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Social media are interactive technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, interests, and other forms of expression through virtual communities and networks. While challenges to the definition of social media arise due to the variety of stand-alone and built-in social media services currently available, there are some common features:
Users usually access social media services through web-based apps on desktops or download services that offer social media functionality to their mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets). As users engage with these electronic services, they create highly interactive platforms which individuals, communities, and organizations can share, co-create, discuss, participate, and modify user-generated or self-curated content posted online. Additionally, social media are used to document memories, learn about and explore things, advertise oneself, and form friendships along with the growth of ideas from the creation of blogs, podcasts, videos, and gaming sites. This changing relationship between humans and technology is the focus of the emerging field of technological self-studies. Some of the most popular social media websites, with more than 100 million registered users, include Facebook (and its associated Facebook Messenger), TikTok, WeChat, ShareChat, Instagram, QZone, Weibo, Twitter, Tumblr, Baidu Tieba, and LinkedIn. Depending on interpretation, other popular platforms that are sometimes referred to as social media services include YouTube, QQ, Quora, Telegram, WhatsApp, Signal, LINE, Snapchat, Pinterest, Viber, Reddit, Discord, VK, Microsoft Teams, and more. Wikis are examples of collaborative content creation.
When Tim Berners-Lee connected hypertext software to the Internet in 1991, he developed the World Wide Web, which created the modern era of networked communication. Weblogs, list servers, and e-mail services all aided in the formation of online communities and the support of offline groups. Online services evolved from providing conduits for networked communication to being interactive, two-way vehicles for networked sociality with the introduction of Web 2.0.
The development of social media began with simple platforms. GeoCities was one of the earliest social networking services, launched in November 1994, followed by Classmates.com in December 1995 and SixDegrees.com in May 1997. Unlike instant-messaging clients (e.g., ICQ and AOL's AIM) or chat clients (e.g., IRC, iChat, or Chat Television), SixDegrees was the first online business that was created for real people, using their real names. As such, according to CBS News, SixDegrees is "widely considered to be the very first social networking site," as it included "profiles, friends lists, and school affiliations" that could be used by registered users. The name references to the "six degrees of separation" concept, which posits that "everyone on the planet is only six degrees apart from everyone else." It was the first website to provide users the option of creating a profile.
Research from 2015 shows that the world spent 22% of their online time on social networks, thus suggesting the popularity of social media platforms. It is speculated that the increase in social media's popularity is due to the widespread daily use of smartphones. As many as 4.08 billion social media users worldwide were found active on smartphones as of October 2020.
The idea that social media are defined simply by their ability to bring people together has been seen as too broad, as this would suggest that fundamentally different technologies like the telegraph and telephone are also social media. The terminology is unclear, with some early researchers referring to social media as social networks or social networking services in the mid-2000s. A more recent paper from 2015 reviewed the prominent literature in the area and identified four common features unique to then-current social media services:
In 2019, Merriam-Webster defined social media as "forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos)."
Some social media sites have the potential for content posted there to spread virally over social networks. The term is an analogy to the concept of viral infections, which can spread rapidly from individual to individual. In a social media context, content or websites that are 'viral' (or which 'go viral') are those with a greater likelihood that users will re-share content posted (by another user) to their social network, leading to further sharing. In some cases, posts containing popular content or fast-breaking news have been rapidly shared and re-shared by a huge number of users.
To properly take advantage of these benefits, businesses need to have a set of guidelines that they can use on different social media platforms. Social media can enhance a brand through a process called "building social authority". However, this process can be difficult, because one of the foundational concepts in social media is that one cannot completely control one's message through social media but rather one can simply begin to participate in the "conversation" expecting that one can achieve a significant influence in that conversation. Because of the wide use of social media by consumers and their own employees, companies use social media on a customer-organizational level; and an intra-organizational level. Social media, by connecting individuals to new ties via the social network can increase entrepreneurship and innovation, especially for those individuals who lack conventional information channels due to their lower socioeconomic background.
Militant groups have begun[when?] to see social media as a major organizing and recruiting tool. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also known as ISIL, ISIS, and Daesh) has used social media to promote its cause. In 2014, #AllEyesonISIS went viral on Arabic Twitter. ISIS produces an online magazine named the Islamic State Report to recruit more fighters. State-sponsored cyber-groups have weaponized social-media platforms to attack governments in the United States, the European Union, and the Middle East. Although phishing attacks via email are the most commonly used tactic to breach government networks, phishing attacks on social media rose 500% in 2016.
The more time people spend on Facebook, the less satisfied they feel about their life. Self-presentation theory explains that people will consciously manage their self-image or identity related information in social contexts. In fact, a critical aspect of social networking sites is the time invested in customizing a personal profile, and encourage a sort of social currency based on likes, followers, and comments. Users also tend to segment their audiences based on the image they want to present, pseudonymity and use of multiple accounts across the same platform remain popular ways to negotiate platform expectations and segment audiences.
Other social media, such as pro-anorexia sites, have been found in studies to cause significant risk of harm by reinforcing negative health-related behaviors through social networking, especially in adolescents. Social media effects the way a person views themselves. The constant comparison to edited photos, of other individual's and their living situations, can cause many negative emotions. This can lead to not eating, and isolation. As more and more people continue to use social media for the wrong reasons, it increases the feeling of loneliness in adults.
As social networking becomes more popular among older and younger generations, sites such as Facebook and YouTube gradually undermine the traditionally authoritative voices of news media. For example, American citizens contest media coverage of various social and political events as they see fit, inserting their voices into the narratives about America's past and present and shaping their own collective memories. An example of this is the public explosion of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Florida. News media coverage of the incident was minimal until social media users made the story recognizable through their constant discussion of the case. Approximately one month after Martin's death, its online coverage by everyday Americans garnered national attention from mainstream media journalists, in turn exemplifying media activism.
Criticisms of social media range from criticisms of the ease of use of specific platforms and their capabilities, disparity of information available, issues with trustworthiness and reliability of information presented, the impact of social media use on an individual's concentration, ownership of media content, and the meaning of interactions created by social media. Although some social media platforms, such as servers in the decentralized Fediverse, offer users the opportunity to cross-post between independently run servers using a standard protocol such as ActivityPub, the dominant social network platforms have been criticized for poor interoperability between platforms, which leads to the creation of information silos, viz. isolated pockets of data contained in one social media platform. However, it is also argued that social media has positive effects, such as allowing the democratization of the Internet while also allowing individuals to advertise themselves and form friendships. have noted that the term "social" cannot account for technological features of a platform alone, hence the level of sociability should be determined by the actual performances of its users. There has been a dramatic decrease in face-to-face interactions as more and more social media platforms have been introduced with the threat of cyber-bullying and online sexual predators including groomers being more prevalent. Social media may expose children to images of alcohol, tobacco, and sexual behaviors.[relevant?] In regards to cyber-bullying, it has been proven that individuals who have no experience with cyber-bullying often have a better well-being than individuals who have been bullied online. 2b1af7f3a8