Social media is a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas and information and the building of virtual networks and communities. By design, social media is internet based and offers users easy electronic communication of personal information and other content, such as videos and photos. Users engage with social media via computer, tablet or smartphone via web-based software or web application, often utilizing it for messaging.
According to writer Christine Rosen in "Virtual Friendship, and the New Narcissism," many social media sites encourage status-seeking. According to Rosen, the practice and definition of "friendship" changes in virtuality. Friendship "in these virtual spaces is thoroughly different from real-world friendship. In its traditional sense, friendship is a relationship which, broadly speaking, involves the sharing of mutual interests, reciprocity, trust, and the revelation of intimate details over time and within specific social (and cultural) contexts. Because friendship depends on mutual revelations that are concealed from the rest of the world, it can only flourish within the boundaries of privacy; the idea of public friendship is an oxymoron." Rosen also cites Brigham Young University researchers who "recently surveyed 184 users of social networking sites and found that heavy users 'feel less socially involved with the community around them.'" Critic Nicholas G. Carr in "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" questions how technology affects cognition and memory. "The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author's words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas... If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with "content," we will sacrifice something important not only in ourselves but in our culture."
Social media is also often used for crowdsourcing. Customers can use social networking sites to offer ideas for future products or tweaks to current ones. In IT projects, crowdsourcing usually involves engaging and blending business and IT services from a mix of internal and external providers, sometimes with input from customers and/or the general public.
Capitalizing upon human curiosity is an ingenious idea that would lead to the creation and launch of Quora in June, 2009. The website, co-founded by two former Facebook employees, Charlie Cheever and Adam D’Angelo now claims that it received more than 80 million monthly unique visitors, with half of them coming from the U.S. So far, the question-and-answer website has managed to raise $141 in venture capital funds and while it doesn’t look ready to go public yet, it’s definitely a company to watch.
Networks formed through social media change the way groups of people interact and communicate. They "introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organizations, communities, and individuals." These changes are the focus of the emerging fields of technoself studies. Social media differ from paper-based media (e.g., magazines and newspapers) and traditional electronic media such as TV broadcasting in many ways, including quality, reach, frequency, interactivity, usability, immediacy, and performance. Social media outlets operate in a dialogic transmission system (many sources to many receivers). This is in contrast to traditional media which operates under a monologic transmission model (one source to many receivers), such as a newspaper which is delivered to many subscribers, or a radio station which broadcasts the same programs to an entire city. Some of the most popular social media websites are Facebook (and its associated Facebook Messenger), Instagram, WhatsApp, Google+, Myspace, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter, Viber, VK, WeChat, Weibo, Baidu Tieba, and Wikia. These social media websites have more than 100,000,000 registered users.