Social Media is a development that has been on the rise, probably for the last 3 to 5 years. More than that, social media has been around for ages. Let’s take a closer look at the two words that describe social media. One is social and the other is media.
The term social has probably been going on since the first group of hunters decided it would be better to hunt in a group. This setup has many advantages, which includes an improved life expectancy for every individual in the group. Since then, social has been around. It’s in our nature now that we form groups to achieve goals and projects. It’s hard to think that it was once different, but looking back on evolution, it’s pretty clear that most animals started up as individuals and the idea of being in a group remained.
While evolution is not a thinking entity, let’s look at it that way for the sake of discussion. The system of being in a group and supporting each other must have, at some point, increased the survival rate of those individuals that were in a group. This is a thing that is inherited in our genetic markup now, because we are the off-spring of those people that could survive in a group better than they could survive alone.
Social has been around for a very long time. In the beginning, social meant a group of hunters, later it meant a group of people who were living together to grow crops. Later on, it meant people living together in a village and people living together in a city. Then we started having sub-groups of the groups. For example, people working together in a factory.
A Very Different Idea of Social
Now, we have a very different idea of what social is, because with the Internet, social now means everyone in the world, no matter the time and space, who is connected to the Internet. We have gone from, let’s say, 10 to 20 people to 50 people, to 500 people to a million people and now all of us a sudden there’s a big jump. We have an access to connection and relationships to a few million people, and that’s going to be a lot more people in the upcoming 10 years.
What can we learn from history? If we look back at the transition towards being a social animal and a small group, there has always been the associated problem of adjusting to the new social rules. For example, we had problems adjusting as we transferred from a tribal system to a legislative system.
We Don’t Need People in Between Anymore
From all these social transitions, the common denominator seemed to be that we needed those people who are fit to lead, and give them the inheritable title of being chief. However, we’re now on a verge of another development, because we couldn’t be everywhere when we have to elect our leaders. In fact, electing leaders is an important part of the social world, and we have elected a chancellor, a president; we elect people in our company to speak for us.
But now we can directly take actions on all the projects and decisions to be made through the internet. You can wonder if that’s a good idea, but it’s a fact that we can communicate directly with whomever we need to. We don’t need people in between anymore. This is a big social development.
Finding More People With the Same Interests
Another development is that before, when we are interested with birds, in a city with 500 people, there are probably 2 people interested in birds. It might have been a very boring ‘bird watching’ group with 2 people. However, now, if you’re interested in bird watching, you can go to the Internet and join a bird watching group on Facebook, and instantly, you are connected to a lot more people who share the same interest.
The same is true for political interest, arts; pretty much for every interest you have, and you can find people with the same interests in just a few seconds. It also gives you power because if people with the same interests want to change something they have an action interest. You may call them a lobby group. Those people are connected and they can speak with one voice, and they don’t necessarily need a leader. This is another big and important change in the social component in the social media.
Establishing a lobby group is pretty much made possible by the media part of social media. When we look at the media component way back then, this used to be word of mouth. We started out communicating one on one, or one with few, using language. Then one of the greatest discoveries was that you could paint on walls. This is the first transcendence of time and space if you look at it from the written perspective. We moved from drawing in caves to writing on papyrus or on leather, and then later on we got book press! Suddenly, we don’t need to copy books one by one. In writing, as we can see in Egypt for example, one of the prepositions why we needed writing was in order to create a society with rules, and people will take care of the rules. The whole government system is depending on writing. Now with the book press, you could make one book and then copy it for unlimited number of times.
That was real power because now the amount of people that you can bring in touch with your ideas just sky rocketed from copying books which is a very slow process. You can obviously only copy so many books. You start out with one book and then you’ve got two books, and then you can take two people to copy two books. Then you also need to think about, was that really a copy of a copy or you’ve got new mistakes and stuff. Now with book press, you can make identical copies in a very short time. This allows you to have your ideas transferred to other people in a much more efficient way. Afterwards, printing was pretty much the main medium for a very long time.
Closer to Real Time
Now, you have different kinds of books, newsletters and newspapers. The first books were sort of standard books; they didn’t change much in content. The newspaper evolved into something that you get weekly, and then daily, and then some newspapers you get twice a day. They move more closely to real time. Now with radio and TV, its much closer to real time. Components were added to make the medium much more like one-on-one conversations, or one-to-many conversations.
In radio, we get the content and the tonality, and the expression of the voice. For example, two people talk to each other and it’s totally clear who is who. You can paint auditory background sound as well to have information come across, for example, being at the main train station. You can have sounds, and you can also have music. This way, media moves closer to what it would like to have two people talk to each other in reality.
Added Visual Layer
Then TV came around and added the visual layer. It was a very important move, because obviously humans are very visually oriented and 80% of our information usually depends on visual information. All of a sudden, we could not only hear the people who are talking, but we could also see them. Being able to see the people, the medium became more real. Furthermore, you have news every hour; shows that have live stream from some other place. If there is a war going on, CNN can broadcast live from where the war is.
There is a main difference between all those media and the Internet, and that is, the Internet has a back channel. If we read the newspaper, we can write a letter back, but it will take a long time and quite a lot of work. If we’re listening to a radio show, we can probably call but this takes time. We have TV; people can be seen live on TV and it also takes time. There’s only one person who can speak at a time, and so if a hundred people want to say something and start calling in to the radio or TV station, only one person gets to speak. Who’s the person who would most likely be able to speak? Well, it’s from those people who make the program. It kind of introduces a bias you might not want to have.
The Internet gives you all the possibilities of books, print and text, audio — you can have video. The main difference is that you don’t need to own a TV station to publish a video on YouTube. You as the user have the same right to publish on YouTube as CBS or ABC. Obviously, the TV shows have some kind of advantage probably because people would know them and they would want to look at videos they saw on TV. However, if I produce great content, my videos will be looked at as much as CBS or ABC. This makes us equal.
Let me look at YouTube for example. This is moving very close to real time. On a good day, It takes about probably 15 minutes to transcribe a video. You can upload a video from your mobile phone and you can even stream live through channels like You Stream or Quick, so people can watch you directly. Everyone can contribute, it’s like democracy. In your mobile phone, you can take a video and upload it right away so it can be online in a matter of minutes. Everyone has the same right to answer, and it is as quick as possible. You can answer with just a text, or you can answer with audio and video attachments.
No filtering takes place
You can’t answer to the newspaper article with a video, but you can answer or react to a YouTube post by writing comment. The different thing now is that it is not the maker of the show who says “Okay your comment will be featured”, or “I want your video comment on that.” The social rules now pretty much dictates on any social media that no filtering takes place. If a comment is against the law, obviously, it should be deleted. If a comment is not adhering to the social rules that this medium uses, it should be deleted. Other than these two, all of the other different opinions can be exchanged or posted.
On top of that, now, we have a revolution which includes the location of a user. When you post a comment or if you post a video on YouTube, and you do that through your mobile phone, you can get a GeoTag. This means that people can see where you are and this increases the utility of commenting on even a lot more. But this is something for another article.
Social Media is here to stay
Social Media has profoundly changed the way we communicate and interact. Big systems are slow to move – so do not expect the world to change directly after facebook reaches 1 billion users – but they do change. No system can stay the same with that much internal structure changing. Social Media is changing the world – Let’s take part for the better!