Media, Internet and I

People go online for many reasons, and to indulge in a myriad of activities. Other than for work or school, which are the most common reasons for why people go online, the top three online activities in Singapore are related to communications, entertainment, and information seeking.

Communications and Social Networking

It is no surprise that social activities like communicating and social networking are number one online. Most people email and have private chats to catch up with friends. Increasingly too, they network and make new friends online, as well as post details about their lives as part of social networking.

Popular social activities include:

Instant Messaging

Instant Messaging or commonly known as IM is the real-time sending of messages over the internet to another user, or group of users, much like text messaging on a mobile phone. To instant message, users download or open an account with an IM programme, most of which are free. IM is similar to chatting in a chat room, but instead of everyone being able to join in the conversation, one has to be invited to join the chat. Many people, especially youngsters, use IM to catch-up with friends. Many offices also allow IM for employees to quickly communicate with one another. In recent years, Mobile IM is also getting to be the rage as users instant message over their smart phones in an "always on" environment, and without incurring sms charges. The WhatsApp Messenger is a good example of a mobile messaging application.

Social Networking

Social networking allows a user to make new friends or catch up with old friends wherever they are in the world as everyone interacts and shares information such as updates, interests, activities, photos, videos, etc.

Because social networking sites are primarily businesses seeking to drive user traffic, the sites are innovative and adept in introducing new applications and features, especially those which encourage sharing, to attract and retain users.

Facebook is the most popular social networking site today with more than 1 billion users worldwide. According to The Economist1, Facebook has more than 1 million independent developers working to create software and applications to keep people connected and glued to the site.

According to recent research2, Facebook literally motivates users to use its site by feeding two primary social needs in human beings. The first need is the fundamental human desire "to belong" which Facebook taps by promoting connections. The second need is human's desire for "self presentation," in which users fashion ideal, rather than accurate, versions of themselves in their profiles. This is manifested in the "number of friends" "number of likes" "number of posts", and other features which allow a user to be more socially appealing than in reality.

Many other social networks share the same basic characteristics, that is, to leverage on features that enhance human connections, inflate ego, touch emotional needs, and promote sharing, to make their sites attractive and sticky.

Blogging & Tweeting

Blogging these days is more than just sharing your personal online diary but has also evolved into providing reviews or comments for a particular product or company as a form of online advertising. Sometimes, bloggers do not disclose that their views are actually paid endorsements. Usually a blog will also feature text, pictures and links to other websites and blogs with similar topics. A reader can usually post comments as a reaction to the blog posts. Some examples of popular blogging platforms are wordpress, blogger and tumblr where bloggers write about almost any topic imaginable, and attract thousands of followers or fans. (Typically, these topics would have to be consistent or allowed under the sites' terms of service)

One popular form of blogging is micro-blogging where users put up very short posts by texting through their mobile phones. Twitter is currently the most popular micro-blogging platform in Singapore and perhaps in the world. It is so popular that it has spawned a new word "tweeting" to mean micro-blogging. Twitter users typically tweet status updates, quotes, links to videos, pictures and articles. You can reply to or retweet another person's message (tweets) by subscribing to that person's tweets.

Video Sharing

One common way of sharing your favourite or homemade video online is to upload the video clip to a website such as YouTube and Tudou, to allow other online users to watch the video. Similar to blogs, other people can comment on the videos and flag out any video with inappropriate content to the administrator.

Many talented individuals have found fame (or notoriety) by uploading their home-made creations. There have been cases of would-be musicians who started off showcasing their talents on Youtube, became popular with users and then were offered contracts by recording companies.

File Sharing

What sets file sharing apart from video sharing is that you provide access to others to download the files that you want to share. These files are usually stored on an online portal. The more commonly shared files are music and photos, and can be downloaded at popular sites such as 4Shared and Flickr.

File sharing is a useful tool for collaborative work without having to meet. Big project files (too big to be efficient for email) are uploaded to the filesharing platform for group members to download and work on them before re-uploading the latest versions.

Entertainment

This includes downloading and watching videos (TV, movies, short clips, etc), listening to music, as well as playing games. Besides casual web games, a particularly popular genre of gaming is the MMORPG or Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game where players interact with one another within a virtual game world. MMORPG can be highly addictive while the social interaction and in-game culture can at times be platforms for bullying.

Information Seeking

The Internet is a fantastic repository of information, and information seeking is what many people do. A simple search for any topic will turn up information from a myriad of sources, ranging from professional advice to dodgy information to user opinions. Alongside the online versions of traditional news outlets, news seekers can also access websites and blogs with alternative views and interesting perspectives. Making sense of the vast amount of information on the Internet is an important skill that any information seeker should have.

1 http://www.economist.com/node/15350972?story_id=15350972
2 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/head-games/201204/why-does-using-facebook-feel-so-good