Social media are computer-mediated tools that allow people, companies and other organizations to create, share, or exchange information, career interests, ideas, and pictures/videos in 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 Web 2.0 Internet-based applications, (2) user-generated content (UGC) is the lifeblood of the social media organism, (3) users create their own profiles for the website or app, which is designed and maintained by the social media organization, and (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 depend on mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content. They introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between businesses, organizations, communities, and individuals. These changes are the focus of the emerging field of technoself studies.
Social media differ from traditional paper-based or industrial media 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 that operates under a monologic transmission model (one source to many receivers). Some of the most popular social media websites are Facebook (and its associated Facebook Messenger), WhatsApp, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Baidu Tieba and Snapchat.
There are many effects that stem from Internet usage. According to Nielsen, Internet users continue to spend more time with social media sites than any other type of site. At the same time, the total time spent on social media in the U.S. across PC and 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, as discussed in Tang, Gu, and Whinston (2012).