The Rise of Social Media
“Man is a social animal”, goes the popular adage. Interaction with fellow beings is a vital part of being human. Community makes us feel complete through exchange of ideas and knowledge. It is therefore not surprising that we constantly try to find better and faster means of communication and information sharing. Our relentless efforts in these areas have led to a phenomenon whose far reaching impacts make it nothing short of a global revolution. That phenomenon is the rise of Social Media. If the internet gave birth to a revolution in the way we stored and sought information, then social media has brought about a revolution in the way we exchange and use information. “Social Media” is a term that is relatively young of age. It’s definition on “Wikipedia”, which ironically is also one of its most glorious examples, reads - “media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques”. Examples of social media include weblogs, social networking sites such as Facebook and My Space, information sharing platforms such as Wikipedia or Twitter, and media sharing platforms such as YouTube. Before the explosion of social media, dissemination of information on a large scale was majorly restricted to “mass media” such as internet websites, newspapers, television and radio. Broadcasting information using these channels required at least some level of technical or professional expertise. Over the past few years however, development of web technologies that simplify mass collaboration has revolutionised the way content is produced and shared. Now anyone with a computer (or a mobile phone) and internet access has the ability to almost effortlessly share information across the globe and make their views heard, right from their homes, without the need to have significant resources or technical skills at their disposal. The rise of social media has had a tremendous influence on the way I and billions around the world think, communicate, learn and behave as we take on different roles during a normal day. Some of those roles being “the social animal” , “the global citizen”, “the consumer”, “the student”, “the activist”, “the professional” and “the common man”. Me the social animal
Looking back though, a lot of the social media platforms didn’t exactly start off doing what they do today. Sites such as Facebook or MySpace started off with a simple objective of allowing people to keep in touch with near and dear ones. My first experience with such a medium was through a networking site called “Hi5”, as a means to keep in touch with friends. Twitter started off as a simple web equivalent of text messaging. In those nascent stages these platforms allowed people to socialise and to be entertained, hence serving the social animal in all of us. However, radical changes in these mediums over the last few years have forever changed my perception of their usage and potential. Me, the global citizen
Perhaps the most significant change these platforms have enabled is to level the playing field. No longer do I need to be a media celebrity or a seasoned journalist to make my views heard. Mediums such as blogs and twitter give everyone a chance to stand up and be counted. What this has done is to make the world of information sharing truly democratic. The impact of this development has made those in high up places acknowledge the power these mediums hold. When US president Barack Obama was inaugurated into presidency in January 2009, CNN and the Whitehouse collaborated on Facebook to stream the broadcast to a worldwide audience. I remember getting the Goosebumps while watching the stream that generated 600,000 messages. All those messages flashing endlessly on my screen brought about the feeling that I was a part of a global debate. The Obama administration extensively used twitter to reach out to people all around the world. What this has done is to...
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