Technology has consistently been taking over our lives. Today, however, the phenomenon goes deeper; social media is now becoming something that we cannot live without. Through social media, we can easily keep up current relationships and build new ones, share our experiences and learn from others’, find opportunities and (with careless presence) lose them. Many people enjoy social media, but many overlook what makes it so great. Is it the mere idea that we can express our happiness or understand someone else’s sorrows through an Instagram or Facebook post? Or is there more?
There is one particular aspect that I have found to be particularly underappreciated, and that is how social media can be used to solve your everyday real world problems. This concept has been present ever since the beginning of social media, and is continuing to evolve with the progression of social media as a whole. From borrowing that vacuum from your dorm-mates upstairs to selling concert tickets to people you trust, to determining the best route home from work to finding the hours of your favorite café in Amherst, social media is consistently present in our lives even when we may not even realize it.
Selling to someone you trust
Prior to websites like StubHub and SeatGeek, concert tickets were much harder to resell in the event that you couldn’t make it to the show. In 1995, however, eBay and Craigslist were founded, and many ticket resellers would use those (in addition to just word of mouth) to promote and sell their tickets. The drawbacks, however, were (and continue to be) that eBay charges a fee, and on Craigslist the potential purchaser is anonymous. When StubHub rolled around in 2000, the anonymity and money guarantee issue was resolved, but the fee issue wasn’t. Social media has opened up a whole new realm. Not only is there no fee being collected by some third party, it is far more comforting to be selling to someone that you know or someone that you are somehow connected to (for me at least, I’m not the biggest fan of the anonymity of Craigslist). By posting on Facebook or tweeting, word can easily spread about the tickets you are selling, and the result is a buyer you can trust. This is not necessarily just because you know the buyer, but also because the buyer will feel more responsible for following through.
Posting in a common group
Another common use of social media today is seen all over Facebook groups. I am a member of several groups and like several pages on Facebook; UMass class pages, dorm pages, and floor pages, just to name a few that I have belonged to. Freshman year, there were countless circumstances where someone would post in the dorm group looking for a vacuum cleaner, needing help moving furniture, or just asking a general question that dorm-mates might know the answer to. This also happens very frequently in the class pages, particularly the Class of 2017 page (the one I belong to). Similarly to the concept covered in the previous section, a simple post in the Class of 2017 page is a great way to let people know you are selling that couch in your living room or that intro to geology textbook you may never use again.
Social Media Location Analytics
Data analytics is one of the most booming spaces in today’s tech world. Social media has properly adopted analytics to solve many of your everyday problems. One of the most common is finding the best route to get somewhere: You are on your way to an interview, and you naturally use your Waze app as your GPS and way of knowing how to get to this office building you have never been to before. All is going well and then all of the sudden your phone buzzes, stating that there is an accident ahead and automatically calculates an alternative, quicker route. Waze is able to do this with the help of location analytics and people who are near the accident “reporting” it. This is a prime example of an overlooked social media impact on our lives. Similarly, anyone who has an iPhone is probably aware of the location-sharing feature (and if you aren’t then you should be!), which enables you to show anyone in a group message where you are located at any given point in time (which of course can be creepy or helpful, depending on its purpose).
If none of this is helpful or relevant to you, then you are probably not on social media and have just wasted your time reading this. For the rest of us, there are several everyday problems that are solved (or at least made easier) by the simplest of social media integration. As we look ahead into the future of the technology space, it is exciting to consider the great possibilities and solutions that could become possible with the evolution of social media.