Social Media Are More Than Just Facebook and Twitter

Although Facebook is the current gold standard of social media, its success or eventual collapse should not be the sole benchmark for the perceived rise and fall of social networking.  CNN reported that last month (May 2011), Mark Zuckerberg's brainchild lost 7 million American and Canadian users.  Even though Facebook still boasts almost 700 million users worldwide and a spokesperson for the company questioned the accuracy of the report, critics pounced on the data as some sort of sign of the eventual decline not just of Facebook, but of social media as a whole.  New Media have proven to be more than just a passing fad.  Companies like America Online and MySpace may come and go, but I believe social networking, in some form or another, is here to stay.

Electronic communication has evolved from the days of traditional mass media when messages were just broadcast by gatekeepers to passive audiences.  Now, New Media and the so-called Web 2.0 enable multi-directional information sharing.  User-generated content was revolutionized by YouTube and other online tools, but it wasn't invented by them -- even before the term "social media" became popular, people were engaging in community discussions in chatrooms and online bulletin boards; even before "blogging" became a buzzword, writers were posting their thoughts and ideas on newsgroups and personal Web pages.  We can go back even further and see that even before the World Wide Web was invented or even before the Internet became a household asset, ordinary people were creating and sharing their own content via homemade movies, mix-tapes, and photocopied fanzines. 

Social networks have just taken it all to a new level.  Now that they've reached the stratosphere, I don't think they'll settle for less.  If anything, new heights beckon.

So Twitter might eventually fade and Facebook might someday diminish in popularity, but other tools, services, and companies will rise up in their place.  Privacy concerns may force certain behavioral changes from the current personal information overload, but the broader usage trends will continue with people sharing pictures, posting their own commentary, connecting with peers and family, creating their own entertainment, using new media for education, enlightenment, and enjoyment (not to mention career and vocational advancement).

Pandora's box has been opened and it will take more than the alleged stumbling of the Facebook behemoth to fully close it again.