Defining “social media” is the first step in truly understanding its impact and potential.
It can be narrowly defined as a “gigantic cocktail party(1)” or the “new coffee house(2)” where hundreds of millions of people are able to engage in interactive mass communication in spontaneous fashion at virtually no cost with no gatekeeper of the information.
This is a big deal in human history which leads us to a broader definition. In the mid-15th century, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press created mass communication. For the next five and a half centuries, mass communication remained a one-way street. While the invention of talk radio allowed individuals to interact with the source of the mass communication on an instantaneous basis, the masses were still largely shut out from the process.
Then, the Internet arrived. A British scientist, Tim Berners-Lee, saw the need for scientists to work together by combining their knowledge in a web of hypertext documents. The code they used was too difficult for the average information consumer so a tool was created, the Internet browser, to make the Internet accessible to everyone. With this revolutionary capability, new ways of using it flourished.
Social media became one of the most popular uses. Social media is fundamentally the widespread acceptance of the mass communication revolution from a one-way to interactive process. The consumption of information has exploded as social media has become “the new entertainment(3).” The great challenge is to manage this explosion in a way that works for you.
The social, business, political, and cultural implications of this mass embrace are profound. It has recast how we shape one of our most vital concerns —- our relationships with others. Since these relationships profoundly affect our lives, careers, how we govern, our freedoms, and our causes, it is critical we each understand social media and have a plan to maximize its use. Those that do will have more success and have a greater chance at a happier life. What’s your plan?
1-Dave Maskin, 2- Dick Taylor, 3-Arianna Huffington