Isn’t it amazing how far we’ve come? I mean, from an objective perspective, considering the many thousands of years that humankind has inhabited the Earth, one hundred years is an incredibly short amount of time. Yet, in the past century, we have moved from traveling by ship, wearing suits made by a local tailor and communicating by mail to traveling by air, wearing t-shirts made in Korea and communicating via the web on a global scale.
The world has definitely become smaller – and the thanks for this goes not to the jet engine, but to the internet and in particular, to social media. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and the like have taken communication truly global, to the point where for many people, it would be hard to imagine living without it. The reach of these websites is unprecedented. Never before has a website gone from being just that – a website – to being a way of life.
Proof of this abounds. I know several friends who are seemingly intravenously attached to their Facebook/Twitter/MySpace account be it through a Mac, PC or phone at almost all hours. This alone speaks volumes, but social media has begun to become far more integrated into our lives than anyone could have imagined. For instance, relationships, rather than being a purely physical exercise are now played out over social media, jobs are obtained and lost, financial decisions made, it truly is wondrous how a website has seamlessly become an essential part of daily existence.
But what are the websites themselves gaining from our ‘custom’? After all, the vast majority of sites offer their services for free. The answer is simple, information. It is seemingly human nature to keep personal details close to the chest – if a stranger walked up to you and asked what your name or your phone number was, would you give them it? Almost everybody would not, however it is staggering how much of this type of information is readily available through social media, and how much people are willing to give it away.
However, your information is a big commodity. Sites such as Facebook, Myspace and Google can quite legally collect and pass on this information to other companies, therefore helping them to help you. What this basically means is that it enables the online advertising you see to be tailored to your individual tastes which in turn increase the likelihood that you will get your credit card out and spend some money with the advertiser in question.
Social media needs us as much as we need social media. The reasons for this are simple, social media websites would not function without advertising as it drives their revenue, however the advertisers use the information from the social media platforms to enhance their chance of making a sale. Conversely, we the public have become so reliant on social media to communicate that we simply have to use it in almost all cases daily, therefore meaning we have to also view the adverts placed there.