Social media is a collective term for websites and applications which focus on communication, community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. Different types of social media are normally dedicated to forums, microblogging, social networking, social bookmarking, social curation, and wikis.
Here are some examples of popular social media platforms:
Facebook is a popular free social networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues.
Twitter is a free microblogging service that allows registered members to broadcast short posts called tweets. Twitter members can broadcast tweets and follow other users’ tweets by using multiple platforms and devices.
Wikipedia is a free, open content online encyclopedia created through the collaborative effort of a community of users known as Wikipedians. Anyone registered on the site can create an article for publication; however, registration is not required to edit articles. Wikipedia was founded in January of 2001.
LinkedIn is a social networking site designed specifically for the business community. The goal of the site is to allow registered members to establish and document networks of people they know and trust professionally.
Reddit is a social news website and forum where stories are socially curated and promoted by site members. The site is composed of hundreds of sub-communities, known as “subreddits.” Each subreddit has a specific topic such as technology, politics or music. Reddit site members, also known as, “redditors,” submit content which is then voted upon by other members. The goal is to send well-regarded stories to the top of the site’s main thread page.
Pinterest is a social curation website for sharing and categorizing images found online. Pinterest requires brief descriptions, but the main focus of the site is visual. Clicking on an image will take a user to the original source. For example, clicking on a picture of a pair of shoes might redirect users to a purchasing site and an image of blueberry pancakes might redirect to the recipe.
Sociological impact of social media
Social media is an undeniable force in modern society. From giving us new ways to come together and stay connected to the world around us, to providing an outlet for expression, social media has fundamentally changed the way we initiate, build and maintain our relationships. But while it feels like social media has become commonplace in our daily lives, the reality is that social media, as a technology, is still in its infancy. We still have so much more left to learn about the intricacies of the algorithms and design, especially when it comes to their impact on society.
There are many negative impacts that social media can have on mental health. Recently, experts are weighing in on the role that the design and build of social media platforms plays in exasperating these concerns.
Another trend on experts’ minds is how the algorithms behind these massively influential social media platforms may contribute to the rise of extremism and hate online. For example, YouTube has faced its fair share of backlash lately, with concerns over how quickly its algorithm leads viewers to increasingly fringe content. Similarly, Facebook has been a hot topic of conversation in the space, especially when it comes to the influence that closed Facebook groups have in allowing extreme communities to form and build power, in a relatively unmoderated way, online.
Political implications of the social media
- Social media tools including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube allow politicians to speak directly to voters without spending a dime. Using social media allows politicians to circumvent the traditional method of reaching voters through paid advertising or earned media.
- Twitter and Facebook have become instrumental in organizing campaigns. They allow like-minded voters and activists to easily share news and information such as campaign events with each other.
- Direct access to voters also has its downside. Handlers and public-relations professionals often manage a candidate’s image, and for good reason: Allowing a politician to send out unfiltered tweets or Facebook posts has landed many a candidate in hot water or embarrassing situations.
- The value of social media is in its immediacy. Politicians and campaigns do absolutely nothing without first knowing how their policy statements or moves will play among the electorate. Twitter and Facebook both allow them to instantaneously gauge how the public is responding to an issue or controversy. Politicians can then adjust their campaigns accordingly, in real time, without the use of high-priced consultants or expensive polling.
- Social media tools have allowed common voters to easily join together to petition the government and their elected officials, leveraging their numbers against the influence of powerful lobbyists and monied special interests. Make no mistake, lobbyists and special interest still have the upper hand, but the day will come when the power of social media allows like-minded citizens to join together in ways that will be just as powerful.
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