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Social media are computer-mediated technologies that allow the creating and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. The variety of stand-alone and built-in social media services currently available introduces challenges of definition. However, there are some common features.

A soldier views an armed forces-oriented Facebook page on a mobile device.

Social media are computer-mediated technologies that allow the creating and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. The variety of stand-alone and built-in social media services currently available introduces challenges of definition. However, there are some common features.

  1. Social media are interactive Web 2.0 Internet-based applications.
  2. User-generated content, such as text posts or comments, digital photos or videos, and data generated through all online interactions, are the lifeblood of social media.
  3. Users create service-specific profiles for the website or app that are designed and maintained by the social media organization.
  4. Social media facilitate the development of online social networks by connecting a user's profile with those of other individuals and/or groups.

Social media use web-based and mobile technologies on smartphones and tablet computers to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals, communities and organizations can share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content or pre-made content posted online. They introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between businesses, organizations, communities and individuals. Social media changes the way individuals and large organizations communicate. These changes are the focus of the emerging field of technoself studies. In America, a survey reported that 84 percent of adolescents in America have a Facebook account.

Social media differ from paper-based or traditional electronic media such as TV broadcasting in many ways, including quality, reach, frequency, usability, immediacy, and permanence. Social media operate in a dialogic transmission system (many sources to many receivers). This is in contrast to traditional media which operates under a monologic transmission model (one source to many receivers), such as a paper newspaper which is delivered to many subscribers. Some of the most popular social media websites are Facebook (and its associated Facebook Messenger), WhatsApp, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Baidu Tieba, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Gab, Google+, YouTube, Viber, Snapchat, Weibo and WeChat. These social media websites have more than 100,000,000 registered users.

Observers have noted a range of positive and negative impacts from social media use. Social media can help to improve individuals' sense of connectedness with real and/or online communities and social media can be an effective communications (or marketing) tool for corporations, entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, including advocacy groups and political parties and governments. At the same time, concerns have been raised about possible links between heavy social media use and depression, and even the issues of cyberbullying, online harassment and "trolling". Currently, about half of young adults have been cyberbullied and of those, 20 percent said that they have been cyberbullied on a regular basis. Another survey was carried out among 7th grade students in America which is known as the Precaution Process Adoption Model. According to this study 69 percent of 7th grade students claim to have experienced cyberbullying and they also said that it is worse than face to face bullying. According to Nielsen, Internet users continue to spend more time on social media sites than on any other type of site. At the same time, the total time spent on social media sites in the U.S. across PCs as well as on mobile devices increased by 99 percent to 121 billion minutes in July 2012 compared to 66 billion minutes in July 2011. For content contributors, the benefits of participating in social media have gone beyond simply social sharing to building reputation and bringing in career opportunities and monetary income.

Over 60% of 13 to 17-year-olds have at least one profile on social media, with many spending more than two hours a day on social networking sites.

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