This week, the social media world reached two milestones: Facebook announced it reached 1 billion active users, and pop icon Lady Gaga became the first to amass 30 million followers on Twitter.
Jeff Hancock, a professor of communication and of computer and information science, is a frequent social media analyst on national news shows and co-author of the landmark study on honesty in online hotel reviews. His research focuses on how we communicate through new media and how those new connections change the way we live, and he sees good news in the rise of both Facebook and Twitter.
Hancock says: "The billion user mark for Facebook provides yet another piece of evidence that we now live in a digitally networked world that is fundamentally different from how we left the last century only 12 years ago.
"Facebook and similar services now affect almost all facets of human life, from how we talk to, or ignore, one another, to how we find love and end relationships, and even the nature of the birth announcement or what to do with our digital remains after death. It's an exciting time to be studying human behavior.
"On Twitter's rise, I think that what we are seeing isn't really that ludicrous, but really a new way of seeing how influential some people can be.
"For instance, Elvis had a billion people watch his Hawaii show, but we wouldn't know that for weeks afterwards because it took time to compile the ratings. Now, we know within seconds. Now our behaviors and attitudes leave traces that can be observed, computed and reproduced almost instantaneously."
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