In light of Mashable's event this past Saturday - Social Media Day - I've decided to really take some time to think about this (r)evolutionary (even beyond North African uprising) addition to our modern society and what it has meant for me. I mean, if we are inventing wide-reaching events for it, then we must really come to terms with the fact that social media has really made an impact on the way our generation reacts, communicates, and relates.
Social media created the voice of our generation, or maybe just created the possibility for each of us to become the voice of our (or just a) generation...because no blog post should go without a Lena Dunham and/or Girls reference.
I first became interested in social media a couple of years ago. I can't pinpoint a date (although, my Twitterversary is March 3, 2010) or where I was when I decided to invest my free time into trolling the many networking sites that the Internet has to offer. But, I can definitely tell that it has affected my life besides the obvious fact of Facebook being Satan to productivity, encouraging me to spend hours stalking pictures of people I knew well, people I've met once, or people I never want to see again, rather than completing the mountains of work I have looming over my head.
I think that growing up with social networks readily available has succeeded in providing me with my own voice.
I am able to talk about whatever I want, whenever I want and guarantee that at least one other person will see it. If that isn't powerful, I don't know what is. I think that all of us youngsters or twenty-somethings are just trying to be heard and the Facebooks & Twitters of this world are just giving us the outlet.
For better or worse, social media has made pseudo-activists out of all of us. Whether we religiously follow the news or just hear about the big current events through word of mouth, social media has provided an unavoidable way to make sure that huge, trending news stories are heard by all.
For example, when the Kony 2012 viral video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc) emerged through the social media channels, people who had never even cared about the well-being of children in Africa, or Africa in general for that matter, were screaming from the rooftops and stomping their feet in outrage about their concern for the children in Uganda. People were moved to make a difference and make the voices of these invisible children heard by tweeting, posting, status-ing, and video sharing. Social media gave those without a voice the chance to shout and they grabbed it. Even this past week with the SCOTUS decision on Obamacare, I cannot count the number of "I am not sure what Obamacare even entails, but YAY!" (or something along those lines) tweets that I saw from people who I knew for a fact never were politically charged before.
For me, social media has opened the possibility of cross-cultural connection. Since I was fifteen years old (and somewhat old enough to understand the expansiveness of the world we live in), I have constantly been hoping that whatever job I luckily receive in the future would somehow work toward creating a world without borders. A world where differences don't define us, but bring us closer together. What makes me love social media so dearly is that it has created an overflowing channel that lends itself to this end.
Social media emphasizes communication and, in my mind, communication creates understanding.
People from every corner and crevice of the world can easily connect to people from distant lands that they may never have or never will even set foot in. When I was studying abroad in Paris, I used social media to document my time through frequent tweets and hundreds and hundreds of pictures uploading into Facebook albums. Through social media, I painted my study abroad adventure for all to see and enjoy.
Through hashtags and mentions and tags, messages are deployed with an unbelievable reach. Maybe it is just my overly optimistic and rose-colored lens belief, but I believe (and hope) that, if harnessed correctly, social media can really make huge steps in creating a more unified and understanding world. In a way, I'm sure it already has.
More personally, social media has opened up an interesting job path for me and others in a similar field. With post-grad job searches being as difficult as they are and with graduation date fast approaching, this effect of social media has had unbelievable gravity in my life. As a student of communications, public relations, and international relations, I have the opportunity to mesh all of these specialties together to really work on creating a global social media strategy for any company, agency, or product I work for. Social media is so new and constantly evolving that us kids of the millennial persuasion have the opportunity to grab hold of this revolution and ride it to the top. This job title of "community developer/manager" or "engagement specialist" lends itself to us post-undergrad twenty-somethings because we have had our finger on the pulse of social networking since day one. Take THAT Baby Boomers!
So much is left to be explored and mastered, so much is left to develop and evolve. The integration of social media strategy into any company's marketing/PR initiative is growing deeper and deeper. This has given me (and others like me) the chance to be masters and experts, rather than going into a well-established field and learning the practices of our predecessors. We have the chance to lead the (r)evolution.
And, I don't know about you, but I am excited to pave my own path in this new social world.