The forms of electronic communication that individuals and companies use to share information with friends, colleagues and customers. A primary feature of social media such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook is that people actively follow someone who posts content, and they are able to respond. For example, users can resend (retweet) messages on Twitter and reply to posts on Facebook. See retweet
Ordinary blogs may allow feedback, and some websites do as well, but social media is all about spreading information to participating users. Contrast with "industrial media," which refer to professionally produced radio, TV and film.
The terms "social media," "social network," "social networking," "social platform," "social neworking site" and "social networking service" are synonymous.
The danger with social media is that erroneous news travels as fast as or faster than genuine news. In Clint Watts' insightful book "Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a social media world of hackers, terrorists, Russians and fake news" he explains why social media becomes "antisocial media" (see fake news
Worse yet, the social media platforms reinforce members' views of the world by feeding them similar information in the form of news and ads. Algorithms determine a person's social, religious and political opinions and feed them information that aligns with those views rather than giving them anything diverse or contradictory. These platforms have become extensions to radio, TV and Internet news, which over the past several decades have become opinion platforms that favor one side over the other. There is little balance in today's news from any single source except perhaps from "The Week," a print and online magazine noted for representing both sides in its articles.
Even Worse for Teenagers
Today, teenagers and pre-teens live on their smartphones to keep in touch with their friends almost constantly. However, so-called friends can be very nasty and use social media to turn on their buddies almost overnight by posting lies and exaggerations about them as well as taking compromising photos seen by thousands of people. It is widely known that social media is a major contributing factor causing teen suicides. See influencer
, viral content
, new media
, social networking service
and user-generated content
Social Media - The Tower of Babel
On April 11, 2022, citing the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt posted an article in The Atlantic entitled "Why the past 10 years of American life have been uniquely stupid." He wrote "Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past." Haidt claims that "Babel is a metaphor for what some forms of social media have done to nearly all of the groups and institutions most important to a country's future-- and to us as a people."