Each morning, almost everyone’s first reflex is to reach for their phone and check their social media accounts and other notifications. They spend the first minutes to hours of their day scrolling through social media, liking pictures, leaving comments, tweeting, etc. The times that we’re away from social media, we experience similar symptoms of withdrawal. Not many stop and think about why we feel the way that we feel towards social media, and how it has impacted society.
SOCIAL MEDIA’S EARLY START
We can almost say that the beginnings of modern social media began with the invention of the telegraph back in 1844. It can also be argued it is ARPAN (Advanced Research Project Agency Network), a military-developed technology that aimed to connect universities in 1969, where social media gained its modern foothold.
But most experts agree that it is the launch of Six Degrees that our modern understanding of social media took shape. It allowed it’s one million users to create profiles and connect with other users. The rest quickly followed: Friendster, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace.
IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Compared to other media, the impact of social media on politics has been immense. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have increasingly played bigger roles during political elections. A perfect example is social media’s role in helping to elect Barack Obama as the first African-American president of the United States back in 2008. His campaign team leveraged social media not only in helping raise money but it also helped create a groundswell of dedicated and empowered volunteers who all believed and felt that they could make a difference.
A quarter of the global population now has a Facebook account. Nearly 80% of all US internet users are also Facebook users. The growing number of social media users made it possible that even those with marginalized opinions and views find it easy to interact with others who share the same sentiments.
Never has this been more evident than in the recent conflict in the Middle East concerning the terrorist group called ISIS. While most of their combatants are men, through clever use of social media propaganda, they have been able to spread their cause and extremist beliefs around the world, encouraging young men and women to leave their homes and join the fight.
The popularity and ubiquitousness of social media meant that it’s almost impossible to find any businesses or brands that don’t use it to reach and communicate with their customers. Companies were quick to see the potential of social media in building relationships with existing customers and acquiring new ones.
Expert marketers like Arcane Marketing realized that they could use social media to better generate consumer insights, stimulate demand, and create targeted ads. These tactics don’t only benefit the e-commerce industry but also traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.
CHALLENGES OF SOCIAL MEDIA
THE RISE OF FAKE NEWS
The internet, and ultimately social media, has made knowledge and information sharing quicker and easier. The problem comes down to the credibility of these “news.” More and more of these posts have circulated across different platforms and not only is this news inaccurate at best, but many are completely made up.
A perfect example of the prevalence of fake news was when The National Report reported a story about a US town that was cordoned off due to a deadly disease. Allen Montgomery, the founder of the news agency, admitted that he gets a thrill from watching traffic spikes and baiting people into spreading a story that’s completely made up.
The need for teenagers to fit in made social media an appealing choice to meet, connect, and build relationships with others. In an age where instant fame can be achieved by simply doing something crazy and getting viral status, the threat of bullying has increased ten-fold.
Another persistent threat that social media affords its users is identity theft, misuse of information, and personal attacks. In most cases, the users are to blame for sharing information they shouldn’t have been sharing in the first place. The problem stems from a lack of understanding of what can be shared publicly and what information should be kept private.
As they say, information is power. Never has this saying been truer than in our age of social media and the internet. We have certainly benefited a great deal from the rise of social media, but like all everything else that exerts influence on others, social media can also be misused.