What’s the Difference Between Social Media and Social Networking?
As mentioned earlier, a lot of people user the terms social media and social networking interchangeably as if they mean the exact same thing. Although the difference is subtle, they’re not the same. Social networking is really a subcategory of social media.
The easiest way to understand the difference between social media and social networking is by thinking about the terms media and networking separately. Media refers to the information you’re actually sharing — whether it’s a link to an article, a video, an animated GIF, a PDF document, a simple status update or anything else.
Networking, on the other hand, has to do with who your audience is and the relationships you have with them. Your network can include people like friends, relatives, colleagues, anyone from your past, current customers, mentors and even complete strangers.
They certainly overlap, which is why it gets confusing. For example, you can share media with your social network to gather likes and comments — a form of social networking. But you can also just upvote a link on Reddit, which is a social media platform, to help out the community and give your say in the matter without any intention of building relationships with other users.
Still confused? Try to think of social media like fruit. Apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, berries, melons and pineapples are all part of the broader fruit category the same way that social networking, social news, social bookmarking, wikis, blogs and private web messaging are part of the broader social media category.
Are Traditional Media Also Social Media?
Traditional media was mentioned earlier on in this article just to demonstrate broader examples of media, but don’t be fooled into thinking that TV, radio, and newspapers are a part of social media. At least not quite yet entirely. The line drawn between the two is slowly thinning as each continues to evolve.
Social media doesn’t just give you information but interacts with you while giving you that information. This interaction can be as simple as asking for your comments or letting you vote on an article, or it can be as complex as Flixster recommending movies to you based on the ratings of other people with similar interests.
Think of regular media as a one-way street where you can read a newspaper or listen to a report on television, but you have very limited ability to give your thoughts on the matter. Social media, on the other hand, is a two-way street that gives you the ability to communicate too.
Are Blogs a Part of Social Media?
Copyblogger published an interesting article several years ago, making the argument that blogs are indeed social media, despite the fact that people tend to put them in a category all on their own these days. In fact, blogs are one of the oldest forms of social media that dominated the web long before we were friending and following everyone on social networks.
The key features that make blogs part of social media are their user accounts, comment sections, and blog networks. Tumblr, Medium, WordPress, and Blogger are just a few examples of big blog platforms that have very active community blog networks.
What Are Some of the Known Issues With Social Media?
Social media isn’t all just fun and games with your friends, celebrities you admire, and brands you follow. There are lots of common problems that most major social media platforms haven’t totally solved, despite their effort to do so.
- Spam: Social media makes it easy for spammers — both real people and bots — to bombard other people with content. If you have a Twitter account, you’ve probably experienced a few spambot follows or interactions. Likewise, if you run a WordPress blog, you may have gotten a spam comment or two caught by your spam filter.
- Cyberbullying/Cyberstalking: Children and teenagers are especially susceptible to cyberbullying because they take more risks when it comes to posting on social media. And now that we all interact on social media via our mobile devices, most major platforms make it possible to share our locations, opening up the doors for cyberstalkers to target us.
- Self-image manipulation: What a user posts about themselves on social media only represents a small portion of their life. While followers may see someone who’s happy and living it up via their posts on social media in such a way that makes them feel boring or inadequate by comparison, the truth is that users have the power to completely control what parts they do and don’t want to broadcast on social media to manipulate their own self-image.
- Information overload: It’s not unusual to have over 200 Facebook friends or follow over 1,000 Twitter accounts. With so many accounts to follow and so many people posting new content, it’s almost impossible to keep up.
- Fake news: Fake news websites promote links to their own totally false news stories on social media in order to drive traffic to them. Many users have no idea that they’re fake in the first place.
- Privacy/Security: Many social media platforms still get hacked from time to time despite having good security measures in place. Some also don’t offer all the privacy options that users need to keep their information as private as they want them to be.
What Does the Future Hold for Social Media?
It’s difficult to predict anything exactly, but if one thing can be said about the future of social media, it will probably be more personalized and less noisy. Over-sharing will be less of a problem and filtering out irrelevant information will become a stronger trend.
Snapchat is a social media platform that’s really at the forefront of social media evolution. Rather than blasting out updates for all our friends and followers to see, we use Snapchat more like we communicate in real life — with specific people only at specific times.
Other big social networks like Instagram and Facebook have also taken inspiration from Snapchat for its stories feature, integrating nearly identical features into their own platforms so users have the opportunity to share quick photos or short videos that are only available to view for 24 hours.
If anything, social media is probably about to move more toward ephemeral sharing for quicker, more intimate sharing without the stress of having to blast something out to hundreds or thousands of followers that stays up there unless it’s manually deleted. The pressure of garnering tons of likes and comments on regular social media posts also plays a huge factor, suggesting that more casual forms of social sharing, such as through stories, could be the social media way of the future.