Social networking sites are more than social – they’re media!

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Up until today I’ve thought of Danish Arto and k-forum, Facebook and the like of social networking sites as sites distinguished more by the relation between the peoples connected, than by the actual content itself.

Surely the relation between you and you’re network is a cornerstone of social networking sites.

And surely enormous powers are vested herein. The story of Facebook bears witness to this: from a starting point only a few years ago, the latest figures from FDIM shows, that Facebook today reaches 1/3 of the Danish internet population in one month – more than 600.000 facebook profiles are members of the Denmark-network, and more than 1,2 mio Danes over the age of 15 visited facebook in July – each of whom spend nearly 4 hours in average using the site.

With this kind of figures and reach, however, another characteristic of social networking sites has become increasingly clear to me.  Facebook not only gives you a glimpse of the lives of a few of your friends. It gives you glimpses of the lives of a lot of your friends – and relatives and neighbors and of your kids teachers at school and… It actually gives you so many glimpses it turns itself into something more than a social network. It takes on the role of a media. A media keeping you informed of hyper-local, hyper-networks news. Of what’s going on right now in even the far outskirts of your social sphere.

As a media social networking sites stands out from the traditional understanding of what constitutes a media. Take politics for example: You typically won’t find regular coverage of eg. general elections at social networking sites. You won’t typically find objective, well-reasearch journalism. You can’t be sure to get a fair overview of the relevant candidates (actually you can be pretty sure not to find this). If you find anything of the kind, it’s because you have befriended a politician running for office. If you do this, however, you will have a fair chance of being dragged into the campaigning live of this politician – as I did, when Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen invited me for an evening run (se my post My week at facebook with Anders, Helle, Ellen and Margrethe)

No, social networking sites are not media in the classical sense. They don’t keep you informed of politics or of culture. Lots of established media doesn’t do this either however: Magazines on interior decoration, fashion, cats, dogs and pets and haute cuisine doesn’t. TVshows with quizzes or talents or (wanna-bee) moviestars doesn’t. And lots of newspaper coverage doesn’t.

Social networking sites are media in this sense. Media focusing and bringing you news of what’s going on in the lives of the persons that means most to you: the ones you know, and who knows you.