* "Only connect. . ." E.M. Forster, Howard's End

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What If Social Media Never Changed?

By now everyone has probably seen the new Facebook changes. I’ll admit that I’m not an avid Facebook user, so it feels like every time I log on to the site I’m bombarded by something new that makes me wish for the old days when you had to have an .edu email address to use the site. 
Ah, simpler times. 
But I understand why Facebook had to evolve. If not, it would get left behind. 
As this Fox News Chicago article pointed out: 
“The same thing happened with Myspace. People were really into it and they didn't make changes for a long time and Facebook came along and people walked away and went to that and then Myspace tried to make changes but it was a little too late.”
I know that human nature makes it difficult for change to be sprung on us as often as Mark Zuckerberg likes to do it (you think we’d be used to it by now). However, change – particularly when it comes to social media – is not a bad thing. Society is shaped by technological innovation and the tech space progresses rapidly. Social media are directly linked to advances in technology. 
So instead of freaking out every time Facebook announces something new, consider this: Where would we be if social media didn’t ever change?
  • Using our AOL email accounts to send chain letter emails to our friends (emails that took FOREVER to send)
  • Chatting on AIM
  • Blogging on LiveJournal, where the coolest features were different font colors, star-studded black backgrounds, and emoticons
  • Building our own free websites on Geocities 
  • Asking Jeeves questions (who needs Quora?!)
  • Forget Spotify…Napster would still be poppin’
  • MySpace would seem like a far-fetched idea of the future
  • Google would still have a bunch of O’s (remember when it was Gooooooooogle?) and would take a backseat to other search engines instead of being THE search engine
And so on.
But the point here is to look at the bigger picture. It’s not the sites in themselves; it’s everything else that comes with them. 
How would it affect us?
  • Globalization: Think of all the connectivity and sharing that we would’ve missed out on
  • Economy: Think of the jobs that wouldn’t even exist 
  • Business: Forget your new inbound marketing tool, learning about your customer’s preferences, having a feedback mechanism and a customer service channel
  • Learning: A significant portion of the way we gather and learn information is due to social media. How would we crowdsource? What about tapping into your social network to ask questions? Have you ever considered the sheer knowledge you gain from what others share because they have the mechanisms to do so?
  • Journalism: Some people only get their news from blogs. Some blogs have grown into online news publications (think: Huffington PostMashableTechCrunch, for instance). 
That being said, what the heck would we do with our smartphones?!
I think I’ve made my point. Social media, just like everything else, needs to evolve. We should embrace it because as it changes it opens up doors to make things possible that never were before.  

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