Social media continue to change the way people interact with each other on a daily basis. While people use the word “social media” widely, the term is easily misunderstood. There are different ways social media are defined and used. Media scholars still have trouble in defining a solid definition of “social media” or in what they refer to as social networking sites.
Social networking sites are “web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (boyd, Ellison).
In Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship, boyd and Ellison constructed a definition for social networking sites based on their research on social media. It is important to point out this definition and their understanding of the concept because they take a step further in defining what everyday people use as a main source of communication to stay informed about news and issues in the world. While everyday people use social media and have a fixed definition of what they believe social media is, the term encompasses so many things.
As boyd and Ellison mentioned, the term “social networking site” appears in “public discourse and people use it interchangeably”. boyd and Ellison’s idea that networking “emphasizes and relationship initiation” and “relationship initiation is not the main source of interaction for SNS” are very important ideas to consider when using SNS. Networking is a very important tool on SNS. I agree, however, people use SNS to stay connected with people they have established relationships with. The research with impression management, friendship performance and the structure of the networks all play an important role to understanding the true meaning of how and why we should engage in social media.
Before the printing press, the rise of the Internet, Web 2.0 and social media, people communicated with each other from based on what used in their small communities (cultural). In A Cultural Approach to Communication, James Carey explained the term of communication and how people define it based on today’s society. Using Dewey’s early beliefs on communication, Carey raised a valid point in explaining that communication is not just “sending, transmitting or giving people information” (transmission view of communication). People should consider that communication derived from religious viewpoints because during earlier times, religion dominated society. People “shared, participated, associated and fellowshipped” with one another about ideas (ritual view of communication). Thus, it is important that we recognize the interactions within our culture to understand the symbolic process of whereby “reality is produced, maintained, repaired and transformed” (communication).
In Social Media: A Phenomenon to be Analyzed, boyd did an excellent job in telling how social media essentially changed the landscape of digital media. When I look at professional websites and social media platforms in society today, I notice how the structure, programming and setup of the websites determine just how far they reach audiences and how frequently people use them.
In Sociality through Social Network Sites, boyd and Ellison provide a solid approach on the evolution of social media and how profiles, friends list and traverse connections changed the way people communicated with one another. With technological advances came changes in the way people interacted with one another. After reading this research article, it is important to examine the way we use social networking sites. Instead of simply having a physical conversation with someone, social networking sites have changed to allow people to have these conversations virtually and allow for engaging conversation on the web.
In Making Sense of Teen Life: Strategies for Capturing Ethnographic Data in a Networked Era1 boyd provides us with a strong understanding for the power of social media. Social media allows one to build an image of themselves against what people may see from a person on a day-to-day basis. It is powerful. Social networking is important and it must be used in the correct way. If it is not, it can come back to hurt you professionally in the future.