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Social media mainly consists of user-generated Internet content. Rather than waiting for the professionals to bring content to them, anyone with a computer and Internet connection now has the ability to create content themselves and share it with the world. Social media gives content creators a venue to express their ideas to anyone who will read them. Most are highly interactive, which is partly why they are appealing to many.
Some of the most well-known social media sites include MySpace™, LinkedIn®, and Facebook®. All of these allow users the ability to create a profile, put up pictures, update their current moods and feelings, and add friends. Additionally, users can choose who sees their profile, whether that be anyone on the Internet, or just friends and family. MySpace™ is typically most popular among the younger crowd, while LinkedIn® is known for being a site where many professionals have profiles related to their careers. Facebook® started out as a website that allowed only college students, but has developed into an online meeting space for people of all ages.
Some websites do not necessarily allow in-depth profiles, but they do let users show off current thoughts and some photographs. Twitter™ is a site that allows users to post a brief biography, a few pictures, and unlimited short updates. While the updates can only be up to 140 characters, they can be anything from links and quotes to updates on the user's mood and thought-provoking questions. Twitter™ is heavily used by businesses to keep followers updated on the company, but plenty of individuals and celebrities alike also use the site.
Not all social media revolves around showing off pictures and status updates. Some websites are geared toward compiling news, commenting on it, and spreading it around the Internet. On Digg™, readers of the posted news can vote on each story, which can determine the articles that get to stay on the front page. StumbleUpon introduces users to content that they might like based on their interests, allowing them to either recommend it or move on to something else. Delicious™ allows users to add all their favorite sites as bookmarks, organize them, and then share them with other users.
These are just a few of the popular social media websites. New sites are being created often, while some that might be currently popular will eventually disappear from the public eye, or perhaps morph into something else entirely. One of the main aspects of social media networks is that they are accessible to everyone, allowing nearly anyone to become a content producer instead of just a reader. This means that social media can be described as constantly changing.
@Soulfox -- it is a pity that you have picked the most negative aspect of social media to mention. Don't get me wrong. I agree with you all the way on this, but people should also keep in mind that there is a lot of good that comes with social media, too. It is a great way for old friends to keep up with each other even though they live far apart (that's just one example of the good that comes with social media).
As for the bullying, that highlights why parents should know what their kids are doing online. Parents who have kids that are being bullied should know about it so they can talk about it with their children. Parents of bullies should also discuss a few things with their kids.
It has also become a great arena for school kids to use to bully each other. People need to be aware of that. Kids used to just get bullied at school, but social media means that nasty students can torment others during the summer, at night or anytime at all.
It is true that some of the more popular social media outlets restrict minors, but how many kids pay attention to those restrictions and how well are they enforced?
With the increasing awareness of problems caused by bullying, you would think more attention would be paid to how social media is used to pick on kids. Some efforts have been made along those lines, but not nearly enough.