Are you a social media sceptic?

How times have changed

Remember life as it was in smaller communities in earlier times? Think of the English village or the Australian country town or local suburb. These smaller communities shared some unique characteristics. Everybody knew each other and looked after each other, and the notion of privacy was minimal. Their citizens were well connected, and the sense of community was strong and personal.

But as technology changed, so too did the village. Consider the impact of transport. As various forms of transport became available, the village became accessible to others, and it also gave the villagers the opportunity to move to new places either for work or to explore. Other technology changes such as the telephone broke down the boundaries even more.

Today in the Western world, the traditional village has become a mere shadow of its former self as the world has become so urbanized. We still use the term village, but more in the context of the so-called global village. Bill Gates once said, “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow”.

This concept of the global village has rapidly evolved. Take the idea of travellers being connected. Not so many years ago, travellers had to post written letters home to friends and relatives, and chatting by phone was expensive and therefore a rare occurrence. But today travellers can be connected instantly via phone or the Internet and can even have face-to-face contact using online video tools.

Social media has transformed the playing field

This global village has really come alive in the past five years or so through the various forms of social media that have exploded on the scene. Local geographic constraints no longer define how people connect or interact. Technology has changed the playing field and indeed the language. People now “Google” something or “Skype” someone or “tweet”. Such verbs did not exist until recently.

Of course, the global village is vastly different from the traditional village in many ways, especially in structure, appearance, and behaviour. For instance, in the global village, we deal with strangers very differently. How many friends have we accepted on Facebook that we hardly know? How many times do we buy items from complete strangers on the other side of the planet? The traditional village was a far more intimate affair and much more self-contained.

Social media is enabled by some impressive technology. As the era of both computerization and the Internet came together, the potential power of social media became enormous. Like the confluence of two great rivers, the scope and strength of both together created a whole new dimension.

Yes – social media is different

Social media is different because of three fundamental characteristics, the combination of which we have never seen before. It is instant, global, and transparent.

The first of these is the instant nature of social media. Immediacy is a defining factor with social media. A picture can be uploaded the moment it is taken, or a comment can be issued and circulated immediately. Immediacy is underscored by some recent work by Intel made some estimates of what happens every minute on the Internet, which include:

  • One hundred thousand new tweets
  • Six million Facebook views
  • More than two million search queries on Google

Another aspect of social media that has captured people’s imagination is its truly global reach. One can easily connect with colleagues and friends across the globe. Global conversations, discussions, and information sharing can now occur easily and frequently. We can track our friends and family who are travelling abroad and enjoy their photos and commentary on a frequent basis.

The third aspect of social media that is different is that it is largely transparent. Whilst there are various ways of controlling access and privacy, there is a significant degree of transparency in social media across the board. There is potentially a problem if language and comments in social media are somewhat borderline in their sentiment.

Think about your perspective on social media……

  • How have you embraced the social media phenomena?
  • How would you describe your social media experience to date?
  • Do you see social media as a feature of convenience or a vital tool for you into the future?

The above is drawn from material contained in Matt English’s book Grasping Social Media available online at


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