The Rise of Social Media
Sat, April 17, 2021

The Rise of Social Media

Recent hearings with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg are convincing more and more people that perhaps social media is not all it’s cracked up to be / Photo by: Twin Design via Shutterstock

 

Social media is either a blessing or a curse. 

Recent hearings with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg are convincing more and more people that perhaps social media is not all it’s cracked up to be. But at the same time, apps like Twitter are bringing awareness to social issues that don’t usually get attention, turning the spotlight to causes that matter. 

Just recently, a Muslim girl went viral for gaming China-owned TikTok’s algorithm and using the platform to attack China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, a message she would not have delivered to countless people in many parts of the world if not for social media. 

Truly, the value and consequences of the connected world have become a mixed bag of possibilities, some good, some bad. But let’s step back and trace the origins of social media to know how it has become such a powerful medium nowadays. 

 

Ballooning Stats 

With its humble beginnings in the early 2000s, the first social media site was MySpace which, according to Our World in Data, a web publication portraying the social, economic, and environmental history of our world. 

It was launched in 2004 and housed the earliest digital natives of the generation. Other older sites are Facebook, YouTube, and Reddit. Over the years, despite being embroiled in controversy after controversy, Facebook saw its user population reach 2.26 billion as of data from 2018, making it the number one social media platform on the planet. It is followed by YouTube with 1.90 billion, probably because of their new business model with influencers and YouTubers and monetized content.

Instagram and WeChat are tied at third with 1 billion users each, followed by Tumblr with 624 million users, TikTok with 500 million, Reddit 355 million, Twitter 329 million, and Pinterest 246 million. 

Truly, the value and consequences of the connected world have become a mixed bag of possibilities, some good, some bad / Photo by: everything possible via Shutterstock

 

Facebook may be at the top of the list when it comes to the number of followers it has but breaking down the data shows that specific sites appeal to specific groups and demographics more than others. This is why anyone who can seamlessly move between social media platforms will often see a stark difference between online cultures on Reddit, Twitter, or Facebook. 

For instance, younger people gravitate toward apps that cultivate more interaction with users such as Instagram or Snapchat. According to Our World in Data records, “The majority of people under 25 use Snapchat (73%), while only 3% of people over 65 use it.” It can be explained that perhaps these apps are almost always subject to change and usually have interfaces that appeal to those more adept at multitasking, which will be most of the youth of today. 

In terms of what gender uses what, Our World in Data declared YouTube as the most used app among male users, followed by WhatsApp, and finally, Reddit. For women, Facebook is on top of the list, followed by Instagram and Pinterest. 

Data on Social Media Usage 

The more active users are from rich countries because of more widespread and reliable internet access there. Social media usage is more common in young adults than in older generations. The 16-to-24 demographic is the most active users of social media. By country, 96% of this demographic use social media in Sweden, the leading country, followed by Portugal at 95.3%, Denmark at 94.5%, the UK at 92.7%, and New Zealand at 91.4%. 

Ninja Outreach, an influencer marketing and analysis platform, reported that 92% of teenagers are online every day and 71% of them use more than one social network. This just speaks about the ability of the current generation to multitask efficiently, especially because every social media is more nuanced than the other. The website Digital Marketing Institute defines the differences in some of these social media:

- Tumblr, despite being labeled “dead” since it shifted ownership a bunch of times and underwent several changes, is an “interactive blogging platform…particularly popular among a younger demographic.” 

- WhatsApp is a social media for private exchanges like Facebook’s Messenger.

- Snapchat is “a video- and image-sharing platform with a difference.” This is also the social media platform that some celebrities with younger fans use. The Kardashians are often on the platform since their fans skew younger.

- Pinterest, on the other hand, is more of an “interactive catalog of ideas” where “users can share ideas and information by pinning them to their digital board.” 

- Instagram, of course, is another force to be reckoned with, as it is possibly the largest “visual social channel” of the era with millions of active users. In recent years, it has also helped launch so many people’s careers, as the steady rise of the influencer culture and influencer marketing seems to have no end in sight. 
Social media platforms are a reflection of this highly digitized society we now live in, where information is literally at the tip of the user’s fingers but whose authenticity cannot be relied upon a hundred percent.