Social media is defined as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking”. Twenty eight years ago the World Wide Web was invented. In a relatively short time, hundreds of social media platforms have been developed. Social media can take many different forms, some of which include, apps, websites, blogs, and internet forums. “The number of social media users worldwide in 2018 is 3.196 billion, up 13 percent year-on-year” (Chaffey). While many social media sites have peaked and lost popularity, and some are more relevant than others, it’s clear social networking is not going away any time soon.
To understand the relevance of social media, three concepts need to be explored: the impact on businesses, the ability to influence trends, and how it has changed all aspects of building and maintaining romantic relationships.
The first concept explores the nature of the impact of social media on business. “While the original social networking sites were initially designed for connecting people, they’ve ultimately turned into business tools and resources” (Rampton).
Because of this, some of the most successful businesses are those that understand social media behavior and use it to their advantage. Being able to point out the shift in online usage is important so that businesses are aware of trends and are open to expanding to new platforms. 70% of marketers have used Facebook to successfully gain new customers and 34% have used Twitter to successfully generate leads (Morrison). Social media has given businesses the ability to use highly targeted advertising versus traditional media that is very difficult to target.
Today, there is a much wider audience than there ever has been. Social media platforms allow companies to put ads in the exact target market they are trying to reach. For example, “As Real Geeks points out on their website, real estate agents are crushing it using social media. Because real estate clients are so closely tied to location, the ability for agents to quickly create ads and then deliver them to individuals within very specific zip codes and neighborhoods is invaluable. It’s led to incredible results and is becoming relied upon by tech-savvy real estate professionals” (Rampton).
Another great advantage that has come from businesses taking part in social media is gaining consumer insights that companies did not have access to before. On certain platforms the marketer can enable a live chat feature. This can be extremely important in creating strong relationships with their customers. For example, Starbucks has an idea website where customers can submit either an improvement or a potential new item for them to carry. On these platforms consumer data is also available for the advertiser/marketer. Social media sites such as Facebook, provide engagement information for company pages. Through social media, marketers can track views, clicks, and how the lead was generated. Social media has required businesses to invest in better customer service because of real-time technology (Smith).
For example, if a customer writes a negative review about a company on a social media site, the company can resolve the problem quickly by replying to the post and taking action. The job process has also been improved through the efforts of social media. There are platforms such as LinkedIn, which allows individuals who are interested in “taking their professional life more seriously by looking for new opportunities to grow their careers and to connect with other professionals through their networking site” (Nations). This has also made it easier for recruiters to learn more and have a better understanding of potential job candidates. Recruiters used to be limited in how they could engage with these potential candidates and clients. However, modern day recruiters now have an endless array of choices in the ways they can acquire knowledge of the applicants. Lastly, businesses are now have a wider visibility. Businesses that partake in social media have the potential to largely expand their footprint (Smith). Geographical borders have been torn down allowing customers and businesses to connect from almost anywhere. Companies can sell cross-country or even internationally through a social networking platform, increasing the amount of views and possibly sales. Because of the companies increased reach, the amount of competitors is multiplied. Companies used to compete with local businesses that had a similar product or service, but now they are competing with every other company outside of their immediate area because of social media. Clearly, business has overall greatly benefited from the rise of the social media craze.
The second concept explores the impact social media has on the ability to influence trends. In 2018, it is considered vital to evaluate and adjust strategies based on understanding the current trends. Social media not only helps you understand trends, but is a large contributor to how they start. Online interactions such as retweets, replies, comments, and mentions continue to pass on different ideas and ultimately result in trends. Pop culture is now shaped by what is “cool” on sites such as Instagram. Trends can be reflected by the popularity of hashtags, topics or even internet slang (Zhang). Social media has changed how and what becomes popular. Hashtags are one of the most popular ways to see what’s trending. Hashtags categorize your post with others on the same topic. Twitter, is extremely efficient in showing this and reflects real-time trends that are constantly changing. “Journalists, media personalities, and politicians are all active on Twitter, making it an excellent resource for collecting real-time commentary” (Dahan). Other social media platforms, such as Instagram and LinkedIn, quickly adopted the ability to add hashtags. One of the largest areas that social media has the most influence on is fashion and beauty. Brands are now sponsoring popular celebrities to represent their merchandise. They do this in hopes that customers will want the product since their favorite celebrity is embodying this brand. Another advantage social media has given to fashion is real-time buying through their site. For example, if a customer saw a celebrity wearing an outfit on Instagram, they can locate, buy, and have the items delivered all from applications that integrate with social media (Claire).
Also, consumers can go to Facebook Marketplace or Instagram to buy and/or sell second-hand items straight from the app. Music trends have also developed through the increase in popularity of social media platforms. Social media breaks down the wall between an artist and their fans. Artists tend to feel as if they are in a close knit community with their fans because of social media. “Before musicians began embracing social media, music labels carried a huge majority of the power when it came to what music made it into the hands of consumers” (Evans). Now, musicians can reveal their new songs through these platforms. Social media also serves as a way to discover new artists. For example, Canadian singer Shawn Mendes used Vine to post 6-second clips of him singing. These videos went viral and he later got signed to Island Records. In addition, Justin Bieber got discovered through YouTube. Music festivals have grown to become vastly popular through the promotion on networking sites. “10 million people attended music festivals in 1969 – the same year as Woodstock, while an incredible 32 million people attended music festivals in 2015” (Monnappa). Social media has had an enormous impact on politics. Real-time news on apps such as Twitter, gives you a first-hand look at breaking news on topics such as politics. Viewers can enable their mobile phone to send them a notification when this happens. Half of social network site users have shared news stories, images, or videos, and 46% have discussed this topic (Anderson).
The last area that social media creates widespread trends is in the food industry. In society today, what your food looks like on camera is extremely important. Taking pictures of your meals and posting it on social media platforms, like Instagram, has become a global phenomenon that appears not not be leaving any time soon. Because of this, restaurants that are considered “Instagram-worthy” have become the places to go. Additionally, social media has made users more adventurous with their food. “Social media has given rise to a more impulsive and curious psychological state that craves innovation, newness and experimentation” (Campbell). All in all, social media has drastically changed the formation of up and coming trends in society today. The third and final concept explores the impact of social media on romantic relationships. With the rise of social media, relationships were bound to change. Social media has impacted the world of beginning, maintaining, and ending relationships (Kitson). Kimberly Merenkov, MD, attending psychiatrist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, says ‘The species simply could not survive without us recognizing our dependence on one another, interdependence implies a value in what an individual needs as well as what the community needs. We can’t live fully without direct human contact, nor can we live up to our talents if all we do is comply with the group. Connections with others develop our sensitivity to the human race as a whole’ (Stich).
Today, our relationships are often defined through the ways they have and haven’t been expressed on social media. “45% of online 18-29 year olds in serious relationships say the internet has had an impact on their relationship” (Lenhart). With social media being so easily accessible, couples can maintain their relationship by communicating through these platforms. According to Wellman’s research, he believes that “Online communication – email, instant messaging, chat rooms, etc. – does not replace more traditional offline forms of contact – face-to-face and telephone, instead, it adds on to them, increasing the overall volume of contact. More specifically, people with a great deal of online conversations have just as many offline conversations as those who decline to participate in the former” (Trumpet). Partners now have unlimited access to a wide variety of platforms where they can send messages, call, and video chat with their significant other. “All the content you create, all the following you build, each of these is designed to create and foster more intimate relationships with people, in some cases, people you might not have met any other way… social media is changing the foundation of the ways we relate” (Jain).
Social media has created endless opportunities that allow you to meet millions of people from all over the world. With the amount of people that are using social media today, individuals now have a much larger pool of people to choose from. “Given the informal nature of social media, it’s easy to approach someone you’d like to meet, and this can be done more easily and fluidly. It’s easier to extend your sphere of influence and enlarge it to include people you’d like to meet, or would like to know better. This means that influence will beget more influence” (Jain). There are online dating platforms, such as Tinder, Match.com, and Christian Mingle, that have become widely popular due to their easy and fun essence. These apps can easily expose users to potential dates they would not have met in their day-to-day lives. Users can also choose the people, age group and social circles they are interested in. Another way that relationships have evolved due to the spread of social media is how long-distance has become easier and more manageable. There are new ways to communicate via Skype, Facetime, and WhatsApp, that enable you to stay close with your significant other while you are apart. Jeff Hancock, director of graduate studies in the Department of Communications at Cornell University, states that ‘Allowing people to stay in touch in so many ways can strengthen our ability to have close relationships’ (Stich). Social Media allows couples to stay up to date with each others lives. In fact, 41% of 18-29 year olds in serious relationships have felt closer to their partner because of online or text message conversations (Lenhart).
Social media, however, has also made maintaining relationships much harder. With how easily accessible communication through devices is, face-to-face communication has significantly decreased. It lacks the ability to provide us with opportunities for deep and lasting emotional closeness. 42% of cell-owning 18-29 year olds in serious relationships say their partner has been distracted by their mobile phone while they were together (Lenhart). Because of this constant distraction, individuals are losing the opportunity to build the connections that humans were made to. Psychology experts have noticed that more and more marriages have been failing as this phenomenon continues to grow. Overestimating the level of intimacy in your online relationship has become extremely common. It is easy to confuse digital intimacy for true intimacy. Users can become so seduced by the ease of connecting with others online that they begin to think that these relationships are more intense, more committed, and more complete than they really are (Jain). Nowadays, when you are in a relationship, it’s an unspoken rule that you need to post all about your significant other on social media. It has become a competition on who can be the cutest couple. “It puts pressure on our relationships to be perfect, increases unfaithfulness and increases jealousy. With things like ‘relationship goals,’ ‘friendship goals’ and ‘family goals,’ there is a sense of failure if your relationships aren’t ‘picture perfect’” (Snyder). This creates a strain on relationships that wasn’t present before. In fact, in a recent study, Behavior and Social Networking concluded that people who regularly use Facebook are more likely to have social media-related conflicts with their partners (Nelson).
The last negative effect that social media has had on romantic relationships is the lack of privacy. Today, everybody is posting everything, even problems in their relationships. This can cause complication because it brings in a pressure from outside influences commenting. Partners are posting to all their followers what should be just between them and their significant other. To summarize, relationships have been affected by the rise of social media both positively and negatively and have greatly changed and adapted to the new ways. In conclusion, social media has severely influenced how businesses run, the formation of trends, and romantic relationships in society today.