As the Internet and other new technology becomes more and more firmly entrenched in our culture we find ourselves in an increasingly new and exciting media environment. The backbone of our changing media world is, of course, what we call Social Media.

“Social Media” is a term that covers a wide variety of new online technologies that are socially interactive and that incorporate different kinds of media. Social media, which is centered on the Internet and online endeavors, can include message boards, internet forums, blogs, podcasts, social networking sites and more. Some social media sites are extremely popular and well-known, even if people don’t know they’re experiencing social media—think, Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube.

People now use the Internet more than any other medium. They read their news online, spend time researching what car to buy or where to live, build photo albums to share with family across the country, and even check their local weather forecast. It doesn’t matter what exactly they are doing, what matters is that people are spending an extraordinary amount of time surfing the World Wide Web. It makes sense, then, that the newest trend would focus so intently on the Internet as its chosen medium of communication. But what is it that makes social media so special?

Traditional media is one-way, limited and constrained by the size of the paper or the length of the broadcast. Where traditional media acts like a lecture, social media acts like an ongoing conversation. Social media is designed to be completely interactive, allowing and even inviting feedback, and giving everyone the ability to contribute. In our growing and increasingly global world it is easy to lose touch with others, but social media helps people to reconnect with one another. You can build relationships and create communities through social networking sites, or start a public discussion through a blog or message forum.

Social media may just seem like a new business trend, but it’s more than that—it gives everyone a voice, and makes our growing world seem that much smaller.