The entertainment analysts at The Nielsen Company report an 82% increase in time spent by global consumers on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites between the years of 2008 and 2009. Additionally, the worldwide web traffic to social media sites has not plateaued yet. The viral popularity of Twitter, for instance, is evident in its almost 600% rise in users between December 2008 and December 2009.
With the recent advent and rapid spread of social media internet applications, entertainment has undergone a major transition. Corporate and industry controlled television, radio, film, music, and online media have sustained a dominant role in the entertainment industry until now. The pressure for artists and developers to generate increasing profits for entertainment companies has resulted in a sort of “tyranny of the masses” in which the vast majority of entertainment media is created and directed to appeal to wealthy, mainstream consumers. As individuals and companies in the entertainment business are pushed to compete for sales by creating media geared for mass consumption, quality and creativity are very frequently overlooked.
In the realm of online social media, however, the impetus to generate wealth for one’s efforts is mostly absent. Some of our most creative minds are compelled foremost by the simple, genuine urge to provide and share entertainment with others. Social networking sites and applications have spawned a revolution in user-generated media, allowing great leaps in accessibility and user friendliness. Video and imaging capabilities of social media sites such as YouTube have contributed to an explosion in do it yourself media. This overnight success has launched myriad creative collaborations as well as an entire cultural movement towards consumer generated entertainment.
The ongoing expansion of social media illustrates an important anthropological as well as economic lesson: before they are consumers, competitors, and capitalists, humans are foremost social creatures. Given the option, most people prefer sharing and creating within their own venues, regulations, abilities, interests, and standards as opposed to being marketed and sold entertainment. The shift from centralized entertainment production and distribution through marketing and sales towards decentralized networked social media represents an important hallmark in the transition into a more equatable and connected global society.