As many can probably relate, when I think of the term social media I automatically think of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I also think of how nearly everyone I can think of and know is on some form of social media as long as they have access to the Internet. Despite its popularity “there seems to be a very limited understanding of what the term social media exactly means (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010). What Kaplan and Haenlein’s article “Users of the World Unite” has opened my eyes to is that there are actually various types of social media. I suppose I have always considered social media as just social networking sites, so Facebook and Twitter, and have used social media and social networking interchangeably. I learned that it is rather difficult to categorize social media platforms because many different applications with not much in common can all be considered as social media. However, there are key elements of social media that help categorize them. Those key elements are a social presence and media richness; and self-presentation and self-disclosure (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010).
- Social presence:
According to Kaplan and Haenlein, a social presence can be defined as the “acoustic, visual, and physical contact that can be achieved” between two or more users. If a social media platform has a high social presence then it means its users have a larger social influence on each others behavior. A good example of a social media platform with a high social presence is Facebook.
- Media richness
Media richness is an important element of social media because it is the applications way of decreasing ambiguity and uncertainty. It is defined as “the amount of information they allow to be transmitted in a given time interval”(Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010).
- Self-presentation and self-disclosure
Individuals choose to join social media for a variety of reasons but often it is a way of self-presentation. It is believed that users may have “the objective of influence in others to gain rewards” (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010) or “it is driven by a wish to create an image that is consistent with one’s personal identity” (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010). Whatever the reason may be, this can be done so through self-disclosure. Self-disclosure is a user’s “conscious or unconscious revelation of personal information that is consistent with the image one would like to give” (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010). This is a very important part of social media because it is what helps complete strangers develop a close relationship with one another.
When all of the elements some together, we come up with six types of social media. Those six types are blogs, social networking sites, virtual social worlds, collaborative projects, content communities, and virtual game worlds. Without realizing it, I have experiences with all six types. From my personal experience, I learned that sometimes it is best to not reveal too much about yourself (self-disclosure) online because you never know who will find the information.
When I was about 15, I had joined the popular micro-blogging platform Tumblr and became fairly active on it. I went on it every day in the summer because not only did I have a lot of free time, I also had recently had a falling out with some friends and just had no one to talk to. Since I did not know anyone on the site, I just used it to browse different blogs and reblogged their posts. As time went on and Tumblr became more popular, more of my friends started joining it so I slowly revealing more information about myself on my micro-blog. Of course, I didn’t reveal extremely personal details but I did mention where I was from, how old I was, and photos of my friends and I. As time went on, I started talking to people from all over the world and eventually started adding them as friends onto my other (more private) forms of social media. I felt extremely comfortable talking these strangers who lived thousands of kilometers away and had shared them some things I have never shared with my other friends before. While the people I talked to were the teenagers they said they were I cannot help but look back in hindsight if my high levels of self-disclosure could have gotten me into trouble or danger. As a teenager going through the motions of growing up, social media has was a safe haven for me to express my feelings and thoughts without repercussions. Or so I thought. As I mentioned earlier, I had joined Tumblr when I had a falling out with some friends so with that said, I had used my Tumblr micro-blog as a platform to say some things I would have otherwise never said, and of course some people eventually found it and things escalated. Knowing what I know now, I would have definitely refrained from revealing so much about myself online, especially when I do not know who could be looking at what I was posting online.
Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons,53(1), 59-68. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003
N/A (n.d.). Tumblr Logo [digital image]. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2c/Tumblr_Logo.svg/2000px-Tumblr_Logo.svg.png
N/A (n.d.). Social Media Logos [digital image]. Retrieved from https://ewebdesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/99.jpg