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What would past cultures think of social media?

by Scott Hoffman on July 9, 2009

I believe that if my grandfather was alive he would be delighted by social media. I can visualize his experience, at first trepidation about how to use social media, then the “hockey stick” learning curve would kick in, and then complete understanding. Sharing photos of grandchildren, sharing thoughts on the political climate, getting involved in fund raising groups for charities that he was passionate about. All of these efforts, made easier & enhanced by social media.

While it is true that a large percentage of the communications that we as a culture share via social media seem trivial, the first words uttered on the phone (a revolutionary device) also seemed trivial:

“Mr. Watson — come here!” – Alexander Graham Bell

The sheer numbers of users, and effective use of social media is growing rapidly. On the blog Inside Facebook, they analyzed June 2009 figures from web analystics firm, Compete, and to quote:

Total uniques to Facebook’s main Facebook.com site were up 10.7% in June to 91.7 million US visitors. Traffic to Facebook Connect-enabled sites also increased 10.6% to 71.9 million uniques. Total uniques to all Facebook domains were up 8.5% to 122.6 million for the month.

Growth was also recorded on MySpace (+7.2% to 61 million unique US visitors) and Twitter (+16.6% to 23 million unique US visitors)

That is a lot of people talking to each other, sharing experiences, friends, and recommendations. To put the raw numbers in perspective CNN, the leading (non-portal) news service reaches about 28.6 million unique US visitors.

The biggest gift that social media has given us, is a change in how we as a global community get our information. Just a few short years ago learning about events required a slow trickle of information, from various communication platforms including Newspapers, Radio, and Television…but now, we the people, are the communication platform, this is HUGE change. The barrier to sharing information using social media is so low, that it is almost gone. Participation in Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and the dozens of other communication platforms is SO EASY, that it has become like the telephone.

I laugh at the juxtaposition between our culture today and cultures from the past. As my wife and sit in the same room, and share our thoughts with each other through social media – what would past cultures have thought about this? I would love your opinion.

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