Miruna Codeanu

Social media: next mass media

In cappuccino on September 13, 2013 at 7:29 am

A few months ago I was discussing Facebook as mass media with a friend. The discussion started over the increasing age of Facebook’s user. Older people are using Facebook and that is a fact, but also, the Facebook generation is getting older. So, yes it is normal that the average age is higher now than it was 5 years ago. Then, I had this idea: Facebook/social media is becoming mass media, and replacing television.  It may have seemed crazy a few months ago, it may still seem crazy, but I still believe Facebook/social media is becoming mass media. Yes, I also have arguments, there are always arguments for crazy hypotheses. (The reason for which I’m using “Facebook/social media” is because Facebook is still the social network with most users, but what I mean is the whole “social media” phenomenon. )

Underground to mainstream

Whenever something is firstly seen as underground, its wide use will transform it into mainstream. Facebook has long reached its one billion users limit. There are more than 1 billion people using Facebook. That is the biggest audience ever gathered in one place. So, you can say it has a better reach than traditional mass media. It started as a university online network, a niche, but with 1 billion users I doubt it being still a niche. I remember, back in the days, when Twitter and Facebook seemed like a “place of ours” to share ideas and information, being able to select your information, without advertising. That description is no longer accurate, your wall is not wall, your feed is not your news feed, and advertising, oh well it is already there and they intend to introduce video advertising. There is, however, a tremendous change social media brought: user generated content, transforming the “user” or the “audience” into a source or carrier for the message.

Numbers

Facebook, the tabloid

I call it “cheap content”, the news about plastic surgery, gossip, chit chat, cats, Paulo Coelho quotes, pictures of half naked girlfriends/boyfriends. It has been increasing lately and probably proportional with the number of Facebook users. Social media is about sharing, remember that very popular WordPress widget “sharing is caring” and the other one saying “sharing is sexy”? It was social media that reminded us of that, hinting to the “share” button. So, social media created the need to share. Anything. Be that original content or a repost, or cheap content, anything. Sure, here we can make the difference between users and trendsetters. It used to be about “smartish”/funny viral videos, but times are changing. Truth be told, social media is becoming an online tabloid with user generated content. By not watching TV I could avoid news on crimes, massacres, wars, plastic surgeries of famous people, etc. I could select news on international affairs, advertising, airplanes, art, monarchy or whatever else I’m interested in and avoid all the nonsense. Things have changed in the last few months: more and more information, very much like old mass media information are flooding my news feed. Rapes, crimes, horrifying pictures, etc. Why is this happening? Because Facebook is very much like mass media, Facebook is becoming mass media and it is absolutely normal for “cheap content” to invade your space, it is, after all, the same old dispute on mass media content: is mass media supposed to educate or to give the audience what it wants. I’m curios how long it will be until I see the first man raising the question: “Is Facebook supposed to educate or to deliver the information the audience wants to read/see?.”

Advertising

Videos that would normally come labeled as TV commercials are longer and longer. 3 minutes is not the length of a standard tv commercial, not even close. Too long, too expensive, too boring. 3 minutes videos are not for television. They are short stories, courts metrages, definetely not made with the primary purpose of being aired during the commercial break. TV commercials or what we used to perceive as TV commercials have another primary purpose. Hmmm… What else can you do with a video? Put it on the internet and hope it will be viral. TV commercials are sometimes cuts from an extended version for the internet.

There are a number of signals telling us that Facebook’s transformation is a phenomenon: social media is now mainstream, numbers and, obviously the content in your news week. You might not believe everybody is now on Facebook, although I’m quite sure you can’t really believe the number of people that have a Facebook account, soon it will your great grandma adding you on Facebook, because your grandma is already there. You might not believe the numbers, but take a closer look at your news feed. It is pretty much like television, right? It is pretty much some unwanted content, right? Well, welcome to Facebook international media.

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  1. […] kept writing about the use of social media in marketing, how great it can be if you use it wisely, how social media will be the next mass media, the future of social media and some other social media issues. While I was writing them it seemed […]

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