“Do you have Facebook?”
“Yes, of course. But I don’t think you can find me, since there are too many people who have the same name as me. Try searching with my last name too.”
“Hey, you celebrated your birthday at K-Box, right? I saw the pictures on your Facebook.”
“Brother, I saw your comments on the YouTube video I posted on my blog. I’m happy that you are also deeply moved by the ‘Dancing Peacock Man.'”
Social media or “social networking” has almost become a part of our daily lives and has been shaken up in recent years. It is like any other medium, such as newspapers, radio and television, but it is much more than just sharing information and ideas. Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and blogs have made it easier to create and share ideas faster and more widely than conventional media. The power to define and control a brand is shifting from corporations and institutions to individuals and communities. It’s no longer about the 5Cs (eg, condo, credit cards, and car) that Singaporeans once talked about. Today, it’s about the new C’s: creativity, communication, connection, creation (of new ideas and products), community (of shared interests), collaboration, and (changing the game of) competition.
In January 2010, InSites Consulting conducted an online survey of 2,884 consumers from over 14 countries between the ages of 18-55 on social media. More than 90% of the participants know at least 1 social networking site and 72% of the participants are members of at least 1 social networking site. On average, people have around 195 friends and connect to social networking sites twice a day. However, 55% of users are unable to access their social networking websites at work. In the past, not many adults could make more than 500 friends, but with social media, even a child or teenager can meet more than 500 people in a few days with the click of a mouse. Social networks have devalued the traditional definition of “friend” where it means trust, support, compatible values, etc. Although we get to know more people, we cannot build a strong bond with all the people we meet as our available time is limited. So there is an upcoming social trend of people with wider social circles, but weaker ties (people we don’t know very well but who provide us with useful information and ideas).
Social networks also influence people’s buying behaviors. Digital Influence Group reported that 91% of people say consumer reviews are their #1 purchase decision aid and 87% trust a friend’s recommendation over a critic’s review. Three times more likely to rely on peer opinions about advertising for purchase decisions. 1 word of mouth conversation has an impact of 200 TV commercials. With the prevalence of social media use, there are numerous news related to it, from the most viewed YouTube video on “Armless Pianist Wins ‘China’s Got Talent'” to cases of Internet-assisted suicide (e.g. college student from New Jersey who committed suicide after a video of him in a sexual encounter with another man was posted online). So, do social networks make us better or worse as a society?
Positive effects of social networks
In addition to having the opportunity to meet many people quickly and easily, social media also helped teens who have social or physical mobility restrictions to build and maintain relationships with their friends and family. Children who go abroad to study can still maintain meaningful contact with their parents. To a greater extent, there is anecdotal evidence of positive results from these technologies.
In 2008, President-elect Obama won the election by effectively using social media to reach millions of viewers or voters. The Obama campaign generated and distributed a large amount of content and messages via email, SMS, social media platforms and his websites. Obama and his campaign fully understood the fundamental social need that we all share: the need to be “who we are.” So the campaign feels like “Because it’s about YOU” and chose the right form of media to connect with people, call to action, and build a community for a social movement. They encouraged citizens to share their voices, hold house debate parties and organize their own campaign meetings. It really changed the delivery of the political message.
The Obama campaign had made 5 million “friends” on more than 15 social networking sites (3 million friends on Facebook itself) and posted nearly 2,000 YouTube videos that were viewed more than 80 million times. At its peak, his website, MyBarackObama.com, had 8.5 million monthly visitors and produced 400,000 blog posts. To make sure people find their content, the Obama campaign spent $3.5 million on Google search in October alone, $600,000 on Advertising.com, $467,000 on Facebook in 2008, and so on. Currently, Obama’s Twitter account has about 6 million followers.
In 2010, after the earthquake in Haiti, many of the official lines of communication were down. The rest of the world could not get the full picture of the situation there. To facilitate the sharing of information and make up for the lack of information, social media was very helpful in reporting the news from the affected area about what happened and what help was needed. Tweets from many people provided an impressive overview of the ongoing events of the earthquake. The BBC covered the event by combining tweets from its reporter Matthew Price’s work in Port-au-Prince on the ground. The Guardian Live Blog also used social media along with information from other news organizations to report on the rescue mission.
It’s been two years since CNN officially launched iReport as a section of its website where people can upload video footage, complete with contact information. During the Haiti crisis, CNN had posted a variety of material on social media, but not all of the material was verified. The editorial team would examine citizen journalist reports and label them differently compared to unverified content. On Facebook, a group called “Earthquake Haiti” was formed to show support and share updates and news. It had over 14,000 members and some users even asked for help for injured Haitians in the group. Using email, Twitter, and social networking sites like Facebook, thousands of volunteers as part of the Ushahidi Project were able to map reports submitted by people from Haiti.
The most impressive part of the impact of social media in Haiti is the charitable text message donations that totaled more than $10 million for victims in Haiti. People interested in helping victims are encouraged to text, tweet, and publicize their support through various social networking sites. The Global Philanthropy Group had also started a campaign asking wealthy people and celebrities, such as Ben Stiller and John Legend, to use Twitter and Facebook to encourage others to donate to UNICEF. One aid worker, Saundra Schimmelpfennig, allowed advice from other aid workers and donors to be posted on her blog regarding choosing which charities to support. Meanwhile, donors were asking questions on Twitter, Facebook and blogs about their donations and sponsorships of their favorite charities. After every crisis, social media for social causes becomes a more effective means of getting the word out.
Negative effects of social media
There are always two sides of every coin. Social media is just a tool or a medium for people to use. It is still up to users how to use this tool (just like a knife, it can help you cut food or hurt others). The Internet and American Life Project at Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a study on “The Future of Socializing Online” of the highly engaged and diverse set of respondents to an online voluntary-participation survey consisting of 895 technology stakeholders and critics. . Negative effects reported by respondents included that time spent online steals time from important face-to-face relationships; The Internet fosters mostly superficial relationships; the act of leveraging the Internet to engage in a social connection exposes private information; The Internet allows people to isolate themselves, which limits their exposure to new ideas; and the Internet is being used to generate intolerance.
Some respondents also noted that there will be the development of some new psychological and medical syndromes that will be “variations of depression caused by lack of meaningful quality relationships” and a “new world society.” The term, “Social Networks”, has started to mislead users into believing that they are social creatures. For example, spending a couple of hours using Farmville and chatting with friends at the same time doesn’t translate into social skills. People become dependent on technology and forget how to socialize in a face-to-face context. A person’s online personality can be totally different from their offline character, causing chaos when the two personalities meet. It is evident in online dating when the couple comes face to face for the first time. Their written profiles do not clearly represent their real-life characters. It is more tempting for people to write something that others want to hear than to tell the truth.
In addition to “friendship”, the creators of social networking sites and users redefine the term “privacy” also on the Internet. The challenge in data privacy is sharing data while protecting personally identifiable information. Almost all information posted on social networking sites is permanent. Every time someone posts photos or videos on the web, it goes viral. When the user deletes a video from their social network, someone may have saved it and then posted it on other sites like YouTube. People post photos and video files on social networking sites without thinking, and the files can reappear at the worst possible time. In 2008, a video circulated of a group of ACJC students hazing a female student at school on her birthday and another video of an SCDF recruit being “welcomed” (he was doused with water and tarred with shoe polish) to a local fire station. your way online.
In the corporate world, HR managers can tap into Facebook or MySpace to learn a candidate’s true colors, especially when job seekers don’t set their profiles to private. Research has found that nearly half of employers have turned away a potential worker after finding incriminating material on their Facebook pages. Some employers have also checked candidates’ online details on Facebook pages to see if they are lying about their qualifications. Today, younger generations have a complete disregard for their own privacy, opening doors to unwanted predators or stalkers.