It is hard to know sometimes how our life has changed until we stop for a moment and look at how different it is from ten or even five years ago. In recent years social media, likely more than anything else, has significantly impacted most of our daily lives. Envisioning the global conversation that has developed over the past few years because of tools like Facebook () and Twitter () might have been unimaginable for most people at the beginning of this decade.
But social media communication tools have profoundly changed our lives and how we interact with one another and the world around us. Here are the top areas that social media has affected in our daily lives.
1. Where We Get Our News
If you’re like me, each morning before checking Yahoo! or Google News or an online newspaper site like USA Today or CNN, you first look at the stories your friends and people that you follow are sharing via Twitter or Facebook. After all, you didn’t choose the editors at newspapers and other publications, but you did choose the people and groups that you follow on Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks.
Friends on social media are increasingly becoming people’s trusted sources of information, even more than search engines. Tech blogger Mark Cuban recently noted, “For the 1st time ever, more people are finding my blog from Twitter and Facebook referrals than via Google ().”
Of course, many people still use RSS feeds to stay up-to-date on blogs and publications of interest, but our list of sources for what is worthy of our attention has expanded significantly. Furthermore, by getting our news from social media, we know who is recommending it, and can easily communicate with that person about it. News () is more social than ever.
2. How We Start and Do Business
It is easier than ever to start and launch a business today, in great part thanks to social media. We can not only locate potential collaborators and employees through interest-focused Facebook groups, Twitter searches, and niche social networks, but perhaps more importantly, social media gives people who have time, but little money for advertising, the chance to engage with others and promote their business. A recent article in the New York Times concluded, “For many mom-and-pop shops with no ad budget, Twitter has become their sole means of marketing.”
While business in the past was generally conducted with those in one’s immediate environment, social media, including everything from blogging to tweeting to posting videos on YouTube (), has opened new possibilities for both customers and clients. Who we do business with and how we promote that business has moved increasingly online, and for small business especially, social media has proved valuable.
3. How We Meet and Stay in Touch with People
People certainly still meet others at social venues like clubs and parties, but it is easier than ever to discover people who share our interests through social media, whether that means via groups on Facebook or following people on Twitter. Even if your interests lie in an obscure area, like 15th century poetry in France or Nepalese art, there is probably a Facebook group about it, and a Twitter search will likely turn up other people talking about the same subject.
Of course, there is only so much communication that can happen through a social network, but via Tweetups and other in-person events, people are expanding these online interactions to face-to-face meetings. The introductions are initially made through social networks, then people develop the relationship using phone calls and in-person meetings.
Studies reveal that our time on social networks has nearly tripled in the last year, and while Facebook has always primarily centered around connecting with people and staying in touch with friends, according to a study on eMarketer, “41.6% percent of Internet users who used Twitter did so to keep in touch with their friends.”
In other words, social media is increasingly being used to find and maintain both old and potentially new friendships.
4. What We Reveal
The old paradigm in communication was that people generally revealed very little of their fears and doubts. They tried to present the image of themselves to other people as completely confident and knowledgeable. The goal was to make sure that you appeared like you were always in complete control. But this is shifting, in part, because of social media. The paradigm is now no longer to try to appear perfect, but to be more transparent with your thoughts and feelings, to reveal your humanness.
We now have queens acknowledging that they get nervous at times when speaking, CEOs being more honest and at times using blogs to express reservations over past decisions, and people openly sharing personal views on social issues. Of course, what we decide to reveal and when to reveal it can be delicate, and there will always likely be items we wish to keep private. However, rather than working to hide our thoughts and feelings, social media is helping to create greater personal transparency.
5. What We Can Influence
It used to be a big deal that Oprah had over 20 million people watch her show every week or that the New York Times was read by millions of people, and while these large media outlets still control much of our attention, now with social media, power is increasingly more widespread. So-called mainstream media is no longer always the driving influencer of public opinion.
On Twitter, some individuals now have a million or more followers, Facebook Pages can also have hundreds of thousands of fans, and YouTube videos can get millions of views when they go viral. Most of this content is coming from regular people, rather than big, corporate-owned media organizations. For example, people like occasional Mashable () guest writer Brandon Mendelson, who has over 950,000 followers on Twitter, have used social media to increase their influence beyond what was possible for “regular people” in the past.
Even if we have few followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook or subscribers to our blog, the average person’s influence is increasing as communication channels become more open and fluid. As the networks for sharing and amplifying information strengthen, the ability of each person to influence public opinion and policies increases. As a result, we feel much less like passive bystanders and much more like participants who have a voice in the events in our world.
In every era, cultures go through numerous changes, and in recent years ours has been more impacted than anything else by social media. Large media companies are not likely to go away overnight, nor will the need to communicate by phone or meet people in person, but social media is providing yet one more means of engaging with people on this vast planet of ours, and if used effectively can give all of us greater choice in how we live and what happens in our world.
Lebenswirklichkeit: 5 Ways Social Media is Changing Our Daily Lives