Social media has changed our lives

10:10 PM, May 16, 2011   |    comments
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Ten years ago, you didn't have a Facebook page or a Twitter account or even know the phrase "social media." In the past decade, this phenomena has changed our lives.

"John had his stroke on the 20th of February in the evening," West Knox County resident Liz Rea explained.

The next few days were chaotic for Liz as she stayed with her husband John at the hospital.

At first, she contacted some friends and family by phone and by e-mail.

"My brother, actually, who lives in Florida suggested Caring Bridge. So I went online and I found that," she said.

Caring Bridge is a social media site for those facing health challenges. Liz posted John's story on a Tuesday night and responses started Wednesday, about 700 all together.

"How important were those responses? They were incredible because they were people are praying for us and words of encouragement for John and for me, some advice," she said.

The social media site kept the Reas connected without spending hours on the phone. And they were able to quickly share news of John's successful recovery.

"It was so much more efficient and more personal to have the Caring Bridge and have people know exactly what was happening with him," she said.

Aaron Sachs runs Symply Social, a social media consulting company.

"I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Four Square, not on Myspace, definitely on Linked In, got a YouTube account," Sachs said. "People just communicate differently, you know, it's like a whole new dialect being introduced to the language."

That language includes shorthand and abbreviations. "You've got emoticons and LOL and all this other stuff," he said.

Sachs said social media removes some traditional gate keepers.

"It used to be you had to go through like an administrative assistant to get to a CEO," he said. "Whereas now I could pull up a CEO's Twitter handle and tweet at him and get a response."

He gets together with fellow Tweeters through "Tweet ups" and keeps up with long distance friends on Facebook.

"That's very different with social media. We're able to interact near instantaneously," he said.

Elizabeth Hendrickson teaches at the University of Tennessee, researches social media, and has seen how it's changed everything.

For example, she said, "If you can't make some big concert you can just follow the hash tags, follow the tweets, and get different links through that of video, people posting video right from the concert a minute before to a flicker page."

And that's not all.

"You can watch a sermon, you can be at a church without truly being there in person because so many of them do the live feeds, have people there that can tweet back and forth with members," she said.

She was excited about her 10 year high school reunion but skipped her 20th last summer, in part, because of Facebook.

"I keep up now selectively with the people I want to keep up with so I don't need to see them all in the same gymnasium," Hendrickson said.

Children are growing up in a social media world. She's seen it in her own home.

"I will say, I'm going to email dad something and he will say why don't you just text him, it's faster. He's five. And that blows my mind because he gets it."

Kids get it, and the rest of us do, too.

Liz Rea said, "It was not a face to face conversation but it was the next best thing."

The average age of a Facebook user is 37.

The name of the social media site attracting younger users? Bebo.

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