Social Media: Nothing new anymore?!

Social Media is old.

Not old in an “ancient-100-years-old” sense but it has already grown out of it’s infancy.

It’s not a fancy, new thing anymore.

Looking back, it all started in 1997; when the first social network, which could be really labelled as such, was launched. Sixdegrees.com was the first service to combine several features which previously existed rather as single features of different services, such as e.g. ICQ. In the following years a wave of other SNS followed (boyd & Ellison 2007).

Alongside a huge amount of niche SNS, primarily attracting homogenous groups of people, some big global SNS have set themselves apart. SNS, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on are nowadays very much integrated in people’s daily practice all over the world. An animated video by Grovo sums up quite well how we got here:

Bildschirmfoto 2013-11-01 um 14.12.11

I mean, who doesn’t check Facebook regularly? Maybe daily? Even hourly? Besides maybe one or two exceptions, I can be sure that I can reach my friends via Facebook (long live the mobile app!) as good as with a simple text message or a call. So it’s no surprise that Facebook is nowadays even more often used on a mobile device than on an actual computer. According to Luke Brown on Techradar.com, an average of 618 million people used the mobile page daily in December 2012. Considering that only 126 million users were reported in September of that same year, it’s a huge jump.

To continue with impressive numbers, based on recent social media statistics, there are worldwide:

1.11 billion Facebook users,

500 million Twitter users,

130 million Instagram users,

and 70 million Pinterest users.

Of course, you can’t deny that there’s still a huge amount of people, who are not that much into social networks, but as Generation Y and Z outgrow the previous generations, I assume that “being social online” will become widespread normality.

Especially Facebook, currently the world’s largest social media network, has a tremendous global relevance as SNS. A recent edition of World Maps of Social Networks shows that in June 2013 Facebook has been the dominant social network in almost all countries worldwide (127 of 137).

World Map of Facebook

However, I experience that the hype during the last years, which went through all areas of life, from personal practices, over to businesses entering Social Media, to new advertising opportunities, has settled a bit.

Facebook, the new Myspace?

While membership numbers of SNS have steadily increased within the last years, some kind of downward trend can be observed. Especially with regards to Facebook.  The Guardian, as well as a recent study of PEW Research, report a continuous decline in Facebook users. According to these sources, Facebook has lost almost 9 million monthly visitors in the US and 2 million in the UK. However, what I find even more striking, is the fact that also the time spent on the site is regressing.

So what does that show us? Will Facebook be the next Myspace?

Of course, there’s always a potential risk. I mean who hadn’t had a friend on Facebook, who then suddenly disappeared in one’s friendslist? …And by that I mean not because he unfriended you.

But generally, I would doubt that. A NBC article about recent results from the Nielsen Social Media Report showed that the overall time spent on social media has actually increased. In July 2012 for example, an average US citizen spent 6.5 hours on social media – daily!!!

However, the interesting thing about the results of the study is, in my view, that while we still spent most of our time on Facebook with rather stagnating monthly visitors (probably because it nearly has reached saturation…), other SNS, such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest gain more and more attention and time in our lives.

The need for more, or less?!

One main reason, which can be repeatedly found in current discussions about this shift towards other, smaller networks, is that we are never satisfied with what we have. I admit that this sounds quite philosophic but indeed, Juliette Garside from the Guardian, for example, also highlights in her article the boredom factor, which leads to the fact that people want to try new things instead of only surfing within the known mainstream areas. One interesting contribution regarding that point comes from social media analyst Bob Zhukis, who states that people generally behave goal directed and need a broader sense. That means, while the pleasure of broad networking on sites, such as Facebook, was fun for a while, people now increasingly look for other ways to engage; primarily on more purpose-driven smaller sites, such as e.g. Pinterest or Instagram.

Even the godfather of social networks, Mark Zuckerberg, recently made a statement within the May edition of the WIRED magazine, which I find quite revealing and noticeable:

“The big stuff that we’re seeing now is sharing with smaller groups.” 

Mark Zuckerberg, WIRED 2013

Additionally, he noticed that, for example, Instagram is a much smaller product than Facebook, but that “it’s a really meaningful product” as it entails the clear and single goal of sharing and liking photos. I, myself, really love Instagram and all the creative pics that are out there.

So what can we take out of this?

Social media may have grown out of its infancy, but there will always be something new.

Social media includes “social”, “social” always involves “people”, “people” are always inconsistent, striving for something new. Thus, I am sure there will always be “something new” about social media.

The next big (small) thing is just around the corner…

What do you think?

Here, you’ll find some other interesting thoughts on this topic:

Other sources:

boyd, d & Ellison, N 2007, ‘Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13, pp. 210-230.

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What Google knows about us …or Tom Gara

While “googling” a bit about Google and its immense and seemingly endless information storage, I found this quite impressive graphic by Tom Gara, a journalist at the Wall Street Journal. He ran a little experiment as he looked on his google.com/dashboard. He found that while using Gmail or being logged in on any other Google service, Google stores all websites you have visited.

As a result, the graphic shows all data and information Google has on Tom Gara:

What Google knows


How Google makes us stupid…

Google…

… the search engine of the world

… the gate to boundaryless information

… the emergency helper we turn to if we don’t know anything

… the organizer of the world wide web

… the solver of our problems

Google has taken over the above-mentioned, and probably even much more, roles in the life of most of us. It has become the world’s most popular search engine by far, as Danny Sullivan points out while referring to comscore.com data. With, for example, more than 114.7 billion searches in December 2012, Google owned 65,2% of all worldwide searches. Below you can see Google’s dominance over the last months of 2012 in comparison to its biggest competitors. (“Others” are searches happened on search engines, which don’t belong to the big five).

Goggle Search data

This shows us definitely that Google apparently plays a big role.

Google has become a friend to most of us. Helping us out whenever, wherever we need it.

This, rather funny and ironic Youtube video, illustrates the role of Google nowadays quite well, I think:

Youtube Google

Nicolas Carr also highlights in his highly critical article in the magazine “The Atlantic” that the Internet, respectively Google, has become a universal medium for all information that flows through our eyes and our ears into our brains.

It is probably even our best friend, as we apparently share our deepest and most intimate thoughts and questions with that little search bar underneath the colourful letters. Most of us, use it daily, hourly, minutely, at home, on the go, at work, on holidays…

Speaking of myself, I would say that no single day passes on which I didn’t ask Google something or look for some information on Google. Most of the time my searches are about the weather, locations/maps or information about leisure activities, such as bars or restaurants.

But how far did we come already? Do we pass all “thinking” on to Google?

It’s true, some people, including me, often type really dump or irrelevant questions into Google, for which we, at least most of the time, already know that Google might not be able to provide us with a reasonable answer. However, we still catch ourselves at typing it into Google’s search bar. The following picture of the ‘suggested search terms’ when typing in “why” illustrates that pretty well:

It seems to me that typing questions (stupid or not) into the Google bar has become an automated process, in which we don’t really think in advance whether Google might be able to answer reasonably or not. We just wait what’s happening.

I mean who hasn’t googled “Google” at least once?

We don’t even try to think of a solution by ourselves or try to remember something, as Google is mostly only a short click away on our computer or mobile device, it’s the first thing we do: Google it.

Likewise, a very interesting study of the Columbia University in 2011 found that our memory works differently in times of Google. According to lead researcher Bettsy Sparrow, we have reorganized the way we remember things as we forget or not even try to remember things we are confident we can find on the Internet/Google.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing because search engines in general have made our lives much easier and convenient in a lot of cases, but I am wondering if we loose a bit of our brain capacity as we seemingly not even try anymore to think for ourselves as “Google will do so”.

In addition to that, I have the feeling that we are also less and less able to digest rather longer and extensive information as we are used to skipping through rather short bits and pieces of Google’s search result. By doing that, always looking for the easiest and shortest way to answer our question or search. Here, Nicolas Carr  has some good points. While refering to media theorist Marshal McLuhan, Carr states that the media not only supply the stuff of thought, but that they also shape the process of thought. This means that we nowadays expect to take information in a rather “swiftly moving stream of particles”. – Thanks to Google.

So should we be concerned now?

Google makes us in a lot of cases smarter as we easily can learn about new things and get the information we want and need, BUT it one could say that it makes us to a certain amount a bit more stupid as we apparently pass some brain activity on to Google, while relying on its immense information capacity and accessibility.

Here’s a little test (not yet scientifically proven) to check to what extent Google has already captured YOU:


How a donut can help to understand Social Media

Nowadays, there’s simply a huge amount of social networks available. At the same time, new social platforms constantly pop up, which offer new or a new combination of features or characteristics – no wonder it’s sometimes hard to stay on top of things. Douglas Wray, however, visualized in a very simple, yet brilliant, manner the distinct features of each major social network on a whiteboard and posted a photo on it on Instagram.

How a donut helps to understand Social Media

(Source: instagram/douglaswray)

Of course, in reality, it is not that simple as features overlap and are similar across platforms. For example: Facebook is also heavily used for photo and video sharing while Instagram strongly relies on “likes”.

Anyway, the next time someone asks you what Linkedin is… show him this and eat a donut.


What happens Online in 60 seconds

An interesting and thought-provoking infographic by Qmee and  mycleveragency showing what happens within one average Internet minute in 2013.  Impressive, eh? No wonder we always find something new to look at instead of working or studying 😉

What happens online in 60 seconds