Where we are up to, now: how and where we are tells us about who we are

Nielsen recently published a finding that among the top websites, we spent the most time on Facebook. The data they present blows everything else out of the water. What does that say? Social media is here to stay and it’s part of the new norm that just can’t be ignored.

I remember in the early days of social media, pre-2005, that many people thought of it as a fad that will go away. It exploded with the rise of Facebook and Twitter, and again, many felt it was too gimmicky and sensational that at the time we thought it will be on its way out the door soon. Yet years later, it’s still here, thriving, and even morphing into new platforms. Everything can, and is being, made social now. Emerging technologies by default will have a social component from now on. Companies are retrofitting themselves as social businesses.

Social media is powerful. Not only in terms of reaching a target audience to market a service or product to them, but it’s also a live, evolving database. It allows companies to understand their consumers, their passions, desires and curiosities. Organically, as social animals, people organize into groups. They find people they identify with, work on feeling comfortable with them, spend more time with them, win their favors, and frequently reconnect. It’s a human instinct to stay in environments that feel comfortable, and forming smaller groups allow us to better manage a vast world. For a person, these groups are safe, relevant, confirm their beliefs and contribute to upholding their identity. With the rise of technology and proliferation of electronic devices, it has become easier, like never before, to constantly be connected.

Social media is popular because individuals always want to make their mark. It’s an evolutionary trait: the need to be known, to exist in the eyes of others. This validates us and help make us feel alive especially during times when we fear being abandoned and not being acknowledged. Facebook allows us to act on this trait, through status updates that broadcast to the whole world our whereabouts and current topics that tickle our fancies. It allows us to share and strengthen connections with people who we already know or are within our network. The static profile design makes it a less competitive space; the goal is to highlight the person’s background and interests, instead of their webdesign or creative skills. Our friends are on our pages, and we get instant updates to their lives. It’s home for us in the digital space.

That’s what makes Facebook so great. It’s active and passive at the same time. It gets to the core of a constant human need for interaction and socialization, and bringing it online to make it more efficient. Instead of figuring out if so-and-so has a friend who-is-this-and-that, we go online and tap away on our keyboard and check. If nostalgia brings us back to third grade adventures, we punch in a few names on our computers and we can rekindle friendships as easy as that. I can type 50 names of the kids I went to 2nd and 3rd grade with in Manila, and I’m sure at least half of them will show up on Facebook, ready to be added to my circle. When we feel alone and detached, we can just hop on one site and instantly feel better because we are reminded that we are part of a social network. We belong. All of these add to why Facebook can boast a length of tune of 7 hours per month.

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