When people think of Facebook or YouTube, the first thoughts that come to mind are probably their personal connections and some amusing viral videos. However, social media networks have evolved and grown to such an extent that they now play much broader, deeper roles: They're changing the way people interact with each other, do business and carry out their day-to-day activities.
A quick glance at some of the statistics for social media use reveals just how important these platforms are. According to research from Gallup, a single day sees 4.75 billion items shared on Facebook, 400 million Tweets, 1.2 billion Instagram photo "likes" and 4 billion views on YouTube. One-third of Americans use Facebook to catch up on the news, and both recruiters and first responders have leveraged social media to enhance their strategies.
These tools don't just run themselves, however. Underlying it all is some pretty sophisticated technology. Facebook, for example, has an estimated 20,000 machines within its data centres. Fibre optic cables span thousands of miles to move information from point A to point B almost instantaneously. In fact, these cables can send 40 gigabytes per second over each fibre.
Fueled by an impressive infrastructure, social media platforms are poised to continue making their mark across sectors and communities. As Internet access becomes more widespread and mobile devices more prevalent throughout the globe, these tools will continue to have wide-ranging impacts that extend far beyond keeping in touch with friends and posting the details of last night's party.