Home' Australian Pharmacist : August 2011 Contents Vol. 30 -- August #08
Part 1: Tool or toy social media
is here and now
By Peter Waterman
'This "telephone" has too many
shortcomings to be seriously
considered as a means of
communication. The device is
inherently of no value to us.
Western Union internal memo, 1876
As disastrously inaccurate predictions
go, the above prediction rates among
the most memorable, particularly
in the field of communications.
The telephone went on to
revolutionise communications and
was the direct forerunner of the latest
communication tools which have also
been subject to some bad predictions
-- social media.
Even though we seem to be
surrounded by social media today, the
phenomenon that is changing the way
we do business and communicate
had its origins only 14 years ago,
and some of the most popular social
media is less than 10 years old. Even
now, some people dispute its value as
little more than a mere plaything.
What is it?
Writing in the Journal of Computer-
Related Communication, Danah M
Boyd of the University of California-
Berkeley and Nicole B Ellison of
Michigan State University defined
social media as '
... web-based services
that allow individuals to 1) construct a
public or semi-public profile within a
bounded system, 2) articulate a list of
other users with whom they share a
connection, and 3) view and traverse
their list of connections and those
made by others within the system.
The nature and nomenclature of these
connections may vary from site to site'.
Peter Waterman is Director of Public Affairs
at PSA National Office in Canberra.
The first social media site
recognisable under this definition was
SixDegrees.com, which only appeared
as recently as 1997 and which, while
attracting millions of users, failed as a
business and disappeared in 2000.
It did, however, signal the start of
the next communication revolution;
a revolution which continues today
and is gaining momentum at a
significance of social media is to look
at the uptake of Facebook, the post
popular social media at present, now
nudging some 630 million users.
Social networks were around before
Facebook, but there is no question
that Facebook was the first application
to excite the masses and gain real
Interestingly, Australia leads the world
in the use of social media,with the
average user in this country spending
7.19 hours a month using social media.
Next is the US at 6.35 hours a month.
Business futurist, commentator and
analyst Morris Miselowski believes
social media will affect just about all
our everyday activities in the future.
'It underpins everything we do in the
way we communicate, whether it be
on a personal or on a business basis,
Mr Miselowski said.
It harks back to the question of not
so long ago of how relevant will the
mobile be, how relevant will email be.
Social media has only been around in
a real sense for about six years so it's
come a long way in a short time.
In some respects, Mr Miselowski
believes social media actually allows
us to be ourselves.
'The reason that it has become so
prevalent now and has taken off with
such wildfire zest is because it does
hark back to the innate need we have
to communicate with each other, and
that's been stifled for many centuries,
'We are hardwired to live in
communities and during the industrial
revolution that need was beaten out of
us when we were told we had to be
responsible for ourselves, had to have
our own careers and so on. We were
forced to move from the extended
family to the nuclear family -- but that
doesn't have to be the case anymore.
We can go back to being community
oriented -- via social media.
'Things like Facebook help us to
communicate. Before we used to
catch up with our friends every few
months but there was no context for
the time in between those meetings.
Now it's not uncommon for people
even though they don't physically
meet to have a good understanding
of each other and their day-to-day
'What I am truly hoping is we will get
past this business of telling everyone
when we go to the bathroom or how
many cups of coffee we are having.
We are getting to a maturity stage
with social media where all that drivel
A business tool
While it appears that the most time
on social media is still spent surfing,
communicating and socialising,
social media is increasingly being
seen as an essential business tool.
This perhaps is no better highlighted
than by the decision of Pepsi Co
to abandon, after 23 years, its
advertising in the US Super Bowl and
instead pour $20 million into a social
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