Emerging Thoughts Around Social Media – What to Expect with the Unexpected…

As I read through an article called Social Network Sites:  Definition, History, and Scholarship, by Danah M. Boyd and Nicole B. Ellison, I was mentally stalled as I thought about what a social network was and what the purpose was.  The question that immediately came to my mind was, what is a social network site?

Boyd and Ellison defined social network as a web-based service that would allow someone to:

  • Create a type of profile in a given system
  • Create / invite other users with shared commonalities / connections
  • View other profiles within the same system

Boyd and Ellison also eluded to a timeline of major social network sites and with the number of sites available, it only seemed to provoke more thoughts around social media.

SNS Timeline

But what was interesting for me was thinking about what a social network site means to an end user.  Is a social network site Facebook?  Is a social network site a place where I can post pictures of my children and share with my friends?  Is a social network site a place where I can promote my business?   Well yes – it is essentially all of those things any more.  As a consumer of social media, I am at times dumbfounded by the amount of social media sites that are available.  More so, it often turns into “another thing I have to check” or a lost username and password to something I don’t actually ever use.

I am also at times overwhelmed with the growing amount of questions and concerns that come via social media channels.  Is it safe?  Are the sites (even though a log in and password are required), secure from outside predators.  Are there personal (sexual) predators lurking in that background?  The use of social media itself has essentially been put onto the people to learn about, however, many important messages are getting missed because the founders of these social media sites are concerned about the marketing – not the education.  I can almost see a time where the use of social media channels (good and bad) will be an educational class in high schools.

It was these growing social media thoughts, that as a consumer, intrigued me about the path of where social networking sites have been and where they are going.

Growing Social Media Thoughts

Many social networking sites that have been created for a specific purpose either expand beyond their intended creation (as with the development and growth of Facebook) or fail because they did not end up meeting any specific need.  As a consumer of these types of information systems, it is important to have a grounded understanding of my goals with social media in order to prepare for the onslaught of social media sites that are coming out in the coming years.

As I looked over the timeline, many of the networking sites listed were so short lived, I didn’t even know about them (even if they might still be going).  This is definitely one phenomenon of social media that we need to be cautious and aware of especially as we work towards reusing this type of system for other purposes.  Is it worth it?  Or will it essentially go out of style?

Ultimately the key might lay with the shared commonalities approach.  If a site moves away from the intended purpose does it get lost and ultimately become ineffective?  If Facebook were to have stayed more “exclusive to colleges only”, would that have been more lucrative?

Shared your thoughts and comments on what you think social media is and what we can expect to see from it.

Posted on September 20, 2015, in Social Media, Society and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. natashajmceachin

    Hi Chelsea,

    I also decided to post on Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. By the first two pages in, I completely disagreed with their definition of what a SNS (social network site) was, and felt the article is a bit outdated. My first thought was, “It’s pretty dangerous to write such a specific scholarly article defining social media as the day after you write it, a platform may launch that makes your work obsolete”. My second thought was, “What exactly is a social network site in my opinion?”

    I agreed with Boyd and Ellison’s distinction between “network” and “networking”, but they lost me with their skeletal requirements of an SNS needing to have:
    -A visible profile with profile image
    -An “about me” section
    -A friend/follower list that is visible to other members

    Snapchat is clearly a social network site that has none of these elements, they define themselves as a social network/networking site as does their Wiki. Snapchat also eliminates many of the privacy issues and desire to be perfect that exists in the traditional SNS. It isn’t hard to imagine other platforms following in this direction, or competitors coming out to play considering Snapchat’s incredible success. So my question is, what does this mean for the next generation of social media? How do we come up with a definition of SNSs that will never phase itself out?

    I’m thinking along the lines of a SNS being a site or internet based mobile app that allows users to connect with one another using text and/or images. Users are allowed to follow or befriend other users, and can contact other users with unspecified restrictions. This is honestly the safest I think I can go, what do you think?

    • Hey Natasha!

      What I think is most interesting about the article that Boyd and Ellison co-authored was that they reached out there and compiled that article. You can only right what you know about and as the evolution of social media has clearly shown since 2011, I’m sure these two authors could probably be thinking, that social media has vastly changed and so have their own viewpoints.

      While Snapchat in this example, shows a vastly different use of social media, I think it helps us as professionals to begin looking at refining what social media is – you might even be onto a good start (traditional social media vs. non-traditional social media?). I think this might allow for us to maybe even refine categories within social media.

      I even look at the role of technical communication and what does that mean? There are so many different viewpoints on what tech comm really is even within our own industry that it’s hard to nail down just one definition. That I, I think, is what you will find with so many different areas (not just social media). The point is the definitions and viewpoints can often change, daily, as new examples come up and we need to be cognizant that things might change and we have to readapt our thinking.

  2. When you say early in the post that social networks become another thing you have to check or don’t use, that got me wondering which social networks have stuck with you? Which ones do keep you interested? I think it’s fine to limit yourself and not jump on every bandwagon/app, especially given the questions and concerns you mention, but aren’t those questions the same for each social network?

    As for your point about teaching social media use in high schools, that’s been happening already. I need to find the news video, but here’s one article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kim-garst/4-reasons-why-social-medi_b_3327957.html

    Finally, I’ve glad you mention that “Many social networking sites that have been created for a specific purpose either expand beyond their intended creation.” Twitter is an excellent example, particularly for crisis communications. See https://media.twitter.com/best-practice/using-twitter-in-a-crisis from their Best Practices page, which offers an extensive list of categories.

    • To be honest, not many social networks have stuck with me – and in even more honest, I haven’t used or heard of some of them. I do have a Facebook account that I look at every 1-2 months. I dislike the fact that I would be notified in my e-mail when someone posted something – so that e-mail is now a junk e-mail address. I think in some ways, I am discouraged by the amount of (what I consider to be useless) information. A Facebook message that says “I’m at home watching t.v. tonight”. I understand that people have something to say and many times, social media allows people to have a voice, but I also think it is indicative of the amount of useless information that hounds us everyday. And, while I do like to see photos and share with my close friends about my life, I prefer to have one-on-one conversations with them via text, phone call, or in person – I sometimes think that we lose site of that in the social media swing of things.

      As I got to thinking though this idea around “self destructive social media” might be just the ticket for my preference. Although, the people I normally would interact with don’t use (or have never heard of that) – I also think that fact also impacts how one uses social media as well.

      The post about social media being taught in school is rather interesting. I am amazed that Singapore has this type of futuristic look and wish that would begin to resonate more and more (which I’m sure it will only be a matter of time) with schools in the U.S. I think it’s interesting how other cultures take to and adapt social media as well, in comparison to our own culture – a topic for another day though.

      I also like the idea of how Twitter could be used for a crisis communication tool, but in my perspective, how can we develop applications like this that can be used for more internal communication. Often we have to communicate with one another if a crisis occurs – but the public facing aspect can also be a limiting deterrent in some cases.

  3. Chelsea: I, too, was completely amazed by the number of sites that were mentioned in that article what I had never heard of. But as you mention, it is proof of how social networks manage to find their own evolution through the user-base. We read the examples of networks that had evolved to be most useful to a different group of users, ones that had more relevance in a completely different geographical location, and of course those that failed to survive in this rapidly changing media.

    While I have dabbled with other social media sites, the only that I actively utilize is Facebook. There are aspects that I found annoying, such as the targeted news feed posts, but I find their security options adequate for me. I believe that my profile picture is the only thing that I’m not longer to dictate the audience for (and this could have changed since I last looked into that aspect).

    As for the discussion about “safety, particularly as it pertain to the underage set, shouldn’t parents take some of this responsibility? There are so many ways that we can “police” our children on the internet. The internet, as a whole, poses threats to our children. Goodness only knows what can be stumbled across on a simple internet search. Security settings are easy to set up. Parents can monitor user histories. They can insist on accessing their children’s Facebook accounts. I have concern for anything my daughter could potentially access (beyond the internet for that matter), and find it extends far outside of the dangers of social media sites. There will always be dangers of our children coming across predators both online and in the “real world.” When a site fails to allow me options to protect myself and my child from securing our private data or allows exposure to something I find dangerous or of concern, then I will most certainly move on to another media.

    • Hi Rebecca! I definitely hear you with the social media sites. I am tempted even after this first week to go out and sign up for every social media site that I can… but i’m afraid I would create the username and login and forget what it was (or eventually forget where I put the login information…)

      I think in some ways yes parents are responsible (I am a mother to a dog so thankfully I don’t have that level of worry… yet). But I honestly think that we are in an age where technology is starting to surpass older generations and is targeted to young users. I look at my parents, who I would say are fairly illiterate when it comes to technology. My dad won’t have anything to do with it – he forgets where he puts his flip phone and my mom can use it for the little things she needs, but beyond that gets a little bug-eyed. So if they were to monitor… I don’t think they would know what that means. I also think that now that social media is expanding to so many devices (even like this Snapchat we heard about this week in another post) – it will be harder and harder for parents to monitor versus taking a backseat and educating their children on how to use social media responsibly and hope the listened (all coming from a non-parent though).

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