Social media are definitely popular; but what happens next?

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ITV News Calendar has recently reached a milestone of 100,000 likes on their Facebook page, an occasion that offered a good opportunity to discuss a bit more about the popularity and influence of social media.

In the UK, more than seven in ten (72%) Internet users have a social media profile and 81% of them use it at least once a day. Indeed, the numbers reflect the fact that the popularity of social media is now well established. But there are wider issues that are increasingly getting more attention and worth exploring in further detail here. Below I outline four key issues:

1. Data privacy and ethics issues concern users more than ever before
Users’ concerns about data privacy, the control they have over personal information, how this information is used by third parties or how social media data is collected and used for research purposes has become a significant issue. It is true that the very nature of social media encourages sharing of information and network building. Often enough, social media users out of fear of missing out, or for the sake of their own popularity might be willing to share large amounts of personal or sensitive personal data, without realizing that in the hands of third parties such data might easily be misused without their full consent. But concerns about privacy, especially among teens, might also influence usage.Research and reports show that especially younger audiences are particularly cautious with social media and demonstrate high levels of understanding of their privacy settings.

2. A smartphone society
Two thirds of UK adults (66%) use smartphones. These have now overtaken laptops as UK’s Internet users most preferred device. Users tend to check very often their social media newsfeeds so they can be to be constantly updated about what’s happening in the world. As their newsfeed becomes the focus of their attention, they transform themselves into a certain type of editors of their own content. This might not only influence their behaviour but also their approach to the world around them or their own responsibility towards information sharing.

3. Towards a more visual social media web
In an information over-loaded world, images are much easier to navigate and technology has driven the transition towards a more visual social media web (especially through mobile devices). In 2014 Mary Meeker (in her annual Internet Trends report) highlighted that 1.8 billion images were now being uploaded and shared every day on Flickr, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp. Images not only allow for a much richer and quicker way of communication, but they also offer valuable insights into how users see the world and what is important for them.

4. Teens’ behaviour can show future trends and alter social media strategy
Born and grown up in a digital age, teenagers demonstrate a radically different behaviour than older generations. Although teenagers might speak a language relatively unknown to the majority of adults, they can shape the social media market and form the future of technology consumption. Facebook’s recent virtual reality developments for example, aim at younger audiences with an interest in sharing not only just information, but also experiences anywhere in the world.


1 – Τhis post was originally published at the Information School, University of Sheffield, blog:

2- Photo: personal collection; taken at the Information School, University of Sheffield, November 2015.

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