To Ms. Sherman, a social media marketing consultant, it's all about being a part of the wider world – and having a voice in it. "You really should be on social media so you can bring your voice to the rest of the world,” she says. “I’m trying to tell [the islanders] that if they can make a little noise on social media, people will remember them.”
Sherman is one of the people in 1,400 cities who are celebrating Social Media Day on Thursday, in recognition of the way the interconnected cyberworld is changing the real world. It's hard to argue against the fact that social media is revolutionizing how people relate to one another, reuniting high school classmates, connecting friends and family worldwide, discussing news, and allowing the average citizen to report on pivotal events, as seen via Twitter from the streets of Cairo during the revolution earlier this year.
Social media "is one of the most profound revolutions in the history of humanity,” says Paul Levinson, communications and media studies professor at Fordham University and author of the book “New New Media." “It’s hard for us to sometimes realize that something happening before our very eyes is changing the very nature of how we live in the present and how we will live in the very future.”
Mashable.com, an online news source founded in 2005 that reports news about technology, social and digital media, and the Web culture, launched the first Social Media Day last year. It included more than 600 "meetups" in 93 countries.
“So many people have really gotten involved in social media,” says Meghan Peters, community manager at Mashable.com. “It is such a great way to build community and connect with communities."
Online communities can celebrate Social Media Day together offline by attending "meetups," or gatherings organized by social media users in cities across the world via meetup.com. People can search that website for Social Media Day events in their area, find information about those events, and RSVP.
“The core of social media is that it’s social,” Ms. Peters says. “People get that because we’re social beings, and all we’re doing is bringing technology into it.”
Mashable’s Social Media Day website has nearly 2,400 “Likes” on Facebook and about 1,750 tweets on Twitter for this year’s celebration.
Some cities – in the US and abroad – officially declared June 30 Social Media Day. They include New York; San Carlos, Calif.; San Jose, Calif.; Toronto; Victoria, B.C.; Vancouver, B.C.; and Dublin, Ireland. Arizona is the only state to officially recognize Social Media Day.
Why June 30? It's completely arbitrary, says Peters. That was simply about the time last year when Mashable staff members realized the import of social media in so many lives.
Since 2008, users of social media have nearly doubled, according to a survey released this month by Pew Internet, a project of the Pew Research Center. Fifty-nine percent of Internet users say they use at least one social networking site, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or MySpace.
Users of these sites span from teenagers to grandparents, though use is heaviest among the younger set. Eighty percent of adults aged 18 to 35 use social media, according to the survey. Still, more than half of adults who use social media are over 35.
Social media has caught on so rapidly because “people already wanted to do the things that Facebook, Twitter, and social media do,” Levinson says. People not only want to receive information, but they want to discuss it with as many people as possible.
“The key growth in the next few years is the devices that we use to use this social media. We started out five years ago on desktop computers, and now they’re moving to mobile devices that we carry with us,” Levinson says. “We’re going to see more in that direction, meaning devices that are smaller and more powerful.”
Yet, even in places like Kauai, where “if you brought a smart phone out at the dinner table, people would be horrified,” social media is spreading, says Sherman.
"I finally had an ephiphony of how to gently bring that here," says Sherman, who planned a meetup at a local restaurant for small-business and individual proprietors to discuss ways to incorporate social media into their organizations. “Social Media Day is helping us pull forward.”