How is Social Media Evolving?

Social Media has evolved and adapted to accommodate the way we as humans want to communicate with each other.  The boom of social media has triggered an ongoing cycle of refinement as we find new ways we want, or don’t want, to use social media.  A corrective behavioural pattern can be observed over time based on demands and problems.

Many social media sites have evolved into frameworks for people to use the application as they need. This is to accommodate users so they don’t have to have accounts with a new service for every group they have.  Boyd et al. closely review the history and refinement of Social Network Sites, and highlights the demand for niche online connections.  These types of sites give smaller groups a sense of community that they could get without having to physically find people. These days many network sites have designed themselves to support these niche sets of people in the form of Facebook Groups and Subreddits.  Boyd et al. also bring up the rise of user-generated content sites.  Sharing videos, music or photos no longer requires your own hosted website.  This is another version of adaptation to address a social media problem.

Social media evolution has successfully brought more users to a few very popular sites.  Consequently, this evolution of digital media is creating a level of data that we never had before.  Jonathan Zittrain brings up how we can observe when two people are going to be in a relationship by looking at their data on Facebook.  This type of pattern can only be observed by comparing many data sets in order to identify patterns.  This level of intelligence is opening up a variety of jobs such as Data Scientists and Analytics, which are symptoms of the boom in social media usage.

This level of information has also brought up less desired symptoms.  Privacy being one of the big issues.   What does social media owe us in terms of privacy and are they allowed to profit off of it?  Uber could be an example of taking it one step too far by tracking the location of a user even when they’ve been dropped off.  But if Uber had disclosed that they tracked passengers would that be okay?  Theoretically speaking, Uber could have disclosed the information and most of their users could have jumped ship.  Alternatively, they could have become the cheaper option to Lift because of the extra money being made by openly selling or publishing the data.

Using data for profit can also be seen in the rise of targeted advertisements.  There is a lot of controversy over targeted advertisements because users feel violated.  This is still an ongoing debate on whether or not this is ethical.  This is another form of social media evolution to accommodate users, but not necessarily with the user’s interest in mind.

Jonathan Zittrain also discusses the algorithms behind digital media and how they can influence a user’s perception.  This brings up the ethics on changing algorithms to accurately portray current events.  This entire discussion is a grey area.   For example, when you look at “Popular” articles on a social media site, what does that mean?  Who determines what is popular? Many user-generated content sites use an algorithm for determining this, is this ethical?  And if a site profits by altering the algorithm, should there be consequences?  There appears to be a demand for some kind of governance but it is unclear what it should be.

Problems like privacy and governance will open up new ways for certain social media sites to either thrive or fail.  In the end, we should see new adaptations of social media for every new problem or demand that comes up.

Posted on September 24, 2017, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Interesting points, Miriam. One of my Uber drivers told me that Uber’s primary business was selling data. After that trip, I turned off location services for Uber and started using Lyft.

    While I don’t like to be “tracked,” I don’t mind contributing to market research, especially when there is something in it for me. I use Ibotta to collect rebates on products I buy. To claim the rebates, I have to submit a picture of my receipt. I usually claim the rebate money in the form of an Amazon gift card. I also use the site MyPoints to buy things from different online retailers. I also print grocery coupons and sometimes take surveys on the site as well. I haven’t The points can be redeemed for gift cards.

    On the flip side of companies tracking users, several users gladly offer the information. Facebook and Instagram allow users to tag where they are and when they’re travelling.

    Boyd and Ellison pointed out the “privacy paradox,” meaning users express a demand for privacy but their behaviors don’t exhibit it. Certainly there are some ethical issues with companies farming data and using it to create targeted advertising, but I don’t think there are issues with companies merely collecting info that someone decided to share with the public.

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    • Thanks for your comment. You bring up a great point on the privacy paradox and I wonder what the answer really is. I suppose it would boil down to what a company would be able to do with said public information. This actually reminds me that my husband brought up a related point that I hadn’t thought of. His big concern is that insurance companies will eventually take advantage of public or private data and use it against your insurance rates. I’m still unsure of how this could legally work, but it is a terrifying thought.

  2. “Using data for profit can also be seen in the rise of targeted advertisements. There is a lot of controversy over targeted advertisements because users feel violated. This is still an ongoing debate on whether or not this is ethical. This is another form of social media evolution to accommodate users, but not necessarily with the user’s interest in mind.”

    This connects to some information I’ve noticed about companies using individual users’ selfies in their ads without first asking permission. If you Google “using selfies for marketing” there are pros http://www.adweek.com/digital/james-jorner-effective-inbound-marketing-guest-post-selfies/ and cons [I’ll share a PDF because it’s behind a wall], but I hope the discussions continue. It all connects to being aware of what’s happening and examine user agreements, which so many people don’t do.

  3. Thank you for this response. I enjoyed the pros link. Selfies have allowed more people to share photos of themselves who normally wouldn’t because it gives them an extra level of control over the image. Celebrating this in marketing in marketing is even better.

    However, the idea that companies actually use users’ selfies without asking permission is pretty terrifying. While this may be part of the user agreement the photograph was submitted to, I feel like this is not part of a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Of course, the laws on the internet are still being hacked out as we speak.

  4. I like your comments about social media sites evolving their framework to support the groups that require more from the site. Facebook has evolved tremendously in the past few years. We no longer need other sites to host blogs, pictures, live video etc. This not only solved s number of problems for users but also simplified things too. We have a one stop shop to help us do everything we want to do and the things we don’t even know that we want yet.

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