Social Media has been the most important influence on the communication and connectivity landscape of the last decade. It has not only shrunk the world but created a virtual reality out of a global society.
Social media has invaded not only our personal lives but professional lives also.Nearly two-thirds of American adults (65%) use social networking sites. And 90% of 18-29 year olds use social media, compared with 12% in 2005.
In a single day, 500 million tweets are tweeted on Twitter, 95+ million photos and videos are uploaded to Instagram and 4.5 Billion likes happen on Facebook.
44% of the generation Y admit to checking social media updates in bed.
The ‘social media generation’ which grew up with social networking has welcomed the increasing congruence between their virtual and real lives. We have reached a point where, social media is replacing traditional means of community building.
At this juncture, the positives and negatives of social media-centred living are coming into sharper focus.
These are raising some serious concerns about where the social media generation is headed as a society and civilization.
Social networking sites get major backlash for being addictive.
Social media use has been found to be a contributing factor in eating disorders, addiction, substance abuse, loneliness, reduced productivity, job loss, stress, depression... you name it.
Further, moral judgements are attached constantly to the social media users, labeling them as superficial, materialistic and self-centred people.
But, does this mean that the social media generation is poised for failure? I don’t think so.
These facts can look scary when viewed by someone who didn’t grow up with social media. But for millennials and generation Y it is the most logical evolution of communication. They crave technological advancements that enhance their interactions both in quality and quantity.
Technology has not changed us. It has merely created visible outlets for what we would actually be doing anyway.
Evolutionarily that's how growth happened - with changes and challenges. Humans are a resilient species. We learn and we adapt, constantly. The social media landscape is no different.
Here are 5 reasons which convinced me that, social media generation will defy the odds to emerge successful.
1. Unprecedented access to knowledge, e-learning revolution and the self learning social media generation
Online learning is the future of education. And the revolution has just begun.Of the 2.9 million graduate students in the US, 22 percent study exclusively online.
Schools, parents and even corporates are relying more and more on online education. The flexibility, time saved and the sheer amount of resources at the fingertips make this an ideal match with learning goals.
Institutions such as Khan Academy or the Flipped Classroom have put to light the value of self-directed learning in schools and have led to consequent changes.
Even in the professional arena, webinars and online trainings are gaining momentum to leverage technology for acquiring unique skills.77% of US companies offer online corporate training to improve the professional development of their employees.
The social media generation is perfectly positioned to reap the benefits of the online learning revolution.
In fact, overall student learning can increase when educators incorporate social media.
First, social media enhances peer interactions, which can establish open lines of communication between students and educators. Social media also facilitates discussion and knowledge transfer among students, creating a deeper sense of understanding of the course material.
This learning even goes beyond classroom curriculum, into the territory of real world skills.
Thus, students who use social media are able to move beyond the memorization of material and create products that represent their own voices.
Teaching in the Internet age means we must teach tomorrow’s skills today
Social media is a great opportunity for expanding our resources and content as a whole. With so many discussions happening, content being written, information being curated, the sheer volume of information has seen unprecedented growth. And all this content is just a click away.
This content is not just available but it is updated - every minute. In an ever changing technology focused world, the right timing is as crucial as the right information.
Apart from academic, social media can be a huge influence in building personal skills and abilities. It can us help to cultivate and keep up the habits of success.
Social media is not all about superficial fun and frolic. It can bring visible changes in how we build a knowledge base for our future generations.
2. Ushering in a new political era by greater civic engagement and political activism
Social media is increasingly becoming the platform of choice for political activism.
Academic research has consistently found that people who consume more news media have a greater probability of being civically and politically engaged across a variety of measures.Further social media itself can be used as a form of civic engagement, enhancing the understanding of politics and shaping the narratives.
According to Pew Research Centre, roughly 71% of 18 to 24-year-olds say the internet is their main news source and about a third of Facebook users post about politics and government.
The Internet & American Life Project found that, 66% of social media users have employed the platforms to post their thoughts about civic and political issues, react to others’ postings, press friends to act on issues and vote, follow candidates, ‘like’ and link to others’ content, and belong to groups formed on social networking sites.
Social media sparks a revelation that we, the people, have a voice, and through the democratization of content and ideas we can once again unite around common passions, inspire movements, and ignite change.
The political discourse on social media is not a one-way street.
Even the political forces are actively participating and trying to reach out to the voters on a daily basis.
Every serious politician is using it as the go-to communication medium for connecting with the youth. In fact, with over 88% of Millennials using Facebook and social media as primary sources for news, it will be foolhardy for the politicians to ignore it.
In the 2016 presidential race, we can see both Clinton and Trump extensively engaging in social media conversations with their base.
Not just the intangible postings and airing of opinions, social media engagement has tangible outcomes on voter turnouts.
The need for fundamental understanding of the future of communication - i.e. social media came into sharpest focus after Barack Obama’s presidential race.
The 2012 study “A 61-Million-Person Experiment in Social Influence and Political Mobilization,” published in the journal Nature, suggested that messages on users’ Facebook feeds could significantly influence voting patterns.
The study data found that certain messages promoted by friends “increased turnout by 340,000 additional votes.”
Social media is creating the involvement of citizens in the political discourse at an unprecedented rate.
A 2015 metastudy, “Social Media Use and Participation: A Meta-analysis of Current Research,” found that, 82% of studies showed a positive relationship between social media use and some form of civic or political engagement or participation. The strongest effects could be seen in studies that randomly sampled youth populations.
In the crowded communication landscape, the networked population is getting greater access to the right information.
What could be a better barometer of success for a participatory democracy?
3. Safe space for emotional validation and community support for the vulnerable
Social media is ‘the place’ for building communities without the bottlenecks of race, language, politics, nationality, religion, geography and the like.
It is the one space where everyone can find a community - no matter what the cause. The positive effects of this have been experienced by not just online communities but in real life relationships also.
Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage.
The Pew internet study 'teens technology and friendships survey’ found that 70% of social media-using teens feel better connected to their friends’ feelings through social media. In fact, 68% said that they’ve had people on digital platforms support them through tough or challenging times.
Additionally, it allows connections among far more diverse categories of people than allowed by traditional means of communication. This connectivity and exposure plays a major role in creating a tolerant and accepting generation.
Millennials are already found to be most diverse generation by US Chamber of Commerce foundation, with 45% agreeing with preferential treatment to improve the position of minorities.
Further, social media has played a significant role in building a more inclusive generation.
Rebecca Sawyers study into the impact of new social media on intercultural adaptation found that, from the social media use, relationships are strengthened, which helps people to overcome adjustment challenges and establish a sense of community and belonging.
The Internet has given voice to the voiceless. It has created a safe space for the vulnerable to work through their emotions and seek support from previously inaccessible sources.
A great example of such human connection and emotional upliftment is the #itgetsbetter project. It is the video sharing project for the LGBTQ youth, where real life survivors share their stories. It is a message that the struggle is temporary. You have a community of people who have overcome this and you can do it too.
Social media has made great strides in removing the stigma attached to sexual orientation, reproductive rights, mental health, feminism, and eating disorders.
Mere knowledge that XYZ is not an isolated mutation - people all over the world are dealing with this, can be an opener for wider acceptance.
Having a community that understands and empathises is a crucial factor in the recovery and survival of people going through adverse experiences.
Creating such a place of understanding and acceptance is a testimonial to the sensitivity of the social media generation
4. Bridging the empathy gap and spearheading the social transformation
We are a privileged generation.
Our Standard of living is at +50% and 81% of Americans are satisfied by their standard of living. A casual perusal of any online profile shows us sharing the pictures of ‘our good life.’
It is easy to assume that social media generation is living in a bubble impervious to the hardships of the world. But the reality is otherwise.
Thanks to the all-pervasive social media, even local issues can found resonance with the larger global community.This has bridged the empathy gap by making the hardships of an individual real and relatable to the person on the other end of the spectrum.
Have you experienced the power of a # hashtag?
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have come face to face with the power of hashtags to create visibility.
Hashtags have been a brilliant way of creating awareness about everything from domestic abuse, gender equality, health-care to racial violence.
Hashtags have created a space for expressing individual concerns, at the same time finding a community that supports them.
The #IceBucketChallenge created widespread awareness about ALS and raised in excess of $115 million for ALSA. All it took was a hashtag and bucket of ice water.
This online activism has resulted in notable changes in real lives also.
The #blacklivesmatter movement has brought the issue of racially charged police violence to the forefront of online and offline activism. #Campaign zero is using the backing of social media to persuade the political powers to change the status quo on this issue.
It is so easy to get lost in our daily grinds, living our small secure life. Social media can jerk us out of this complacency and take note of all that is wrong with the world.
Philosophers from Plato and Socrates have had the vision of a golden society that responds to the needs of its weakest. The social media generation might have a real shot at it.
This generation is becoming involved with causes far removed from their everyday reality. It's true, the power of such activism is limited. But if enough of us join hands, we can make our voice heard by the right people who can find solutions.
5. Rise of the online entrepreneurs and social media millionaires
Social media is the true medium for realising the American dream of small enterprises.
Social media helps the entrepreneurs level the playing field by transcending traditional barriers of age and financial constraints on their career trajectory. It is a brilliant marketing tool for small business owners to reach their largest customer base with negligible investment of resources.
The social media landscape gives a unique opportunity for us to turn our not-so-profitable hobbies and passions into jobs that pay.
Consider YouTube star Felix Kjellberg or PewDiePie, who earned $12 million in 2015 by talking about video games!
What do you think the possibility of him pursuing this passion and achieving success in the world without social networking arena is?
Social media itself is still a huge sector of opportunity.
I am not even talking about the big fish like Mark Zuckerberg or Mike Krieger. I am looking at “the influencers,” who are using their social media account to earn millions.
Look at Jerome Jarre, the Vine star with 8 million followers, who rejected a $1million sponsorship offer - chump change considering he earns $25,000 per sponsored Vine video!
Additionally, it can become the gateway for other businesses to reach their customers.
Instagram has 100 million active users, Twitter has more than 135 million, and 1 billion people are active on YouTube each month.
Even if only 0.1% of the people on those social media get interested in your product, you’ve amplified your customer base by over 1,000 times.
I use social media as an idea generator, trend mapper and strategic compass for all of our online business ventures
Social media is a cornucopia of information about your customer base.According to a Pew Research Centre Study, most young people are more than willing to hand over information. 91% of users share publicly accessible photos of themselves, 71% post where they live and share their location when updating posts, 61% of users give their email address away and over a fifth share their mobile number.
This is a great opportunity for businesses to tailor their products to the exacting expectations of their niche customers.
Social media presence is critical for the success of your product not only online, but also offline.
Vision Critical’s recently published study, from “Social to Sale” concluded that, social media drives not just online purchasing, but in-store purchasing as well – and at about equal rates.
And about 40% of social media users have purchased an item after sharing or “favoriting” it on these sites.
At least for businesses, the cost of employee distraction at work would pale in comparison to benefits of customer reach.
Social media is an inevitable reality of the future to come - the question is not if we manage it but how well do we manage it?
Whenever a new cultural trend emerges - from TV to disco, the most natural reaction is to fear it.
But millennials and Generation Y are in a unique position when it comes to social media. It is a trend that has grown with them. It is the change and progress they are not only comfortable with but are actively seeking.
If we can manage fire and nuclear weapons, I believe we can learn to neutralize the negative side effects of social media.It's only a matter of time until we find the right tools to balance our relationships within the online community.
Social media replaces nothing but compliments everything.
With the right channeling, social media has the power to kick-start the socio-political and personal awakening of a whole generation.
Because at the end of the day, don’t you think ‘knowledge is power,’ communication is the strongest weapon, and access will be the determining factor for success?