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This week schools in Finland have started to get back on with it after the summer break. And to celebrate their last moments of freedom kids have been having parties at leas according the news clips I've noticed. What really caught my eye on the news clips was the final notice that told us the information about these parties was spread through social media.
(More after the jump.)
To be honest, the term social media is a bit vague. However there's no other better and short enough way to call it. Some call it social web or social networking. Social web however narrows it down to include only web and social (networks and) networking is a subcategory of social media.
It is true networking is often present on social media and social media contacts may form a network or several networks. Often networking is sort of a side product of social media. Social networking includes services which are basically built for creating networks, like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Actually Internet, or rather it's users, have been social since Internet's first steps. Usenets, Irc and email were and mostly still are a way to contact and share with others. Very social. Later, after the world wide web, web for short, was invented the social services started to spread. Remember the web chats? And then there were the blogs, which at first were more like public journals since they didn't usually include commenting. And then... Well everything else.
Social media consists of different sorts of services and products: Social networks and video sharing websites. Blogs, forums and microblogging. Social bookmarking and other sharing. Chats, IM's and Voice over IP services. Virtual worlds and MMORPGs (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games). The list goes on.
In a way all the media is social media these days. A person who mocks social media while creating machinimas on Second Life and other virtual worlds and publishing them on YouTube is gnawing her own ankle. The newspapers and magazines publish reader created content, television (at least here in Finland) is filled with text message chats and such. Many television contests make the viewers choose who is dropped out and who wins. In theory we all have a chance to give our input. It's social production.
While some social media users are reluctant to see the companies and organizations roaming into this apparently democratic and self built world, it's inevitable. Business comes where people are. And why not. While the evil marketers collect info about us, we collect info about them and the companies and products they represent. Everyone, even the business people are invited in. That's real democracy and the beauty of social production. The only rules I'm going to quote* in this post are: Listen, engage, be real, be respectful and have fun.
So what is this thing we call social media? This is how I understand it: Social media is a media or media product which content is created by the users.
* From What the F**k is Social Media NOW?. Check it out.