When I was in high school in 2005, LiveJournal and MySpace were the social-media hot topics. You weren’t cool unless you had a MySpace account. You ranked people in the top friends, and if you weren’t ranked at all, you were pretty much considered a loser. At lunch, my peers would brag about how many new friends and comments they had. People would post the mirror-lips-puckered-out camera shot. It was a virtual popularity contest.
Later, I went to college in 2006. Facebook was the new MySpace. It wasn’t as much as a popularity contest, but some people would try to gain as many friends as possible. Some would friend request each person they met, even if only it was for a second. The goal was to have as many friends as possible.
When I graduated from undergrad in 2009, Facebook and social networks were no longer virtual popularity contests. It was about community building and engagement. Campus organizations would connect with other ones to promote events, news and create two-way conversations. Social networks were now used to create conversation between like-minded people.
Today, the idea of community engagement and two-way communication has increased. Social media is not only popular among individuals, but organizations, educational institutions and businesses. It’s the new way we communicate with other people to promote products, gain customer feedback and foster relationships with people. It’s a new virtual, social-media marketing method.
On a different level, social media has taken more of a personal turn. Some purge Facebook friends and Twitter followers because they do not remember the person, or they have no desire to start a conversation. If someone does not accept or deletes a friend request, it is considered a social insult. Funny how it’s not a popularity contest anymore. There is value and valid content on some social networks now.
Individual social network accounts are personalized to fit individualized tastes. Pinterest, turntable.fm and Shelfari are examples of social networks that allow users to personalize and organize information. You seek to build relationships with people who have similar interests and values as you do. If you do not have some social-media presence online, people wonder “What the heck is wrong with you?”
In a few short years, the culture of social media has rapidly changed. It makes me wonder how we will view social media in the next two years.