NPR logo How Powerful Is Social Media? Really.

Behind the Curtain at TMM

How Powerful Is Social Media? Really.

In December 2008, Facebook attracted more than 200 million unique visitors, making it the most visited social network site in the world, according to a recent report by TechCrunch. hide caption

toggle caption

Tell Me More Producer Douglas Hopper has been away spending a few weeks learning about multimedia and social media tools. It's an ongoing learning program here at NPR, our own baptism by fire, of sorts (I, too, made the "journey" last year). Douglas has offered to share some insights along the way. Douglas, how's it going? ...

Thanks, Lee. Douglas Hopper, here ...

I have some questions about the promise of "social media," one of the key concepts on the table during our training.

Here's how Social Media is defined on Wikipedia: "... primarily Internet and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings."

Alright, as a journalist — and someone who simply appreciates all things which help us communicate — I am all about it! Social media-like public comment spaces and blogs are transforming the way we connect, the way we communicate, and the way we understand each other. Platforms like Facebook and MySpace are giving people the means to express themselves ... and potentially draw attention to their work in a way most would have thought impossible in years past. These new technologies have the power to democratize the domain of opinion. But will they?

I'm wondering if the Web is equal, or even anywhere close to it.

Or, does the Web reflect the same divisions of class and race and religion evident in non-cyber society? (By the way, what do you call the world we live in outside of the Web?)

Is there a class divide between Facebook and Myspace? Do people of color and minorities find it easier to find relevant news on the web? Is the political blogosphere more diverse than the op-ed pages?

Do you feel more equal online?

I am only beginning to answer these questions myself. Hoping some of you out there will want to chime in and offer your insights. I'll be checking in.

See you in the comment thread.