February: What is So Social about Social Media?

Sunday Akin Olukoju

Social media is defined as “websites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social and professional contacts”.

Another source described it as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” It is also defined as “forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos)”.

The term is actually a combination of two words: “social” and “media”. The term “social” relates “to society or its organization” or “an informal social gathering, especially one organized by the members of a particular club or group”, and is synonymous with “community, collective, group, general, popular, civil, public, [and] societal”.

On the other hand, the term “media” refers to “the main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the Internet), regarded collectively”, and or “the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet, that reach or influence people widely”.

One Jamie Spencer posted an interesting piece in the Blog Traffic of websitehub. He shared the “statistics revealed on Statista, which showed that “approximately 2 billion users used social networking sites and apps in 2015”. He predicted that “with the increased use of mobile devices, this number is likely to cross the 2.6 billion mark by 2018”.

 

He also identified 61 popular social networking sites, citing specific number of users of the top 28 sites. These top 28 are: FACEBOOK with approximately 1.59 billion active users per month; WHATSAPP with approximately 1 billion active users per month; Tencent QQ (more popularly known as QQ) with approximately 853 million active users per month; WECHAT with approximately 697 million active users per month; QZone with approximately 640 million active users per month; TUMBLR with approximately 555 million active users per month; INSTAGRAM with approximately 400 million active users per month; TWITTER with approximately 320 million active users per month; GOOGLE+ with approximately 300 million active users; BAIDU TIEBA with approximately 300 million active users per month; and SKYPE with approximately 300 million active users per month. Others are VIBER with approximately 249 million active users per month; SINA WEIBO with approximately 222 million active users per month; LINE with approximately 215 million active users per month; SNAPCHAT with approximately 200 million active users per month; YY which is a major video-based forum with approximately 122 million active users per month; VKONTAKTE (VK) with approximately 100 million active users per month; PINTEREST with approximately 100 million active users per month; LINKEDIN with approximately 100 million active users per month; TELEGRAM (similar to WhatsApp) with approximately 100 million active users per month; REDDIT with approximately 100 million active users per month; TARINGA with approximately 75 million active users; FOURSQUARE with approximately 40 million active users; RENREN with approximately more than 30 million active users per month; TAGGED with approximately 25 million active users;

BADOO with approximately 20 million active users per month; MYSPACE with approximately 20 million active users; and STUMBLEUPON with approximately 25 million active users. A mere addition of the users of various social media sites will give a mind-boggling idea of how distracted and or wired and connected or disconnected the world has become.

 

Of course, Jamie Spencer identified 33 other social media outlets without the possible number of active users. These include: THE DOTS; KIWIBOX; SKYROCK; DELICIOUS; SNAPFISH; REVERBNATION; FLIXSTER; CARE2; CAFEMOM; RAVELRY; NEXTDOOR; WAYN; CELLUFUN; YOUTUBE; VINE; CLASSMATES; MYHERITAGE; VIADEO; XING; XANGA; LIVEJOURNAL; FRIENDSTER; FUNNY OR DIE; GAIA ONLINE; WE HEART IT; BUZZNET; DEVIANTART; FLICKR; MEETME; MEETUP; TOUT; MIXI; and DOUBAN.

True, these various social media sites have their niche – to connect with others, to serve as an outlet for a video, music, photos, civil rights issue, and many more. But beyond the ideal are also the potently real and dangerous issues. The first is distraction. Many have walked into their death because of texting, talking or tweeting when they ought to be concentrating. Many tweet before they think. Many use social media avenue to circulate falsehood. A lot use the opportunity offered to spew hate and garbage.

This may explain why former First Lady of the US, Michelle Obama said, “When it comes to social media, there are just times I turn off the world, you know. There are just some times you have to give yourself space to be quiet, which means you’ve got to set those phones down”.

Many homes are anything but social in their relationships and interaction today. Why? Because many are in the same room, but are far away and far apart in different worlds. The concept of family discussion and interaction will soon be lost if the current trend continues. What about the use of social media for spreading hate, conspiracy theories and absolute lies, even by the high and mighty?

The various social media sites are fast becoming tools of demonization and avenues of spreading confusion. Even James Comey, the former US FBI Director said, “Social media has allowed groups, such as ISIL, to use the Internet to spot and assess potential recruits”, and that “With the widespread horizontal distribution of social media, terrorists can identify vulnerable individuals of all ages in the United States – spot, assess, recruit, and radicalize – either to travel or to conduct a homeland attack”.

Social media is creating more avenues of reproducing gullible people. Social media is making people become more vulnerable as sensitive information are released into wrong hands.

It is true that hidden evil could be quickly exposed via social media, and it is also correct to say that social media could help disseminate useful information very quickly, but the ability to control the right and wrong information that flow through sites and cyber space is a different ball game altogether.

I honestly have no objection to Businessman Simon Mainwaring who said, “Concerned consumers are realizing that they can use social media to organize themselves around shared values to start effective movements” because “Social media gives them a sounding board to share ideas, as well as a means to punish irresponsible corporate behaviors”.

I also agree with Businessman Bill Gates who said, “The PC has improved the world in just about every area you can think of”, especially in the areas of “Amazing developments in communications, collaboration and efficiencies”, including “New kinds of entertainment and social media”, as well as “Access to information and the ability to give a voice to people who would never have been heard”.

This is great! But they are businessmen, and we know that they are in the business of encouraging consumerism. But what about the social effects?

In a situation where husbands and wives’ sacred chats, father and daughter’s heart-to-heart talk, and mother and son’s one-on-one deep discussions are relegated or destroyed by social media distractions, I think the true meaning of “social” has been removed from social media.

The “social” in social media is now very artificial and is no longer beneficial. This “social” in social media has become prejudicial to filial bonds. This “social” in social media has made family relationships superficial, and no more special.

This “social” in social media has now moved family love from being sacrificial to being laboriously formal and official. And that only signifies trouble in family dynamics, relationships and interaction!

(❚ Dr. Sunday Akin Olukoju is a university tutor, a college advisor, a community newspaper correspondent, and the president of a community organization)