This is a topic I was recently asked the other day by a colleague of mine who is involved in business consulting for large corporations. The question made me think about how much has changed in society (whether we realize it or not) as a result of social media. Think about it, it was only approximately 20 some odd years ago that the average person was beginning to become associated with the internet. Prior to that, the internet was mostly reserved for academia and various government agencies. Before that it was only reserved for the U.S. government (the official origins of the internet began back in 1969 with the U.S. military’s funding of a research network dubbed “Arpanet“). Today, we have not only the internet, but we have social media tied in there as well.
The Term Social Media
As the term “social media” implies:
“media” is a place where publications occur.
“social” implies that there is sharing occurring. A sharing of ideas, opinions, images.
The social in social media also implies the tools, places and services that allow people to gather for social interaction. Social media allows individuals to gather and express themselves in a much more simple and immediate fashion. By giving people this capability, they not only have the ability to share ideas, opinions and other contents, but also (if they wish) gain notoriety, and expand their influence.
The ability to do so has altered the way ideas change hands and how fast those ideas spread. At the same time, news and any information that would usually take days or even weeks to go from one location to another can now occur in seconds. This ease of communication has never been so available to people around the world as it is now and it is still continuing to evolve. Remember that throughout history, many countless numbers of governments have created and held onto their power by controlling information and the spreading of ideas. Because of social media, many of these types of governments can no longer function this way any longer. Why? Because the technology available to a person is so economical and simple to utilize that virtually anyone with some education or training on the subject can become a point of contact for the communication of information.
The Delivery of News, the Sharing of Ideas, the Expression of Opinions
The spreading of an idea, or of news occurring somewhere in the world can no longer be completely blocked by any organization. As long as one person is able to connect to the internet and express their view about a situation or simply about an idea, then the information that individual will want to share, will get out into the world. Remember, last year during the Iranian elections when there were (and to some extent still are) people disagreeing with the “official” election outcome, the Iranian government attempted to control the communication and the images of what was occurring in Iran from getting out. They were never able to control all the information and images that were being seen by the world in ‘real-time’. In another example, when an earthquake rocked the country of Haiti, not only were images from the torn country in the aftermath of the quake being seen around the world but commentaries and opinions of what people were seeing were being read and heard (from Haiti). Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and FriendFeed allow people to share ideas on not just news, but also on products and services. Products and Services that before social media, many people would not have even heard about them, let alone request or want the service.
Needless to say, social media has forever changed the way society works, whether it’s the sharing of an idea, the communication of news, or the availability of a product or service. Society today is on the verge of a new way of existing that it’s never experienced before. No longer will people from one side of the world be really able to say that they will never see a person or communicate with someone from the other side of the world ever in their life. No longer will people not be able to share an idea, if they really want to share it (no matter how radical it may be or no matter how many people may disagree with it). No longer will the spreading of information or the expressing of an opinion be able to be completely silenced. As long as there is a person who wishes to express their opinion, share their music or art, or simply say hello to another human being in another country or culture, social media will allow them to do so.
- What are some of your opinions as to how social media has changed society?
- How do you believe social media will be in the future?
- What will social media look like in 5 or even 10 years from now? 15 or 20 years from now?
Gil Pizano is an experienced leader and management professional and is currently part of the management group within the business intelligence segment of a major property and casualty insurance company. He has an MBA from the University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business along with a Bachelor of Science in engineering from the University of Hartford’s College of Engineering.