How is the use of social media contributing to digital transformations in the fabric of everyday life?
The use of social media contributing to digital transformation in everyday life varies due to the audience or consumer. One cannot measure the affect for all scenarios but on the whole digital transformations in social media are huge developments in order to find a new way of working. Technology and the things that are achievable through it have helped social media advance and progress into something some would say is amazing, but like all products and goods, not everything is perfect.
Firstly, looking at the keywords in this essay title; Social Media and Digital Transformations stand out. But what do they mean? According to Dictionary.com the definition of Social Media is:
This definition covers all foundations of social media. It is definitely used as a plural as there are so many forms of social media that are digitally used by users across the world. These digital technologies are primarily means of communication and like mentioned are used for social and professional development or enhancement. I say primarily used for communication because this is the main reason people use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat but there is definitely more to social media than just communication which I will go into in more detail later in this essay.
In basic terms the definition of digital transformation would be digital change. When something is changed in the digital world it is normally to improve the user experience. Social media sites are constantly looking to advance their service and with countless updates of the site the audience is notified of these improvements. For example, one recently big update was the Snapchat download on smartphones. The user is notified through app store updates and this update was to improve the quality of service by making it easier to use.
“Separating social from media has allowed us to build the best way to communicate with friends and the best way to watch great content – while addressing many of the problems that plague the Internet today” – Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Snapchat
This digital transformation allows social media to be more user-friendly. Other social media platforms that implement digital transformations also strive to make their sites bigger and better.
Although these digital transformations in social media happen to all social users in their everyday life, it’s important to understand the audience in order to conclude how it may affect them. To elaborate, looking at a user’s age profile may dictate how well they can deal with digital transformations and how often they use social media in the first place. A younger, digital native user is highly likely to be able to adapt to digital change more easily and may be so relaxed about the change that they may not notice the change on occasion. On the other hand, individuals in the digital immigrant category may find it more difficult to accept the change and get used to new initiatives and designs. This may be because they don’t use social media as frequently as their younger counterparts. If they rarely log into their Facebook account, they may find that the site has unexpectedly changed, meaning that they have to ‘re-learn’ the sequence to get the same end result. For this reason companies introducing digital transformations to their social media sites should always research their audience by asking the target group what they want from the platform. However, the reality is that companies are more likely to make changes for regular users of their sites which means that digital immigrants may suffer and be forced to continuously ‘catch up’.
The research from Pew Research Centre indicates there is a correlation between age and social media usage. They say, “the youngest adults stand out in their social media consumption” and the data they collected below says the digital natives are using Snapchat and Instagram more than other social media sites. This would indicate that when digital transformations happen in their everyday life they are able to adapt more readily as they will be using the site more often, specifically in order to explore and experience the new features.
Those percentages of elderly people however, could be using social media as a way of becoming more included and less socially isolated. Found in The Sunrise Senior Living Blog page, “According to the Office of National Statistics, from 2006 to 2013, the number of senior citizens in the UK aged 65 or older who used the Internet climbed from 9 per cent to 37 per cent. This figure is expected to have risen significantly since 2013, highlighting how the Internet is playing an increasingly important role in the lives of elderly citizens.” The Sunrise Care home talk about a ‘community’, this is a nice way of describing what social media is. Everyone who uses it can be connected through one way or another and it doesn’t matter how old you are. If you can use the site you’ll be able to socially interact with others.
This is why it is important to understand the audience when making digital transformations. This doesn’t necessarily just mean the users age, as “vital information about users are channelled through social media” according to St Clair at Major Digital. When a user signs up to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc they are asked for their name, date of birth, likes, dislikes; and using this information companies can build up a profile of the user to try to anticipate what they are most likely to want from social media transformations.
In digital society “people in general are increasingly networked and interconnected through the internet”, says Lindgren in ‘Digital Media and Society’. Social media is arguably one of the key products of communication or as Lindgren refers to more correctly users are “engaging in ‘computer-mediated communication’.” Could this be, as explained earlier, that because social media companies are striving to make their sites easier to use more people are choosing to communicate this way? After all, social media sites are downloaded to phones and tablets making it accessible from wherever the user may be and therefore making social media more and more user-friendly. If users are increasingly using social media to communicate, digital technologies are going to change to make this easier, just like Snapchat did. Other examples of this are Facebook Live videos and Instagram Live videos. Live videos weren’t always as popular but with a growing social network people are finding new ways to create, share and communicate their experiences.
Are we addicted to social media though? Is it so easy to use and so accessible that we use it too much? Once you’ve uploaded something, it’s easy to go back and check up on how many ‘likes’ we’ve received or the group chat that’s always pinging with notifications. ‘Keepitusable’ say users are so addicted through the “Fear of missing out”, that we “need a platform to showcase ourselves” due to ego driven mindsets and that “social comparison and self-esteem” increasing, along with “social validation” are key parts of the human mind that look for things to make us feel good. Although some of these reasons may seem positive in ways, for instance social media making someone feel good because they got 50 likes on their new profile picture, is it always this good? Social media has become increasingly easier for cyber bullies to target others. That new profile picture put up could easily be abused with comments making someone feel vulnerable and upset. The point I’m making is that although social media is becoming easier, and transformations have made it easier to use, it could also have negative impacts either making it addictive or allowing personal attacks from others to occur. Some such attacks can have poor outcomes for those being targeted.
Social media isn’t exclusively used for communicating and with the advances of Web 2.0 users have the flexibility to be a consumer and a producer, also known as a Prosumer. Users are able to make content as well as see other people’s content. For instance, live videos on Facebook as mentioned before and platforms such as YouTube where users are encouraged to be creative and upload content. In fact, YouTube is a business in its own right, a site where lots of users become creators and utilise the site to earn a living. This shows that Web 2.0, social media and digital transformations all link together for successful social media transformations.
Other uses of social media in everyday life that have been digitally transformed is the way we market ourselves and our business. Social media sites such as LinkedIn have been created in order to “build and engage with your professional network” as stated on their site. This site has become a new way of getting a job and advertising your skills with even the chance to upload a CV to the site. As well as personal marketing, a lot of businesses now ‘socially marketing’ their product or ideas via social media. Instead of the old-fashioned Billboard or poster in the newspaper, social media has helped reach thousands of people instantly and in a cost-effective way with a click of a button. Businesses have their own social media accounts and are able to hype up events, products etc to make marketing more straight forward and simple. Another strategy is through paid sponsors. Bigger businesses who have the financial resources to sponsor ads on social media, are able to reach more users resulting in more interest in their business.
We’ve established that social media isn’t just about communication and that other concepts arise from using social media, but how about if users approach social media for a wider alternative cause? At Major Digital, St Clair also says “digital transformations offer new ways of working through the use of existing digital and emerging technologies”. What can we take from this? Well, in order to change something wider than just yourself or your local community, social media can become ‘viral’. Social media has been used before in order to raise awareness and money for charities and world causes. Empowering change in true life situations through digital transformation is more fulfilling and worthwhile. Some of the most well-known campaigns are Movember, ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and No Make-Up challenge. These are great ways in which social media has created something big whilst also allowing everyone and anyone to get involved by becoming socially included. Within campaigns, people have used technologies such as a mobile phone camera and creative ways of performing their challenge to make interesting and/or engaging content. These kinds of social campaigns could quite easily catch on more through social media and celebrity endorsements. Some campaigns have become well recognised brands in their own right with some continuing to raise vast amounts of money for worthy causes.
In terms of digital transformation in general social media use, some new initiatives within technology have come about, for instance the Snapchat Spectacles which allow users to video hands-free from a pair of spectacles worn in the normal way. This allows them to socially interact whilst, at the same time, filming. This adds more interest to social media and enables users to do things they love on film from their own unique perspective. The video below gives a review of what it’s like to use this new technology and how social networking on Snapchat is changed in everyday life.
This could be controversial however as members of the public may not be aware they are being film. Although the device has a LED light, if members of the public are unaware of the technology and the devices’ purpose they may not notice that filming is in progress therefore breaching their privacy and possibly raising bigger issues like safeguarding.
Social media seems always to be digitally transforming, whether it be for the better or not like previously said. At some point will it stop? Is there a chance that social media will plateau and find its own level… a place where designers and users are satisfied with or accept that things are good without the necessity to add more, take parts away or change others?
To conclude, the use of social media contributes to digital transformation by making changes based on what the audience want and even need in order to make the sites they run easier to navigate and at the same time improving the quality of service. In everyday life these changes help to make social networking easier to use but don’t necessarily mean that psychologically it is good for the human mind or relationship development. Digital transformations are continually evolving; being developed and introduced so it’s difficult to know with certainty how long social media sites will stay unchanged before their audiences need to change and adapt to new updates. Technologies aid this process by adding interest and ease to social networking. New ways of working aren’t just for the social media companies to change and control but also for their users to change in this new prosumer society we live where users can make and upload content as easily as the sites themselves.
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