It is not difficult to argue that social media has fundamentally changed how people communicate in the world today. According to Gallup, Facebook has more than a half billion users, and Twitter users send 140 million “tweets” per day. There have always been some forms of individual and group communication, but social media has metaphorically shrunk the world to the point where people around the globe can be instantly “connected” with each other. A number of factors have gone into the social media phenomenon, and experts are unsure where it will go in the future.
Constant updates. Social media has created an environment where information can be instantly distributed and constantly consumed. This is obviously helpful for communicating key data with individuals and groups that could benefit from a post, link or tweet. What is unclear is whether some of the material is necessary, helpful or evidence of a productive society. Internet anonymity can cause some individuals to post information that is negative toward others, and certain material could be described as superfluous. In addition to learning the latest world news, users can be updated on other people’s exact thoughts at the moment, what they are eating for breakfast and the details of their activities throughout the day.
Varied connections. Social media has certainly helped people of all generations connect with others and, in many cases, stay connected. Skype allows people all over the world to talk face to face, while email and social networking sites like Facebook facilitate the sharing of pictures, video and standard dialogue. While connections or Facebook “friends” can number in the hundreds, it is unclear if social media and social networking sites have enhanced or deepened relationships. Having hundreds of friends on Facebook or thousands of followers on Twitter does not necessarily mean that the individual has an equal number of significant relational connections with real people.
Need for speed. In many ways, social media could be categorized as a need for speed, as users and organizations perpetuate an extremely fast turnaround of material and content. Today’s thought can be posted instantly, but consumers and institutions that are looking for the next hot piece of news may quickly leave the current post behind, even if it has solid depth and value. Social media has changed the way that people and groups communicate, but it is unclear if there will be a saturation point where users start to pull back and look for a simpler approach to communication.