Social media has greatly changed the ways people interact with mass media. Such open platforms as Twitter make it possible for us to see the global picture of once hidden media landscape (Ann, Cha, Gummadi, & Crowford 2011). This paper discusses the social significance of the Facebook social platform based on the author’s relationship with it and recent academic research.
First let us examine what Facebook is. At the time Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook and launched it back in 2004, it was meant solely as a website where college students were able to interact with friends and find new people to communicate. Later, in 2005, high school students were allowed to sign up. In two years, non-college-affiliated grown-ups were allowed to sign up, which they did very actively. Facebook’s description of itself is “a social utility,” aimed at helping people communicate with greater efficiency with family members, colleagues, and friends (McClard 2008). Yet, it seems, Facebook is much more than that. Since the time, it was launched, Facebook have grown to be used in multiple ways apart from aiding in communication: it has become a marketing tool, a tool for news sharing, a tool of political influence, a study tool, etc. Let us further explore the significance of Facebook for modern media-savvy audience.
Based on the author’s experience of using Facebook, it can be said that Facebook has become a tool for generating culture. This happens as Facebook use leads to emergence of various social norms. To illustrate, Dr Mihaela Vorvoreanu observes that a Facebook culture has evolved within the community of Facebook users and says that “members of the same public have different social norms for interaction on Facebook than on Twitter or blogs” (Vorvoreanu 2009: 69). From the author’s own experience, Facebook’s culture revolves around Facebook’s applications, uses, and content. The very procedure of using this social platform is already a manifestation of the Facebook culture. One starts with signing up and creating a profile, receives invitations, participates in quizzes, joins different groups, looks for new friends. Applications, too, add up to the development of Facebook culture. They either help people communicate in a lightweight and non-time-consuming manner through “poking,” “gift-giving,” “hugging,” “kissing,” etc, or they help users to get to know one another better (McClard 2008). These and other applications form the culture of interaction on Facebook in a Facebook-specific way.
Next, Facebook can be effectively used to share most recent news within an unrestricted flow of information. Facebook allows selecting news, posting links, and discussing what the users feel needs to be discussed. As Lee & Ma (2012) explain, “in spite of being separated by physical distance, social media users are connected with each other through similar interests and news stories can be spread across such online communities and discussed by people around the world within minutes” (Lee & Ma, 2012). It is especially convenient to subscribe to the Facebook users whom you trust and who can deliver first-hand information as primary sources. This may refer to different kinds of Facebook users: professional reporters, bloggers, people involved in some events, etc. Besides, Facebook allows getting an insight into a single matter from a variety of perspectives and, importantly, give feedback on what you read or watch. This way Facebook transforms us from the passive audience of news consumers into active news producers.
Further, significance of Facebook lies within the educational domain. Facebook has been found effective in supporting electronic class instruction due to its specific features and its popularity among the students. Another benefit here is improving teacher-students communication channels. According to Loving & Ochoa, “Communicating with students through messages and knowing that they are receiving and reading those messages gives the instructor a renewed confidence in the classroom support environment” (Loving & Ochoa 2011).
Also, Facebook’s significance is enhanced by possibilities of its use as a marketing tool. Brands place their activity in the social spaces taking into account the specifics of Web 2.0. They build relationships as a part of marketing and use Facebook and other social platforms as hubs for interaction with consumers. According to Meadows-Klue (2008), “From food to pharmaceuticals, many brands are starting to find models for marketing that harness Web 2.0. Invest the time in a strategic framework, and rather than the classic “one-night-stand’ campaign marketing, build relationships that get richer and stronger” (Meadows-Klue 2008).
In conclusion, this paper has discussed several significant uses of Facebook as an effective social media platform. These include non-time-consuming and lightweight interaction with friends and opportunities to know other people better, sustaining a special Facebook culture, offering opportunities of news sharing, serving an educational platform, and a marketing tool.
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