2016 promises to be another exciting year in the expansion of social media. Here are two trends that may dominate the social media headlines next year:
In many ways, virtual reality, or VR, has suffered the same plight as 3-D technology.
When I was a kid in the 1970s, 3-D was all the rage. We put on crappy paper glasses with blue and red tinted plastic lenses to watch “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The experience left us wanting more. It never really worked. It never felt like the creature would jump off the screen and attack us.
Fast forward 30 years, and 3-D is cool again. Most big-budget action movies have 3-D options for viewing, thanks in large part to James Cameron’s “Avatar.” We can easily purchase 3-D televisions for our homes.
3-D is a once again a part of our entertainment vernacular.
But like 3-D, VR technology was inadequate. The idea of creating these immersive, artificial worlds was great, but the technology was limited to teaching pilots learn to fly in simulators. Even if you wanted a VR system for your home, it cost too much and the uses were limited.
Enter Oculus (and their VR product, Oculus Rift) and other companies set on making VR as much as part of our entertainment needs as 3-D. The difference between VR and 3-D, however, is the application to social media.
There’s a reason why Facebook spent $2 billion to purchase Oculus VR, and it’s not because Mark Zuckerberg needed a new toy.
VR is a new way to connect with others, a new form of social media. VR might be used to connect gamers, but other applications promise to immerse people from around the world in the same virtual environment, at same concerts, sporting events, and other important social and cultural experiences.
Social Media in the Classroom
Kenneth Green, director of The Campus Computing Project, wrote “the pace of innovation in higher education can be measured by the 40 years it took to get the overhead projector out of the bowling alley and into the classroom.”
The same can be said of social media. We were slow to adopt the Internet for teaching, and even slower to use social media for learning. We’re not really teaching students, from an early age, how to find good, credible information via social media. But we know they go to social media every day to learn about the world.
Whether students are taking a classes online or in a traditional classroom, most of them have almost immediate access to technology that is far superior to what we had 10 years ago: smartphones.
The good news is that more teachers are asking students to whip out their phones in class to find information. Some educators are developing lesson plans to teach students how to use these devices to find information they can trust, and to be good stewards of misinformation.
Beyond classrooms and VR, here’s hoping that social media in 2016 gives us new options for connecting with the world around us.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.