The internet is a living oxymoron – a trenchant response to invisibility in a world where the shy can create profiles and brave the crowded places, make friends and even do business while the powerful can become magnates or even more robust versions of themselves. The intricacy of the Internet has taken the world by a storm – one that hasn’t subsided since. Years ago, if we were to build relationships or establish businesses, the efforts would have been done face to face, but the birth of social media has allowed virtual handshakes and even first dates on webcams have become acceptable. While the majority considers social media as an effective platform for its reach and usability, cyber-bullying, sexual exposure, invasion of privacy, identity theft and other illicit activities over the internet has inevitably increased. These are just among the many reflections that I have on how the social media technology impacts our daily lifestyle and life in general.
One of the very first forms of social media was Geocities back in 1994. Almost twenty years later, social media has evolved into different platforms such as blog sites, dating communities, business communities, photo-blogs as among many other forms. Chris Shipley of Guidewire Group of San Francisco coined the term, “social media.” He describes it as any internet-based tool that permits exchanges of information, participation and collaboration. Apart from the previously mentioned categories of social media, wikis, podcasting, virtual worlds, videocasting and social bookmarking are among the other classes of social media platforms (Newson, 2008, p. 49).
In a world where freedom of expression is everything and sometimes most exploited, public journalism has finally reached its pinnacle where every thought, of every minute, every occasion – no matter how mundane may be advertised. Now, participants have gained unlimited access even to impermissible aspects of anyone’s privacy. The exchanges of ideas, photos, art forms, videos through meaningful conversations or passive status messaging has become a “dynamic process of mutual reason giving and preference formation” (Mandiberg, 2012, p. 90).
The research has made me look at invisibility and how even those who seemed invisible by choice prior to the emergence of this social media phenomenon, has chosen the internet as a medium to unleash their hidden schemas. In some twisted logic, the internet allows exposure but because the relationships and interactions are made virtually, there seems to be an unspoken feeling of anonymity among social media users who maintain a blog or when creating a social media profile. One may feel that he is out there – but not really.
Take Facebook for instance, a user has full control over what personal information may be disclosed to the public. For anyone who has wickedness planned – concocting an entirely different story and character is not impossible – in fact it is expected and highly possible. While one can fill up forms that would reveal some personal information like your sex, relationship status, favorite TV programs, political views and many others, the social media account of a person does not usually tell the truth about one’s real identity (Al-deen, 2011, p.11). I, for one, usually exercise most of the time the prerogative of limiting who can view my social media profile and once tried creating a dummy account of a fictitious person that I just made up just to try if it is possible to fool people to believe about the existence of a person created from the figment of my imagination. And yes, it is possible to build numerous friends using such account.
Granted that the internet was primarily established in business and government administrative purposes, businesses used to have proper websites that market their products and services. Nowadays, the social media are being used as a platform for promoting and marketing businesses online. I often help some friends tweet the new products that they are selling online and to make their marketing presence more visible to the virtual communities. This is obviously one of the most sensible ways to market a business – it is cost effective as you no longer have to print materials or pay someone to go house to house – the information is uploaded and people would see and eventually generate traffic, interest and profit. Brilliant, indeed!
The more “friends” you have on any social media platform, the faster you can spread news about your business – even your personal affairs. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars of Save the Date cards, simply create an image of the card and invite people online thru events or hangouts. Social businesses are those that use social media so the collaborative process of inviting or enticing audiences to purchase a product or service is much easier (Evans, 2010, p.32)
If the internet made the world a relatively small place, the social media made the smaller place a more interactive, dynamic, responsively creative and ingenious place to be. True, people have exploited freedom of expression more than ever. The lines which define public journalism or free expression has been pushed far over the limit – exposing their thoughts no matter how mindless and hurtful they are at their whim with no regard for feelings or values of virtual bystanders.
While social media opened opportunities for businesses to expand – when employees spend more of their time online, distracted by their friends’ photos and status messages – the favorable effects are overturned.
In conclusion, it all boils down to whether people are aware of the responsibilities inherent in their freedom to express themselves in the social media. There are numerous advantages and disadvantages when using the social media technology but at the end of the end, it is a matter of choice on how you want to use the platform in your favor and to serve your purpose. But most of all, the social media has a significant impact to our lifestyle where we learned to make connecting online and to virtually associate ourselves to our social communities, whether personal or for business, to make a very part of our daily life.
Al-deen, H. H. J., 2011. Social Media: Usage and Impact. Plymouth: Lexington Books.
Evans, D., 2010 . Social Media Marketing: The Next Generation of Business Engagement. Indianapolis : John Wiley & Sons.
Mandiberg, M., 2012. The Social Media Reader. New York: NYU Press.
Newson, A. H. D. P. J., 2008. Blogging and Other Social Media: Exploiting the Technology and Protecting the Enterprise. Surrey: Gower Publishing, Ltd..