What is Social Media?

I’m not sure I’ve ever taken the time to sit down and think about what social media really is. Considering all the forms of social media I use, I guess I’d have to say it’s a system of groups and communities that communicate through a primarily internet based method. Social media is a way for us to share our ideas, thoughts, secrets, news, or just have a pointless conversation. We do this in blogging platforms like Blogr or Word Press, microblogging platforms such as Twitter or Tumblr, and through other various forms from internet based chat rooms and forums.

I think my favorite social media is the forum, by far. Forums are one of the easiest ways to find like minded groups of individuals to have conversations with about any topic. Reddit is a great example of a well-done forum. It’s set up with a simple system of up and down voting to illustrate how much people are appreciating any given post. One of the most interesting aspects of Reddit is it’s system of ranking individuals based on their comment history and posting. This is the social aspect of social media, working at its best, and achieving a hierarchical system that fosters a community of great conversations (most of the time). I certainly feel that a blog is a form of social media.

Blogs may actually be the most important (not my favorite) aspect of social media today. Through blogs we consume much of our news and opinions alike. While forums are my favorite, I certainly spend a hefty share of my internet time browsing through my favorite blogs and absorbing their information. I think that the basic structure of supply and demand that a blog creates with its passage of information is one aspect that qualifies it as a form of social media, but were you to expect a more “social” reason, you’d have to look no further than the comment section of a blog. Having the ability to interact with other people that are reading and contemplating the same thing you are is the most social of activities. These gems of insight, hidden at the bottom of most blog posts, are where new opinions are formed, minds are change, and values are created and destroyed.

In some ways, I think a blog may provide a larger social benefit to the consumer than a conversation with a person directly in front of you. The veil of the internet allows a feeling of relative anonymity (even when you post under your own name) which often leads to more honest and open discussions than many people are comfortable having in person. Social media has a wide ranging defintion that encompasses most of Americans daily activities. It will be interesting to see how social media changes in the future with the advent of Virtual Reality headsets that are ready to roll out this year. Facebook just purchased Oculus VR for 2 Billion dollars. Oculus has been widely touted as the next big thing in communication, and Facebook has promised to bring virtual reality to social media. Through a headset you can, with incredible results, experience a virtual world where every move of your head is made within the virtual expanse you’re plugged into. Will this be good or bad for us? I’m not really sure at this point, I’m inclined to say bad. While I love my social media, too much of a good (feeling) thing is not always that good, is it?

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