Ryan Schoenefeld: a brief history of social media and the digital landscape


First it was MySpace. They dominated for years and eventually became isolated from assorted social environments that are more prevalent now. Not to mention, everyone who harnessed MySpace remembers having Tom as a friend.

Eventually the trend arguably withered and gave way to new applications such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Facebook, just to name a few.

These environments have seemingly remained relevant, despite the monopoly of social media sites that have recently gained traction.

To some extent, I would even classify YouTube as a social media networking website. The reason – YouTube’s users have the ability to provide feedback and share video resources with anyone scattered throughout the world. Isn’t that basically the premise of social media, to bring people together regardless of location, through digital channels of exchange? They may be networking with different ideas, overall information and content, but on the surface, they are still expressing themselves through visualization and video communication.

Moreover, we have all experienced the joy of YouTube. A friend recommends a video that catches his or her attention and eventually you return the favor to one of your close associates. This could be classified as social networking as far as I am concerned, because there are videos that intermittently trend and experience a large influx of traffic, based on their accessibility.

This accessibility can directly correlate to friends recommending videos, and even those that are featured on the landing page. Individuals could also post specific videos via their social networking platforms, which could also influence people into viewing videos on-line. Regardless of the street that directs them to the actual video—it to some extent was facilitated by social media and the influence of other individuals through social means.

Nonetheless, as the road continues to be paved, time will tell what new applications appear and which ones will fail to sustain relevance. I would have to assume they are all vulnerable, considering new social networking programs could rapidly appear as technology continues to expand. This expansion in a sense cannot be predicted and foreshadowed; it eventually takes its course, with the ever-dynamic environment that we classify as the social media landscape. 

In addition, social media continues to pave the road of social innovation. It has become nearly impossible to avoid utilizing social media networks. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Delicious, Foursquare or Orkut, it really doesn’t matter. There are so many different options to choose from, that we are all bound to discover one that we align with.

Companies have even extended special offers for individuals that use social platforms. For example, Mashable recently reported that Ann Taylor offers individuals that are mayors on Foursquare a 25% discount in New York City. They even plan to expand the offer to other stories, depending on the successfulness of the campaign in the New York City locations.

If you are unfamiliar with Foursquare, it is a social networking option that allows you to check-in at various destinations throughout the day. Depending on the number of times that you have checked-in, you are awarded different titles. Users are also granted the capacity to recommend different locations in your hometown, which provides personal advice for your prospective, to varying web friends throughout the world.

Not to mention, people can update their social accounts at their convenience, regardless of their location. For the most part, the convenience factor is facilitated by mobile smart phones, which have hypothetically transformed the way that we function.

All-in-all, the changes have enabled people to update their information wherever, whenever and however. It also helps provide a quality user-experience, and eliminates the hurdles of staying in contact with those individuals, which are important to you and require constant contact. 

At some point, I also believe we will all be expected to be fluent in social media and basically unable to stay truly connected without it. This naturally leads one to question—if social media is beneficial to those involved with it, or if it will create more of a divide amongst individuals, who don’t have access to the Internet on a daily basis.

What do you think will happen in the world of social media and technology? Would you classify social media as beneficial or detrimental to society as a whole? Consider the questions and share your thoughts with your social friends—start the digital conversation.

Ryan Schoenefeld is a recent graduate from St. Cloud State University, in which he focused on public relations, graphic design, digital marketing and communication. Since graduation, he launched and analyzed a social media marketing campaign for M Squared Group, a results-driven marketing company in Minneapolis. He is currently a Web Content Specialist at Health Partners and recently commenced The Continuous Disquisition. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

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