THE BLOG

How Much Has Social Media Changed Your Life?

13/02/2014 13:03 GMT | Updated 14/04/2014 10:59 BST

Both Facebook and Flickr entered their second decade of existence in the past week. Young adults graduating from university today cannot recall any life before the World Wide Web became easy to use with the launch of NetScape Navigator in 1994.

The Internet is pervasive and has crept into every aspect of our lives, with many people now talking of time away from the web and social media in the same way that they would talk about a diet - a digital detox.

On the surface, more transparent communication is a good thing; it's just what we need to improve trust in our elected leaders, but it is clear that some behavioural changes are not desirable.

Children can bully each other remotely now, no longer needing to confine abuse to school. The news agenda is now often driven by a desire to create content that is easily shareable or that drives clicks - a celebrity photographed shopping in a supermarket is now a valid 'story' for many previously high-brow publications even with no apparent editorial reason for the story to be published.

The pros and cons of this new social society are endlessly debated - mostly online. But what is clear is that we cannot un-invent this form of communication. The social society is here to stay.

It is a world in which every aspect of our life is influenced, and often controlled by, social communication. But to argue that 'everything' will change makes this concept too nebulous to grasp and describe. However it is not difficult to find concrete examples of the social society:

Sex and relationships; the anonymity of the Internet allows everyone to find their perfect date without the embarrassment of talking to strangers in bars. Online dating is no longer a geeky way to meet a partner. However, this anonymity also allows for niche desires to be satisfied without embarrassment. The Ashley Madison dating service allows married people to discreetly find a lover, their slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair."

Gay dating service Grindr allows men to see other men seeking sex in real-time on a map using their smart phone. With social communication and location awareness, sex has been commoditised into nothing more than an entertaining pastime.

Entertainment; when was the last time you read a detailed analysis of a story giving both sides of the argument? News has become partisan, click-friendly, and just another piece of the entertainment market.

Musicians no longer have a market for recorded music, meaning they must revert to the ancient model of travelling minstrels and the movie business relied on post-theatre DVD sales to support new blockbusters - a market that is about to vanish.

Money;bitcoin has proven that a new global currency can be created if people believe in it. Mark Zuckerberg has over half of all the people using the Internet on Facebook. What if he created an international financial institution that allowed Facebook members to lend to each other using a new currency?

Politics; In Switzerland the public can put any new law to a public vote if they can get 1% of the electorate to agree a vote is needed. This kind of direct democracy is well suited for social media - instead of just viewing cat videos you could be directly voting in parliament over breakfast rather than waiting five years for the next chance to show you are unsatisfied with the government.

Any government that believes they can blunder on without introducing far more access to direct democracy for the people will be staring a revolution in the face. Some are already starting.

Education; Have you seen how fantastic the technology used for online lectures at the Open University is these days? The days of three drunken years living on a university campus are numbered - not least because it is now so expensive to study full-time. Many more students will start their career at 18 and spend the first few years of their career mixing work and education.

Work; children at school today are in training for jobs that don't even exist. Global job networks like oDesk are allowing skilled individuals to sell their services to the world. Many young graduates now find the competition for work so intense that they need to intern for several years just to gain the experience needed to get a paid position.

The world of work has vastly changed from the days when a good degree automatically led to a good job and this is largely because of the ability of those hiring to easily find good people from anywhere.

Think about it. Social communication is affecting a lot more than just your ability to get anything done because you want to tweet just one more time... this is the social society.