“Do you use Facebook?” ”
“Yes. However, I doubt you will be able to find me because there are many people with the same name as mine. You might also try searching for me by my surname. ”
“Hey, you celebrated a birthday in K-Box. I saw your photos on Facebook. ”
“Bro, I noticed your comments regarding the YouTube video I posted on my blog. It’s a pleasure to know that you were also moved by the “Dancing Peacock Man”. ”
Social media, or “social networking”, has become almost a part of our daily lives. It’s been tossed around a lot over the last few years. Although it functions in the same way as other media like radio, television and newspaper, social media is much more than simply sharing information and ideas. Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, as well as blogs, have made it possible to exchange ideas faster and more widely than traditional media. The power to define and control a brand has shifted from corporations and institutions towards individuals and communities. It’s not just about the 5Cs (e.g. Singaporeans used to talk about condominiums, credit cards, and cars. It is now about the new Cs: communication, creativity, connection, creation (of innovative ideas and products), community, shared interests, collaboration, and (changing) the game of competition.
InSites Consulting conducted an online survey in January 2010 with 2,884 people from 14 countries about social networking. Over 90% of respondents know at least one social networking site, and 72% are members at least one social networking site. People log in to social networking sites twice daily and have an average of 195 friends. 55% cannot access their social networks at work, however. While it was rare for adults to have more than 500 friends in the past, social media has made it possible for anyone to connect with more than 500 people within a matter of days. Social media has reduced the value of “friend”, which used to mean trust, support, and compatible values. We get to know more people but we don’t have the time to form strong bonds with everyone we meet. There is a new social trend that will see people who have larger social circles but less ties. These are people we don’t really know but can still get useful information and ideas from.
People’s buying habits can also be influenced by social media. Digital Influence Group found that 91% of people believe consumer reviews are the best way to make buying decisions. 87% prefer a friend’s recommendation to a critic’s. Peer opinions are three times more trustworthy than advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions. One word-of-mouth conversation can have as much impact as 200 TV ads. Social media is omnipresent. There are many news stories about it, from the most watched YouTube video “Armless pianist wins China’s Got Talent” to Web-assisted suicide cases. New Jersey college student committed suicide after a video of him having sex with another man was uploaded online. Is social networking better for us as a society or worse?
Social Media : Positive Impacts
Social media allows teens with physical or social mobility limitations to connect with others quickly and easily. It is possible for children to stay in touch with their parents even if they travel overseas to study. These technologies have been shown to be beneficial in a number of cases.
Obama won the 2008 election by using social media effectively to reach millions of voters and audience members. Obama’s campaign had distributed a huge number of messages and contents via email, SMS, social media platforms, and their websites. Obama and his campaign team understood the basic social need shared by everyone – the need to be “who we are”. The campaign used the message “Because it’s about you” to communicate their message. They also chose the right media form to reach individuals and call for action, and build community for a social movement. They encouraged citizens to voice their opinions, host discussion parties in their homes and organize their own campaign meetings. This truly transformed the way that political messages were delivered.
Obama campaign had 5 million friends on over 15 social networking sites (including 3 million Facebook friends) and posted almost 2,000 YouTube videos that were viewed more than 80 million times. Their website MyBarackObama.com had a peak of 8.5 million monthly users and produced 400,000 blog entries. The Obama campaign spent $3.5million on Google search alone in October, $600,000. on Advertising.com in 2008, and $467,000 on Facebook in 2008. This was to make sure that people found their content. Obama has 6 million Twitter followers at the moment.
Many of the official communication lines went down in Haiti after the earthquake of 2010. The world couldn’t get a complete picture of the situation in Haiti. Social media was a great tool to share information and compensate for the lack thereof. It allowed people to quickly report on the situation in the affected areas and the needs of those who were there. Many people shared their thoughts on the earthquake through tweets. BBC reported the event using tweets taken by Matthew Price, a BBC reporter based in Port-au-Prince. Guardian’s live blog used social media in conjunction with information from other news organizations to report on the rescue mission.
CNN launched iReport two years ago. This section allows users to upload video and provides contact information. CNN published various social media materials during the Haiti crisis. However, not all of them were verified. The editors would review the reports of citizen journalists and classify them differently to unverified content. A group called “Earthquake Haiti” was created on Facebook to share news and support the victims. It was home to more than 14,000 members, and some of its users even asked for help for the Haitians who were injured. Project Ushahidi was made possible by thousands of volunteers who used email, Twitter, and social networking sites such as Facebook to map reports from Haiti.
The impact of social media on Haiti’s victims is most remarkable. Text-message donations to charity soared past $10 million. People who want to help the victims can text, tweet, and publicly announce their support via various social networking sites. Global Philanthropy Group also launched a campaign asking celebrities and wealthy individuals to use Twitter and Facebook in order to encourage others to donate to UNICEF. Saundra Schimmelpfennig allowed other aid workers’ and donors’ advice to be posted on her blog about choosing charities to support. In the meantime, donors were posting questions on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs asking about their donations and endorsements for their favourite charities. Social media for social causes becomes more effective after every crisis.
Negative Impacts of Social Media
Every coin has two sides. Social media can be used as a tool, or a means for people to use. The users can decide how to use the tool. It’s just like a knife that can be used to help cut food or harm others. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project partnered with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center to conduct a study about “The Future of Online Socializing”. The survey included 895 technology stakeholders and critics. Respondents pointed out that the internet can lead to loss of face-to-face time, and that the internet can foster shallow relationships. They also found that the internet exposes private information. The internet allows people to isolate themselves and limits their exposure to new ideas.
Respondents also pointed out that there will be new psychological and medical conditions that will include “variations on depression due to the absence of meaningful quality relationships” and “a new world society”. Social Networking has been used to trick users into believing they are social creatures. It is not possible to develop social skills by spending just a few hours on Farmville and talking with friends simultaneously. People become dependent upon technology and lose the ability to socialize in a face-to-face setting. It is possible for an online person to have a completely different personality than someone who lives in the real world. This can cause chaos when they meet. This is evident when a couple meets face-to-face online. Their profiles are not true to their real-life personalities. People will often type what they think others want to hear, rather than telling the truth.
Apart from the “friendship”, social networking site creators and users also redefine privacy on the Internet. Data privacy is a challenge. You have to be able to share data and still protect your personal information. Nearly all information shared on social networking sites can be considered permanent. It becomes viral when someone uploads photos or videos to the internet. A video deleted from a user’s social network might be saved by someone else who then posts it to YouTube or other sites. It is easy to upload photos and videos on social networking sites and not think about it. The files could reappear at any time. A 2008 video showing ACJC students harassing a female student at school on her birthday was circulated. Another video showing a SCDF recruit being “welcomed” to a local fire station (was hosed down with water and tarred in shoe polish) made it online.
There has been much news about Facebook’s privacy breaches. Facebook is continually updating their privacy policies and changing the privacy controls for users. Facebook will keep the user’s personal data even after they delete it and deactivate their account. This information will be used for data mining. The reporter wanted to know if the data would be at least anonymized. Facebook representatives declined to comment.