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.