Serious Question: What Exactly Is Social Media? (2023)

Social media is a phrase we throw around a lot these days, often to describe what we post on sites and apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and others. So you can infer that social media are web-based sites that allow people to interact with each other.

But if we use the term to describe a site like Facebook, and also a site like Digg, plus asite like Wikipedia, and even a site like I Can Has Cheezburger, then it starts to get more confusing. Just what exactly is social media, anyway?

The term is so vague that it can basically be used to describe almost any website on the internet today. Or can it?

Some people have more of a restricted view of social media, often equating it to mean the same as social networking (a.k.a. Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Other people don't consider blogs to fall under the social media category.

It seems as if everyone has their own personal opinion of what social media is and isn't. But let's dive deeper into the general concept to gain a clearer and more precise understanding.

So, What Is Social Media?

Rather than define the term using a bunch of boring jargon that would probably only complicate things further, perhaps the best way to get a clearer understanding of it is to break it down into simpler terms. To start, let's look at each word individually.

The 'social' part:refers to interacting with other people by sharing information with them and receiving information from them.

The 'media' part: refers to an instrument of communication, like the internet (while TV, radio, and newspapers are examples of more traditional forms of media).

(Video) Social Media is Making Us Unsocial | Kristin Gallucci | TEDxBocaRaton

From these two separate terms, we can pull a basic definition together:

Social media are web-based communication tools that enable people to interact with each other by sharing and consuming information.

Yes, it's a broad definition—but keep in mind that social media is a very broad term. This is likely as specific as we can get without zeroing in too much on a more specific subcategory of social media.

Common Social Media Features

The following list of common features is often dead giveaways of a social media site. If you're questioning whether a particular site could be classified as social or not, try looking for at least one of these features.

  • Personal user accounts: If a site allows visitors to create their own accounts that they can log into, then that's a good first sign it might be used for some kind of user-based interaction — perhaps social interaction. Although it's possible to share information or interact with others online anonymously, having to create some kind of user account first is more of a common, standard thing.
  • Profile pages: Since social media is all about communication, a profile page is often necessary to help represent an individual and give them a space to create their own personal brand. It often includes information about the individual user, like a profile photo, bio, website, feed of recent posts, recommendations, recent activity and more.
  • Friends, followers, groups, hashtags and so on: Individuals use their accounts to connect with other users. They can also use them to subscribe to certain forms of information.
  • Newsfeeds:When users connect with other users on social media, they're basically saying, "I want to get information from these people." That information is updated for them in real-time via their news feed.
  • Personalization: Social media sites usually give users the flexibility to configure their user settings, customize their profiles to look a specific way, organize their friends or followers, manage the information they see in their news feeds and even give feedback on what they do or don't want to see.
  • Notifications: Any site or app that notifies users about specific information is definitely playing the social media game. Users have total control over these notifications and can choose to receive the types of notifications that they want.
  • Information updating, saving or posting: If a site or an app allows you to post absolutely anything, with or without a user account, then it's social! It could be a simple text-based message, a photo upload, a YouTube video, a link to an article or anything else.
  • Like buttons and comment sections: Two of the most common ways we interact on social media are via buttons that represent a 'like' plus comment sections where we can share our thoughts.
  • Review, rating or voting systems:Besides liking and commenting, lots of social media sites and apps rely on the collective effort of the community to review, rate and vote on information that they know about or have used. Think of your favorite shopping sites or movie review sites that use this social media feature.

Serious Question: What Exactly Is Social Media? (1)

What's the Difference Between Social Media and Social Networking?

As mentioned earlier, a lot of people use the terms social media and social networking interchangeably as if they mean the exact same thing. Although the difference is subtle, they're not the same. Social networking is really a subcategory of social media.

The easiest way to understand the difference between social media and social networking is by thinking about the terms media and networking separately. Media refers to the information you're actually sharing — whether it's a link to an article, a video, an animated GIF, a PDF document, a simple status update or anything else.

(Video) How Social Media is Destroying Society

Networking, on the other hand, has to do with who your audience is and the relationships you have with them. Your network can include people like friends, relatives, colleagues, anyone from your past, current customers, mentors, and even complete strangers.

They certainly overlap, which is why it gets confusing. For example, you can share media with your social network to gather likes and comments — a form of social networking. But you can also just upvote a link on Reddit, which is a social media platform, to help out the community and give your say in the matter without any intention of building relationships with other users.

Still confused? Try to think of social media like fruit. Apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, berries, melons and pineapples are all part of the broader fruit category the same way that social networking, social news, social bookmarking, wikis, blogs and private web messaging are part of the broader social media category.

Are Traditional Media Also Social Media?

Traditional media was mentioned earlier on in this article just to demonstrate broader examples of media, but don't be fooled into thinking that TV, radio, and newspapers are a part of social media. At least not quite yet entirely. The line drawn between the two is slowly thinning as each continues to evolve.

Social media doesn't just give you information but interacts with you while giving you that information. This interaction can be as simple as asking for your comments or letting you vote on an article, or it can be as complex asFlixsterrecommending movies to you based on the ratings of other people with similar interests.

Think of regular media as a one-way street where you can read a newspaper or listen to a report on television, but you have very limited ability to give your thoughts on the matter.Social media, on the other hand, is a two-way street that gives you the ability to communicate too.

Are Blogs a Part of Social Media?

Copyblogger published an interesting article several years ago, making the argument that blogs are indeed social media, despite the fact that people tend to put them in a category all on their own these days. In fact, blogs are one of the oldest forms of social media that dominated the web long before we were friending and following everyone on social networks.

The key features that make blogs part of social media are their user accounts, comment sections, and blog networks. Tumblr, Medium, WordPress, and Blogger are just a few examples of big blog platforms that have very active community blog networks.

(Video) You Will Wish You Watched This Before You Started Using Social Media | The Twisted Truth

What Are Some of the Known Issues With Social Media?

Social media isn't all just fun and games with your friends, celebrities you admire, and brands you follow. There are lots of common problems that most major social media platforms haven't totally solved, despite their effort to do so.

  • Spam:Social media makes it easy for spammers—both real people and bots—to bombard other people with content. If you have a Twitter account, you've probably experienced a few spambot follows or interactions. Likewise, if you run a WordPress blog, you may have gotten a spam comment or two caught by your spam filter.
  • Cyberbullying/Cyberstalking:Children and teenagers are especially susceptible to cyberbullying because they take more risks when it comes to posting on social media. And now that we all interact on social media via our mobile devices, most major platforms make it possible to share our locations, opening up the doors for cyberstalkers to target us.
  • Self-image manipulation:What a user posts about themselves on social media only represents a small portion of their life. While followers may see someone who's happy and living it up via their posts on social media in such a way that makes them feel boring or inadequate by comparison, the truth is that users have the power to completely control what parts they do and don't want to broadcast on social media to manipulate their own self-image.
  • Information overload:It's not unusual to have over 200 Facebook friends or follow over 1,000 Twitter accounts. With so many accounts to follow and so many people posting new content, it's almost impossible to keep up.
  • Fake news:Fake news websites promote links to their own totally false news stories on social media in order to drive traffic to them. Many users have no idea that they're fake in the first place.
  • Privacy/Security:Many social media platforms still get hacked from time to time despite having good security measures in place. Some also don't offer all the privacy options that users need to keep their information as private as they want them to be.

What Does the Future Hold for Social Media?

It's difficult to predict anything exactly, but if one thing can be said about the future of social media, it will probably be more personalized and less noisy. Over-sharing will be less of a problem and filtering out irrelevant information will become a stronger trend.

Snapchat is a social media platform that's really at the forefront of social media evolution. Rather than blasting out updates for all our friends and followers to see, we use Snapchat more as we communicate in real life—with specific people only at specific times.

Other big social networks like Instagram and Facebook have also taken inspiration from Snapchat for its stories feature, integrating nearly identical features into their own platforms so users have the opportunity to share quick photos or short videos that are only available to view for 24 hours.

If anything, social media is probably about to move more toward ephemeral sharing for quicker, more intimate sharing without the stress of having to blast something out to hundreds or thousands of followers that stays up there unless it's manually deleted. The pressure of garnering tons of likes and comments on regular social media posts also plays a huge factor, suggesting that more casual forms of social sharing, such as through stories, could be the social media way of the future.

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How serious is the social media problem? ›

Since it's a relatively new technology, there's little research to establish the long-term consequences, good or bad, of social media use. However, multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts.

What is the main concern of social media? ›

Social media: risks

uploading inappropriate content, like embarrassing or provocative photos or videos of themselves or others. sharing personal information with strangers – for example, images, date of birth, location or address. cyberbullying. being exposed to too much targeted advertising and marketing.

What is social media and its importance? ›

Social media platforms allow users to have conversations, share information and create web content. There are many forms of social media, including blogs, micro-blogs, wikis, social networking sites, photo-sharing sites, instant messaging, video-sharing sites, podcasts, widgets, virtual worlds, and more.

What are the 5 biggest problems with social media? ›

Cons: Why is social media bad?
  • Online vs Reality. Social media itself is not the problem. ...
  • Increased usage. The more time spent on social media can lead to cyberbullying, social anxiety, depression, and exposure to content that is not age appropriate.
  • Social Media is addicting. ...
  • Fear of Missing Out. ...
  • Self-image issues.

What are 5 reasons social media is so popular? ›

Good reasons to use social media
  • Instant online discussions. Social media is the go to medium for people to interact. ...
  • Relationships. ...
  • Knowledge Sharing. ...
  • Low cost. ...
  • Connect at any time. ...
  • Branding. ...
  • Social media content is now integrated with search results.

How social media affects our everyday life? ›

Social Media is relatively a newer technology, hence, it is a little difficult to establish its long-term good and bad consequences. However, multiple researchers have concluded a strong relationship between heavy use of social media platforms with an increase in risk of depression, self-harm, anxiety, and loneliness.

How social media affects reality? ›

Although we believe social media provides excellent ways to stay in touch with people around us, the overuse of these platforms can cause struggles like stress, body image issues, constant comparisons with others and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Apps like Instagram and Tiktok are tailor-made so you never stop scrolling.

Why you should avoid social media? ›

“One is less likely to get FOMO anxiety, too, and leaving social media will allow you to cultivate better relationships with the people around you. It can also let you enjoy the things you have and instead of focusing on what you don't,” boosting your confidence and your overall sense of wellbeing.

What are 3 negatives of social media? ›

However, social media use can also negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure.

Why is social media a problem in society? ›

Although there are important benefits, social media can also provide platforms for bullying and exclusion, unrealistic expectations about body image and sources of popularity, normalization of risk-taking behaviors, and can be detrimental to mental health.

What are the pros and cons of social media? ›

Top 10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media
Pros of Social MediaCons of Social Media
Social Media Can Reach Large AudiencesSocial Media Causes Sleep Issues
Government Benefits from Social MediaSocial Media Cause Depression and Loneliness
Entertainment with Social MediaSocial Media Causes Distraction
7 more rows

What is the most important social media to have? ›

The most popular social media platforms worldwide in 2022

WhatsApp. Instagram. Facebook Messenger. TikTok.

Why social media is powerful? ›

The true strength of social media is influence. Social media offers an avenue for companies to not only engage with customers but also influence them with the correct content which assists them with making a decision. The effect of social media does not stop online.

What is the biggest challenge that most social media have? ›

9.2% of social media experts shared that their biggest challenge is creating and executing a social media strategy. The most difficult parts of this process are tracking results, monitoring performance, and having to focus on too many platforms. Main pain points: defining marketing goals.

What are 10 negative effects of social media? ›

What are the negative effects of social media on students? Some negative effects of social media on students are irregular sleep, eye strain, damaging body image, symptoms of anxiety and depression, isolation, cyberbullying, FOMO(Fear of missing out), JOMO(Joy of missing out), and more.

What are the common mistakes in social media? ›

Instead, we will only focus on 10 common mistakes that you are more likely to do when you start getting involved in the social media marketing.
  • Ignoring data. ...
  • Being careless with your stories. ...
  • Going off topic. ...
  • Posting content that does not spark engagement. ...
  • Being impersonal. ...
  • Not being transparent. ...
  • Outdated content.
Jun 17, 2022

What is the top reason that most people use social media? ›

According to a recent survey, the biggest reason people use social media is to keep in touch with their friends and family. As many as 47.1% of internet users list this as one of their top uses of social media.

What are the 10 benefits of social media? ›

Here are some of the most common:
  • Useful for educational purposes: Social media allows you to reach a large audience and build your brand. ...
  • Build your brand: ...
  • Reach a large audience: ...
  • Target audiences based on their interests. ...
  • Stay up to date. ...
  • Get connected to new people. ...
  • Create your audiences. ...
  • Free to use.
Jan 20, 2023

What are your top three 3 reasons for using social media? ›

Top 10 reasons for using social media
  • Stay up to date with news and current events, 36.5%
  • Find funny or entertaining content, 35%
  • Fill up spare time, 34.4%
  • Stay in touch with what my friends are doing, 33%
  • Share photos or videos with others, 27.9%
  • Research products to buy, 27.5%
Jan 28, 2021

How social media makes my life better or worse? ›

Some people get confident by Social Media, sharing their life and positivity influence people better way. Some people find a new friend on Social Media and have fun in communication. Social Media gave us the freedom of speech, sharing our own thoughts, or emotions, sometimes give a big impact on individuals.

How does the media influence people? ›

Media messages can have a negative or unhealthy influence on pre-teen and teenage behaviour and attitudes in certain areas, including self-image, body image, health and citizenship. Your child's self-image and body image can be influenced by social media, other media and advertising.

How social media affect human mind? ›

When people look online and see they're excluded from an activity, it can affect thoughts and feelings, and can affect them physically. A 2018 British study tied social media use to decreased, disrupted, and delayed sleep, which is associated with depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance.

How social media affects the life of a person or you yourself alone? ›

Social media may begin to have a negative impact on other areas of your life if: Social media is taking over from real-world, in-person communication. You are comparing yourself to others online and it is making you feel down or feel bad about your body image. You have feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

How does social media change the way we think? ›

Social media changes how we think. It shifts how we reason. What's more, social media can affect our mental health, and there's a good amount of evidence that it makes people more anxious and depressed. For example, studies have found links between social media envy and depression.

What can I replace social media with? ›

What to Do Instead of Being on Social Media
  • Create a vision board of all the things you want to call into your life.
  • Write or draw in a bullet journal.
  • Start a side hustle.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Find a new hobby.
  • Meditate.
  • Do a deep breathing exercise.
  • Sleep in.
Oct 6, 2022

Why is it so hard to quit social media? ›

“The reason Facebook and other forms of social media are so addicting and hard to quit is due to the instant gratification that they provide,” says Elika Kormeili, a clinical therapist in Los Angeles. “There is a sense of satisfaction each time someone 'likes' or comments on your status update.

Can we live without social media? ›

You don't need social media to live a fulfilling life. Devoting less time to social media will help you recover time you didn't know you had—time you can spend on the stuff that makes you truly happy.

What are the dangers of media? ›

These include emotional and mental issues, such as anxiety, stress, depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem, physical issues, such as worse sleep quality, and general issues, such as exposure to misinformation and political polarization.

Why is social media so addictive? ›

Social media platforms drive surges of dopamine to the brain to keep consumers coming back over and over again. The shares, likes and comments on these platforms trigger the brain's reward center, resulting in a high similar to the one people feel when gambling or using drugs.”

Does social media improve or hurt our society? ›

According to a Harvard study, routine social media use is positively associated with social wellbeing, self-rated health, and mental health. We just need to be mindful users and keep a healthy perspective about social media's role in our lives.

Why does social media affect mental health? ›

The negative effects of social media and mental health include potentially becoming self-absorbed, feeling overly dependent on acceptance from people you might not even know, and increasing your sense of loneliness, depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health conditions.

What is the real value of social media? ›

Social media is a great way for engaging and interacting customers. The more that you communicate with the audience, the more chances you will have of conversion.

What are some negative facts about social media? ›

7 Negative Effects of Social Media on People and Users
  • Depression and Anxiety. Do you spend several hours per day browsing through social media? ...
  • Cyberbullying. Image Credit: HighwayStarz/Depositphotos. ...
  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) ...
  • Unrealistic Expectations. ...
  • Negative Body Image. ...
  • Unhealthy Sleep Patterns. ...
  • General Addiction.
Feb 22, 2023

How social media causes stress? ›

And it's leading to serious mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. The potential causes of social media-induced stress range from misinformation about current news to the "fear of missing out" (FOMO) on group gatherings you're not a part of.

What is social media short paragraph? ›

Social media is the fastest-growing communication medium. Social media comprises the latest communication and social networking sites through the virtual medium of the internet. With the development of technology and different social media platforms, the world looks smaller.

What social media is used the most daily? ›

The world's biggest social media platforms

Facebook remains the world's most widely used social media platform, but there are now six social media platforms that each claim one billion or more monthly active users. Three of these seven platforms are owned by Meta.

How does social media make a difference? ›

Social media brings together people and has increasingly become a means of transmitting news and information. Magazines and newspapers that were traditionally on print now establish themselves online, taking advantage of social media platforms to reach a bigger audience.

What are good questions to ask about the media? ›

#1 Mass Media General Questions
  • Should media outlets be punished for false information?
  • How can the media be helpful to people?
  • How can the media harm people?
  • Should the media show graphic violence? Why or why not?
  • Do you think the media have too much power?
  • Do you trust the media?
Jan 21, 2023

What are good questions to ask about social media privacy? ›

5 key questions on social media data access & privacy concerns
  • Why is social monitoring important for marketers?
  • What are the recent changes in Facebook and Instagram data access?
  • What types of data can we currently access?
  • What are we not allowed to access, due to API restrictions or GDPR regulations?
Oct 30, 2019

What questions should I ask about social media strategy? ›

7 Questions to Ask (and Answer) Before Building a Social Media Strategy
  • What are your goals? ...
  • Who is your target audience? ...
  • What is the current state of your social media marketing? ...
  • What kind of content will you need to produce? ...
  • Do you have the necessary resources and/or budget? ...
  • What tools will you need?
Feb 23, 2018

What are the 5 main questions? ›

They include Who, What, When Where, and Why. The 5 Ws are often mentioned in journalism (cf. news style), research, and police investigations.

What is an example question about media? ›

Do you think the media have too much power? What are the good and bad things about the media in your country? Do you like the fact that today, media coverage of world events in instantaneous and extensive? What do you think about countries that ban or restrict the media?

Is social media good for society? ›

Social media is very beneficial for society. It has helped individuals connect and build relationships with not just people you know but other people. The media encourages students to learn and grow. It can also empower businesses to build their audience and boost their bottom line.

What are negative impact of social media? ›

Social media harms

However, social media use can also negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure. The risks might be related to how much social media teens use.

What effect does social media have on your mind? ›

Research studies note the connection between use of social media and its undesirable outcomes that increase incidence of anxiety, stress, depression, body image concerns, and loneliness in teens and young adults (APA, 2022).

What are the most common social media privacy issues? ›

Common social media privacy issues
  • Data mining for identity theft. Scammers do not need a great deal of information to steal someone's identity. ...
  • Privacy setting loopholes. Social media accounts may not be as private as users think. ...
  • Location settings. ...
  • Harassment and cyberbullying. ...
  • False information. ...
  • Malware and viruses.
Jan 30, 2023

What are the advantages and disadvantages of social media? ›

There are a lot of social media advantages and disadvantages. Some people find them helpful in keeping in touch with friends, while others view them as a distraction from their work or studies. Social media can be addictive and can lead to feelings of loneliness or isolation if used excessively.

How social media affects self-esteem? ›

While social media is sometimes touted to combat loneliness, a significant body of research suggests it may have the opposite effect. By triggering comparison with others, it can raise doubts about self-worth, potentially leading to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

What is social media interview questions? ›

Describe the most successful social media campaign you've run. What did you learn? This question is a variant of the popular “what is your proudest accomplishment” question, and is almost guaranteed to be a question you'll face in an interview. Be ready for this one by outlining the basics of the campaign.

What are the most common survey questions? ›

6 main types of survey questions
  • Open-ended questions.
  • Closed-ended questions.
  • Nominal questions.
  • Likert scale questions.
  • Rating scale (or ordinal) questions.
  • 'Yes' or 'no' questions.
Aug 17, 2022


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