10 Ways Social Media is Transforming our World

It’s 2012, and yet I feel more calm about our future than ever before.

10 Ways Social Media is Transforming our Culture and World

The Internet has saved our asses, and we should celebrate.
I’ve been on the Web for a long time, but every once in a while I have one of those tremendous moments when I have a mental flashback to these last 20 or so years…  It happened today… one of my favorite Adele songs, writ large in a YouTube fan culture spectacular.

Someone had pruned the 71 best YouTube covers of the track from the 350,000 or so available.

Woven into a mash-up of all the covers in perfect synchrony.

A Snippet of Magic

I think it must have been magic that produced it.

I mean, even if I had the skill, would I spend that time on a small gift to the Internet?

But that’s what we’ve been doing. Building a capability network of epic proportions.

YouTube Preview Image

Leveraging the power of six degrees of separation.

Uniting in common purpose and effort in ways that we had been rapidly losing.

New Possibilities Created by Connections

Here are 10 ways I see us transforming as a culture, based on the possibilities now afforded to us by connections and technology:

1. Challenging the Status Quo

Before we could reach out to anyone on the planet, did we ever see anything as amazing as the projects and successes associated with challenged paradigms in the world?  With collective marketplaces that match previously disconnected buyers and sellers, fans of every color, ‘it takes a village‘ projects like Open Source, and collective effort never before seen in the world.  We are challenging the status quo, building things, creating things, connecting with each other, self-organizing around important issues, and yes, changing the world little bit by little bit.

2. Changed by Exposure to Diversity

We pay attention to the small details of people’s lives, delight over their family photos, and share at the level of family with a whole bunch of people.  We’re supported when we need to be. We talk about issues and conundrums and joys.  People are connecting and being exposed to both comfortable and diverse perspectives.

That will serve us well.

3. Support is Now Visible

We support people and things we like, on sites like Digg and Reddit

4. Learn More from Each Other

We learn from each other. You can find everything from make-up tips to channeled extraterrestrial messages on YouTube. And if you have ever doubted that kids are learning things these days, check out this very interesting exchange between a student and his English teacher.

5. Crowd Sourced Wisdom

We share our knowledge, wisdom and experiences. Quora is a place where you can ask any question in the world, and expect a reasonable answer.

6. Creativity  and Inspiration is Unleashed

We share our creative ideas and inspirations. Pinterest has redefined the digital portfolio/catalog.

7. Increased Appreciation of the Unique and Handmade

We still have a healthy respect for the unique and the handmade.  Etsy has enabled many a domestic entrepreneur and infused our culture with an amazing richness of creativity.

8. Truth is Exposed

We still haunt Twitter waiting for a cause or idea to support.  Retweets are our weapon in an effort to expose information and transform thinking.  It’s still an incredibly powerful tool, as its signal can not be easily stopped (following censorship laws or not).  ‘Can’t stop the signal!’

9. We are More Authentic

People in the social media space are finally talking more about authenticity, which might help minimize some of the junkier parts of our lovely information city.

10. Anyone can Contribute

We acknowledge that everyone has something to contribute, as long as you’re nice about it.

Tools for Total Transformation of Our World

I’ve been commenting on the Internet and its specifics for a while.  But for now I just want to comment on the wonder of it all.  That in our hands we have a tool that could allow a total transformation of our world, by first transforming our values through visceral experiences and real-time sharing of information.  The Planned Parenthood debacle (and the response to it) is an incredible example of this in action.

We vote with our clicks, and that’s some real power.

All of this underscored by a documentary I watched today.  It’s one of those everyday miracles of the Internet era.  A creation that just a couple of decades ago would have cost many thousands to produce.  Now all you need is the motivation and the time.

The Power to Reach Anyone

But more importantly, here’s how the Internet has changed us: we have been given power to reach anyone, tools to do it with, and reasons to think we might effect change with a vote, e-mail or blog post.  Changing people’s minds and seeing consciousness grow is one of the delights of information mavens.

Relishing in diverse and divergent thinking is another

We are having conversations in unparalleled ways with unparalleled access to the people and forces who can help create change.  We are also increasingly choosing the information we choose to expose ourselves to, and that’s a very good thing.

Now if we could only start getting paid for our contributions…but OMG, I can help change the world, just by using this far-reaching Internet voice.

That’s amazing.

Guest Author: Lisa Galarneau is a socio-cultural anthropologist who studies emerging cultures and trends in technology, information and media.

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Image by h.koppdelaney


  • http://twitter.com/GossipISM Gossip Ink.

    Hi Jeff / Lisa

    Excellent read, love it.

    Though I don’t quite agree with point 9 “we are more authentic”

    I actually think that social media is causing the opposite.  a term “keyboard warrior” comes to mind.

    I use social media every day and i see many people using it to convey a perception of themselves that they want other’s to see.  “I bought an expensive car”, “I’m going overseas again”, “here are more pictures of my kids that are better than yours” and to me the boundary of authenticity, arrogance, and perception gets greatly blurred.

    though if indeed these people are arrogant and egotistical, than you comment or authenticity is 100%

    but i still think that people online, are never really what they are in real life.


  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Jeff and Lisa,

    Excellent article which makes many good points.

    Support being visible, this one jumps out at me.

    I am travelling Southeast Asia for 9 months now. Here in Thailand when I check out travel brochures, I am seeing hotels in places like Koh Samui listing their Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Flick accounts below their advertisements. The support is uber visible.

    Not only that, it makes it a zillion times easier to connect with these folks. My girlfriend and I have been booking places through email or websites. It’s been about 95% cyber, each of our bookings, and having Facebook Fan Pages or twitter accounts – especially when people are responsive – makes an absolute world of difference.

    Even as we traveled through rural Laos last week, in the middle of nowhere in a Communist country, farmers and their kids are tweeting and checking their Facebook on hand-helds. I am not kidding. This trip has been immensely eye-opening. Internet cafes are everywhere here and in every cafe at least 5 people are on Facebook, with more and more on Twitter and Youtube as well…and this is in “the middle of nowhere”, in many places.

    Before this trip I would tell you that people who use social media are Westerners who want to grow their businesses or chat about mundane stuff. I had no clue the rate at which people in rural, exotic locales have adopted SM, but after being in places like Laos, Cambodia, Bali, Burma and Thailand over the past 9 months, my perception has changed dramatically.

    Thanks for sharing your insight guys.


  • http://twitter.com/ConnorMeaks Connor Meakin

    Some good points raised in this article.I would add that some social media is disengaging face 2 face conversations to a certain extent. Some people rely on social media channels as function of reality. I think the norms are changing. People are prioritizing online and mobile conversations sometimes at the cost of real life interactions. what are your thoughts?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pamela-Lockwood-Schott/668246531 Pamela Lockwood Schott

    Great post, Lisa. For me, the power of social media makes me seek out more and more the face-to-face interactions that come as a result of connecting with people I would never otherwise know. The world truly is at our fingertips!

  • http://www.socialmediapearls.com Shirley Williams

    Love this post. Social media has taken away traditional boundaries, borders  and silos.  We truly are living in a more transparent environment and so there is an adjustment for those who are uncomfortable with this level of transparency. On the other side of the coin, it is quite liberating!

  • http://www.markmolina.com/ Easy Home Business

    This is a great post and definitely true.  The power we now have available to us through social media is nothing short of amazing.

  • http://www.jacquelynlynn.com/ Jacquelyn Lynn

    Great post, Lisa. Social media is transforming our world in essentially every way. But even as the proverbial walls have tumbled down, all of us — not just businesses but individuals — should develop a social media strategy so that we can maintain some degree of control as we explore and exhilarate in this amazing new world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lgalarneau1 Lisa Galarneau

    Some good news from Syria: 

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    We pay attention to the small details of people’s lives, delight over their family photos, and share at the level of family with a whole bunch of people.  We’re supported when we need to be.   People are connecting and being exposed to both comfortable and diverse perspectives.

  • http://twitter.com/ViralTech Viral Technologies

    loved how you called this video a gift to the internet! I know some videos are quite the opposite, but I liked that you positioned it in this way. Great blog!

  • Gary_23119

    SM gives an opportunity for a much wider range of conversations with the world than what used to be possible. We are no longer confined to our local school, church, or job for information or ideas.

  • http://www.surefiresocial.com/marketing-services/search-engine-optimization/ Staci Burruel

    Using social media is the quickest way for you to build brand recognition for you and your art business. It’s better to just focus your time on one or two profiles, so you are able to update regularly. Your art blog can be used to acquire instant feedback on your latest painting, art show, or content. It also becomes a community where you’ll meet other artists, inspire others, and attract buyers.

  • Clarie

    Love your article! Thanks so much for posting!

  • Richard Anderson

    Lisa, , this is an excellent post and a timely reminder of the power and connectivity of social media. As someone who uses social media daily, it’s easy to lose sight of the reach our musings often have. Let’s hope social media contributes more to those countries whose voice is yet to be heard in all its uncensored glory!

  • Seda Miranoglu

    Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Social Network transforming Turkey