A Reflection About Social Media

I was born long before people had easy and broad access to personal computers. To make matters worse, I have always been late in getting and using new computer technology and its applications. Neither had I ever been involved in video or virtual games, nor in online activities. In fact, I used to hear about social media and many of its advantages, but never dared exploring the world of social media until recently.

With an outsider’s perspective, I started to develop some rejection toward anything related with social media as well as gadgets, games, smartphones and other portable devices and applications. Observing how my own children and people around me behaved only convinced me that it was a black hole that drew in the soul, absorbing attention and disconnecting you from your immediate surroundings. I could not believe they kept so focused, apparently losing contact with reality! It seemed they got hooked, ignoring the world around them, delaying responses creator community to questions or requests in public places. Technology, no doubt, has changed the way society behaves, wants and consumes.

As a former engineer, I can say that I am conscious about the benefits technology brings in, but I believe that many people have a tendency to abuse it. Reluctantly years ago, I opened a social networking page after knowing that I could be able to reach and contact with old friends and family. After several tries, I ended up keeping one account in Facebook since was the most popular social networking, and the one most of my acquaintances, friends and family had. Honestly, I used to think that social media was only another means to stay connected and nothing more; that it was mostly a waste of time, used only by people looking for some exposure -their five minutes of fame. Although I do not have a very active social life, I do prefer live interactions. However when I stop to consider the difference between talking on the phone and using the computer, the act is the same; it’s only the device that has changed.

Over time, I have learned that the internet and social media are valuable and powerful tools. They are used not only for personal communications, but to establish and create professional relationships. The use of social media for businesses has dramatically increased, since it represents a means to get information and real-time input about what the public thinks of the business’ service or products. Word of mouth is powerful, but its effect is amplified by the use of social media. A single complaint may impact a business’ reputation almost instantly and have lasting effects on the public’s perception. Social media is a more efficient and effective way to delivering messages and exchange ideas; there is no faster way to obtain answers to questions or concerns, or in getting advice on specific inquiries. Tweet reviews or request input about a business, and immediately several responses will pop up, likely more information beyond what was originally requested. No matter where you are -as long you have satellite or internet connection- whether standing still or in motion, or how late it is, there is constant access to information. Information is power, so now the power is in the hands of the user!

Social media affects how we interact, how we consume and quite possibly how we think. New types of interaction now exist between groups and communities that share information, mark trends, and give opinions about any imaginable theme. Social media has also influenced the way business operates: if a customer posts a severe complaint for a service received, a bad product, or any abuse, it can negatively impact the business or even lead to government intervention.

Before we go too far in lumping “social media” as one vague item, I want to clarify that there are many different applications and functions that exist within social media. Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn are known as social networking media. There are also collaborative social media blogs, wikis, and tweeter, which are good for sharing information. There is social media for content creation, data organization, to compile and/or share links and interests such as YouTube, Delicious or Pinterest. Nonetheless, all these sites exert great influence in our behavior and our decisions as consumers. With smart use of social media as a proper marketing and advertising tool, it might have a great impact on broad audiences or specific targets as desired. Every internet search has a purpose or quest, and social media may help to meet those needs by answering those questions, satisfying those desires, providing those suggestions and alternatives, as well as potentially providing a monetary reward for the involved businesses.

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