This topic guide will help you work with social media. The guide is mainly intended for use in English class, but it may also be relevant for other school subjects such as Social Studies or Psychology.
The guide is designed to give you a good overview of the history of social media, the most important platforms, as well as some pros and cons of social media. You can also find specific suggestions for texts to use as reference points, as well as ideas for further thematic perspectives.
Even dating back to the early computer networks that existed before the internet came into being, one of the main purposes of digital connections was communication between individuals. In the early days of the internet, this communication mostly happened through emails or instant messaging from person to person, but gradually dedicated social media started to appear, which allowed the users to establish contacts and share information in many new ways.
One of the first social media platforms with a major impact was MySpace. This site allowed users to create personal profiles where they showed off their interests and could even share their creative productions - as a result, MySpace was an especially important site in the world of music. However, MySpace has very few users today when compared with its golden age.
Facebook marked the beginning of a revolution within social media. At first this site was only intended as tool to help students from specific educational institutions contact each other, but over a very short period of time the phenomenon spread across the globe, and soon it was almost unheard of for a person not to have a Facebook-profile. In parallel with Facebook, the video sharing platform YouTube also became an enormous hit, which quickly spread and eventually gained access to billions of users.
In the wake of Facebook and YouTube a number of other platforms emerged, which each covered specific niches in digital communication. Some of the major ones were Twitter for presentation of short and catchy messages, Instagram for sharing pictures, and Snapchat for fast communication with a focus on everyday experiences.
There are many advantages to social media. They make it easier to stay in touch with people across long distances, and they can also be used to find new friends who share one's interests or viewpoints. In some ways they may even help strengthen democracy, as they give citizens a more direct way to communicate with politicians.
In the 2010s, people started to become more aware of the disadvantages of social media. For example, many users realised that their personal data had been sold to third party companies, who used it for aggressive marketing or even political manipulation. At the same time, many users report struggles with social media addiction, which in some cases is so strong that it has drastic consequences for other aspects of their lives. Furthermore, social media have proven very efficient tools for spreading fake news, which is a major problem when more and more people use them as their primary source of information.