Social media is an interactive computer-mediated technology that facilitates the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. Users usually access social media services via web-based technologies on desktops and laptops, 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 through which individuals, communities, and organizations can share, co-create, discuss, participate, and modify user-generated content or self-curated content posted online.
Networks formed through social media change the way groups of people interact and communicate or stand with the votes. They “introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organizations, communities, and individuals.” These changes are the focus of the emerging fields of techno self-studies. Social media differs from paper-based media (e.g., magazines and newspapers) and traditional electronic media such as TV broadcasting, Radio broadcasting in many ways, including quality, reach, frequency, interactivity, usability, immediacy, and performance. Social media outlets operate in a dialogic transmission system (many sources to many receivers). This is in contrast to traditional media that operates under a mono-logic transmission model (one source to many receivers), such as a newspaper that is delivered to many subscribers, or a radio station that broadcasts the same programs to an entire city. Some of the most popular social media websites, with over 100 million registered users, include Facebook (and its associated Facebook Messenger), YouTube, WeChat, Instagram, QQ, QZone, Weibo, Twitter, Tumblr, Telegram, Baidu Tieba, LinkedIn, LINE, Snapchat, Pinterest, Viber, and VK.
The digital divide is a measure of disparity in the level of access to technology between households, socioeconomic levels or other demographic categories. People who are homeless, living in poverty, elderly people and those living in rural or remote communities may have little or no access to computers and the Internet; in contrast, middle class and upper-class people in urban areas have very high rates of computer and Internet access. Other models argue that within a modern information society, some individuals produce Internet content while others only consume it, which could be a result of disparities in the education system where only some teachers integrate technology into the classroom and teach critical thinking. While social media has differences among age groups, a 2010 study in the United States found no racial divide. Some zero-rating programs offer subsidized data access to certain websites on low-cost plans. Critics say that this is an anti-competitive program that undermines net neutrality and creates a “walled garden” for platforms like Facebook Zero. A 2015 study found that 65% of Nigerians, 61% of Indonesians, and 58% of Indians agree with the statement that “Facebook is the Internet” compared with only 5% in the US.
According to a research at Northeastern University the desire to indulge in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter is just as addictive as smoking cigarettes. And other studies have shown that texting has become more popular than talking on the phone among all age groups. Therefore, like the faces of a coin, everything has pros and cons. Social media also has its positive as well as negative impacts but it’s our responsibility for ourselves to use it efficiently.