t bring out the best and worst in people, it only allows these traits to be amplified.
  • Driven by Millennials – If you were born after 1977 in a civilized environment, there’s a 95% chance that you’re on the Internet. If you’re on the Internet and you’re a “millennial,” there’s a pretty darn huge chance that you’re on social media. If you’re a millennial on the Internet involved with social media, you’re probably participating in a way that is driving social media, whether it’s through sharing of pictures at a party or by making a viral statement through videos, blog posts, or infographics. You are driving social media into the rest of us and fueling its continued success.
  • Being More (or less) Than What You Really Are – One of the beauties (and simultaneously one of the drawbacks) of social media is that you have the ability to be more than what your normal “place” in life is. “Class” is relative and even the poorest people can be trendsetters and tastemakers through social media. Conversely, someone who is famous, rich, powerful, or whatever other artificial trait you can insert into the label of “upper class” can now safely interact with us common folks.
  • $$$$$$$$$$$ – Zynga. GroupOn. Facebook. ‘Nuf said.
  • The Mood – This, the simplest to understand and the hardest to describe reason that social media has emerged in such a profound manner, truly encapsulates why growth in any form happens. We as a people were “in the mood” for something different. Television was getting old. Book clubs didn’t do it. The bar scene sucks. We needed social media, and it came.

This isn’t the end. The story is over, but it’s one that can turn into a book very easily. There are a thousand reasons why social media has grown and continues to surprise us. It will end or transform someday, but for now, bask in the light of your iPads. There’s a lot more to explore.

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  2. Maebellyne Ventura

    Interesting point about “millenials”. It’s surprising how many people will say that they don’t know what social media is when they are in fact quite avid participants.

  3. Great musings!

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  4. Heather Colclough

    Great article. You probably have seen this before, but there is a historical component to the “speed of information” section you can broaden upon if you get the chance. It has to do with history, education and the exchange of ideas and opinions. In ancient history, reading and writing; or the “sharing of information” through this medium was reserved for the elite. This concept is known as the “few to few” exchange of ideas. After the invention of the printing press around 1440, information became available for all classes of people, but it was still only an elite few who could write and print and distribute the information. This is known as the “few to many” or “few to everyone” exhange of ideas. Next we have the invention of the internet, and its subsequent massive popularity; ideas can be exchanged among people all over the globe who have access to the internet, or “many to many,” or “everyone to everyone,” and it is almost impossible for a few to control the distribution of information.

    Just some thoughts for you. And I wish I could tell you where I read all this, but I have access to so much information right now, I can’t keep track of it all. It was probably a New York Times article, but I’m not sure. Which brings up the issue of intellectual property in the age of “everyone to everyone,” but that is another musing – I am sure.

  5. Clint

    Social media reminds me of the way fast food restaraunts became popular in the earlier days. Everybody wants what they want in an instant. This is what made social media so popular. The question now is how healthy is it for our day to day lives. Just as we are learning that fast food is unhealthy, could social media be unhealthy for our lives? I am remebering the article I read last week concerning the hidden agenda behind Facebook, Is social media being used to set us up for something we have not yet discovered?

  6. Angela

    Social media has risen and is still on the up rise. After Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook I’m excited to see what will be the new craze.