Journalism and many other functions of society have undergone a revolution since digitalization and ever wider access to internet began to spread in the 1990’s.
The citizen in social media
Through the development of digital technology social media has in a comparatively short time become a part of people’s daily life, both during work and leisure time.
Nowadays, social media is a category under which various and very different online services are grouped. All in all, it is difficult to precisely define social media or to draw a line on what is social media and what is not. These services do, however, have many things in common.
First of all, the core characteristic of social media is that it is social: there
is a distinct sense of community and it is based on interaction between
users. Users can communicate with each other, share content, comment on
things published by each other, form groups or filter for specific content.
Possibilities are virtually endless. Services such as Facebook include
countless communal pages in addition to individual and personal user profiles. The users of these communal pages are brought together by the interest towards the topics of the pages.
First of all, the core characteristic of social media is that it is social.
Additionally, social media users can use the service for networking. On Facebook, the network consists of “friends” that the user has approved of. In addition to actual friends, these friends can include acquaintances, of whose doings the user is interested in. On Twitter, users have a follower network to whom the messages they send are shown, and who can share content they have received.
Another characteristic that social media services have in common can be found in media technology. Like all communication methods, all social media needs a technological foundation to function. This technology spreads the sent messages, images, videos and other content from users. In practice this technological foundation is the internet, but the web itself is not enough. Like other online services, social media requires a device, with which the service can be accessed and, naturally, the existence of the services themselves.
Another characteristic that social media services have in common can be found in media technology.
During the dawn of the era of internet, the electronic communications network was most often connected to via desktop computers. They were impractical or impossible to move around without losing connectivity to the network. From the point of view of social media this meant that the usage of the service was dependent on time and place. The computer was most likely situated at work or at school, sometimes at home. This meant that its usage was limited by the time of day. The work computer could only be used during work hours. Computer usage at home was in the early age of internet mostly limited by its connection to the television.
One of the most important aspects of the revolution has been the development of wireless network technology. Especially mobile technology has freed social media and other online services totally from the restrictions of space and time. A mobile phone is relatively inconspicuous, easy to use and portable. The phone is wherever its user is: at home, at a party, on vacation or at an event. The experiences and phenomena people go through transform these days nearly instantly into social media content.
Sharing content is important aspect in social media
Social media has become a way of sharing everyday experiences. Thoughts, videos, news, photographs or their associated comments reach nearly everyone in the user’s circle of friends and acquaintances with a single
push of a button.
To sum up, social media usage skills can be distributed into four groups:
- Creative media skills: content production and planning
- Critical knowledge: receiving and interpreting information
- Social skills: interaction
- Technical and practical skills: IT skills and software knowledge
Occasionally, content shared on Twitter or Facebook spreads wider than one’s own circle of acquaintances and interest groups. But how large an audience can you reach with social media content?
The Digital Insights website has gathered data on social media usage during 2013 and 2014. In 2014, according to Digital Insights, 1.2 billion users visited Facebook monthly. Google’s equivalent service was used by 540 million people monthly, and Twitter by 255 million monthly. Compared to the number of active users, the aforementioned services have many-fold more registered users, associations and corporations. Furthermore, these numbers are constantly growing.
Social media services in their different forms are widely and actively used, and their usage seems to be increasing.
The amount of different services and tools is increasing from one year to the next, as well as is the impact of social media in society, politics, communications, civil activism and everyday life.
Social media services in their different forms are widely and actively used, and their usage seems to be increasing. The amount of different services and tools is increasing from one year to the next, as well as is the impact of social media in society, politics, communications, civil activism and everyday life.