Continuing our series of entries on how modern technology is altering the way in which we use and perceive the media; today’s entry is the first of a two part segment on the rise of social media.
As with every epochal shift, the move away from the distant traditional media towards that of the highly interactive, user-generated social media, has taken many by surprise. Whilst some resolutely maintain that it is just a passing fad which offers little benefit to society, others have followed the groundswell and embraced it.
The entrepreneurs behind the Internet’s new wave weren’t all that different to those who kicked off the Nouvelle Vague film movement in France back in the 1950’s. What started out as a few guys with a few small ideas, quickly snowballed into a global phenomenon. The medium of auteur-driven film and user-driven social media aren’t all that distinct; in so far as one person’s unique vision, which they follow through all the processes, can make a huge splash.
What the social media generation do have on their side is the Internet. With advanced coding and a simple idea, these innovators were able to spread their message globally in an instant; or, more accurately, by a wildfire word of mouth campaign. Transcending international boundaries could be done with the click of a button rather than amassing thousands of miles. Digital replaced the physical and along came the second Internet boom.
Early examples such as Sixdegrees.com and even Friendster.com, got the ball rolling, but weren’t quite the earthmoving change that media consumers were looking for. But in 2003 everything was about to change. Along came MySpace.
Created by eUniverse and borrowing heavily on the ideas of the fledgling Friendster, MySpace was quick off the blocks and became the catalyst for a legion of new formats under the social media umbrella. In the next couple of years Flickr , Digg and Bebo emerged, but the industry took its next huge stride when Facebook (after a couple of years in Harvard University and then various educational networks) was unleashed on the world.
Since this time, growth across the entire sector has been immense. The initial popularity amongst students and Generation Y, quickly spread when the potential to share, communicate and advertise was discovered. Whilst founders such as Kevin Rose (Digg) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), along with their small team of cohorts and co-founders made initially low returns; others were seizing the opportunity to gain notoriety and create a brand around themselves as well as their associated products or companies.
Whilst during the Nouvelle Vague, Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol et al used a new art to impose their style and culture on the wider world, for social media it was simply about providing a platform. It’s apolitical and has boundless possibilities. Somehow the bubble has continued to inflate at an unparalleled rate, whilst the new danger that will ultimately burst it still appears some way off.
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