What is social media?


Words By: Mat Smith 

Social media is the lovechild of the internet, but what should it be defined as? It could be seen that social media is something that is purely another form of media somewhere where views and expressions should be posted and listened to, a way of consuming our information, this however can lead to inaccuracies, views or opinions being held as truth to anyone that sees it. Other social media experts such as Jeff Jarvis see it as a tool, a way to converse and share opinions equally as well as spreading news and truth.

Social media logos

More and more people are viewing online social media as a case of something that is necessary for this day and age. For example if someone had a newly established shop they would ask whether or not they need a twitter account to publicise that shop to a wider community, to gain support that they wouldn’t get by standing on a street corner handing out flyers for their grand opening. But should all this be regulated and should people be charged for publicising themselves on the internet freely?  Student Radio Broadcaster, Thomas Sinden thinks not: “When I’m on the radio doing a live twitter feed I really want to get the biggest reach I can for the show. It’s important that free un-regulated publicity on the internet can be expressed…If not where does that lead us? In a constant circle, new technologies can’t evolve and no one can converse with anybody else.”

What are you signing up to when you agree to the terms and conditions of social media? Most social media companies withhold the right to distribute many of your photos or information with ‘trusted third parties’ and although they say that the photographer for example still owns the copyright to a photo, social media services may still be able to distribute the content or idea. In a recent update to Instagram’s terms and conditions users were outraged to find that their pictures may be used for advertisements for Instagram without being consulted and receiving no royalties. So should you not use social media? Well think about where the user would be without having social media as a tool, they would be left at a disadvantage. Photographer Jonathan Faulkner said: “Although I can’t do much about it, I still think I should still use social media to boost my online presence. It gives me something that handing out my flyers at a club would not, a wider audience.” he went on to say: “If you go out for a night out with friends, what’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? You check Facebook, you find the pictures with my name on them, that’s instant publicity right there, but I do think that something should be done to regulate how copyright is displayed and what the user is entitled to.”

So how can we fight what is bad about the internet, when we find ourselves completely engulfed by internet trolls, pirate streaming, and invasion of privacy. Is the answer to completely section off the internet with proposed laws such as SOPA and PIPA. These acts introduced by the US Senate could be seen as Americans taking to the internet to police the World Wide Web. After being on the run for almost a year the creator of the torrenting website, Pirate Bay was jailed this week, but does this mean that the internet as we know it will be gone forever? British Police are also making a stand against online streaming websites, launching an offensive on the British based sites in an attempt to shut them down.  Sussex police said: “Sussex Police are doing their up most to combat cyber piracy in the south-east. The successes made by other policing organisations over the past week are a testament to this and the struggle the police face to combat illegal activities on the net.”

Media is changing there is no doubt about that, but with the recent Leveson Inquiry changing the face of journalism, how will that affect the way we consume our media and the way in which it is written? Jeff Jarvis a professor of journalism said in a recent interview for The Economist: “Social Media is a prompt with which we can communicate effectively with one another it is not a form of media which we can simply consume… however Leveson is something that will change social media as well, it is something that is a tool for journalists and will therefore be sectioned accordingly, the real question is as the internet evolves and journalism does with it, will it be done right?”

Jeff Jarvis – journalism professor, journalist, and public speaker

Jeff Jarvis – journalism professor, journalist, and public speaker

The internet troll could be seen as something that is a result of the early stages of the internet. On video sites such as Youtube the troll can hide behind a façade of purely attacking user, as criticism where there main intention may be for their own enjoyment. They are more often than not  absorbed by the users fan-base or other commenters rather than the user themselves. However  this can leave a personal attack which the user feels powerless to retaliate to because the comment would be seen as purely criticism. An example of this is when a musician posts a piece on Youtube and because commenters can view or express opinions simultaneously it can become endless noise and no real dialogue is established. Opinions of different people could be similar or random which creates this confusion.

So what can social media be defined as? The answer is it can’t, not yet. The internet still evolving and becoming. Where some experts say that it is a tool to be used, others argue that it is form of media to be consumed. Laws are attempting to restrict something that is constantly evolving, without first understanding how to use this new technology at our disposal can we define it and restrict it.



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