Q &A: Can Whatsapp be defined social media?

Discussion points that arose from previous lectures

Q: Can Whatsapp be defined social media although it is frequently used for private chatting between two people?

A: “Social media are electronic communication platforms that convey content generated and exchanged by networks of users” (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010).

According to the academic definition, Whatsapp might be considered a social media platform as the technology of Whatsapp is based on electronic platforms and the content is generated and exchanged (in many times as a form of information-forwarding) by more than two end users just like email.

Any other thoughts?

3 thoughts on “Q &A: Can Whatsapp be defined social media?

  1. Hi Prof,

    On this issue, I am still doubtful about Whatsapp being classified as a social media platform. You are right to say that whatsapp is a “electronic communication platform that convey content generated”, however i do not agree that whatsapp is a platform of “exchange for networks of users”.

    At first we have to know the purpose of Whatsapp. It is to ease communication, in which we can simply rely on internet (without having to incur extra charges, unlike SMS). On the contrary, the purpose of Facebook, Instagram, and other modes of social media is to speak out one’s mind and opinion and get the social attention. it is a platform to reach out to greater audience at once and often unknown public can easily reach out or read the comments that we have posted, allowing exchange for networks of users.

    We can control our own network in whatsapp, which means that I can send a personal message to one person without other people have to know what I said (unless she/he screenshot the message and tell others). and when that happen, exchange of information for networks of users is not possible. Yeah one can argue that when a group is made on Whatsapp, that creates an exchange of information for networks of users. But still, these networks of users can be controlled. In contrast to other social media such as Facebook or Twitter or Linkedin, it is designed in a way that one can publish any thoughts or comments online and within a split second, everyone in the SMU community or even the world would know about it. One can rebute that on Facebook, we can set who can or cannot view our posted pictures or posted status, yet, noone, or rarely anyone would keep their posted pictures/status to once friend only because that is not the purpose/nature of using Facebook. One use Facebook to voice out their opinions because they want everyone to acknowledge it and to get the social attention.

    On this basis, I still believe that Whatsapp is not a fully social media platform. It is more like a communication platform.

    I hope to hear from the others and from Prof too regarding this point of view.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand you have a specific focus on “the capability/full capacity of a media platform that facilitates exchange of ideas” with a lot of people and within a short time as defining factor of social media, and I agree that the user motivations and purposes behind WhatsApp use is quite different than those behind Facebook or Twitter use.

      You mentioned:
      “The purpose of Facebook, Instagram, and other modes of social media is to speak out one’s mind and opinion and get the social attention. it is a platform to reach out to greater audience at once and often unknown public can easily reach out or read the comments that we have posted, allowing exchange for networks of users.”

      Yet, I think it is a bit of an overgeneralization that you define the main purposes in using Facebook/Twitter as to speak out and get social attention because in some cases, people use it for purely information gathering/collecting or just for staying intimate through one-on-one communication/relationships (as we do with WhatsApp) rather than sharing information and/or seeking attention from others. I see you focus on a prevalent purpose in using Facebook/Twitter, but when it comes to a definition for social media in general, a clear/exact description should be duly made.

      Being that said, from time to time you lost me in the posting, particularly when you distinguish what set apart WhatsApp from other social media based on “control” capability.

      You said:
      “We can control our own network in whatsapp, which means that I can send a personal message to one person without other people have to know what I said (unless she/he screenshot the message and tell others). and when that happen, exchange of information for networks of users is not possible.”

      =>This privacy protection is also available for Facebook or Twitter by controlling the network on those platforms too. For example, I use Facebook just like WhatsApp for one-on-one communication.

      You also go on to say:
      “Yeah one can argue that when a group is made on Whatsapp, that creates an exchange of information for networks of users. But still, these networks of users can be controlled. In contrast to other social media such as Facebook or Twitter or Linkedin, it is designed in a way that one can publish any thoughts or comments online and within a split second, everyone in the SMU community or even the world would know about it.”

      =>I want to point out two confusing parts. First one is as mentioned above, controllability or secrecy in communication is not an unique feature only for WhatsApp. Second of all, WhatsApp (technically) can work as the same way Facebook or Twitter does for mass communication. For example, WhatsApp allows us to create networks so we can share information immediately. All the commercial information can be sent out to a great mass by commercial or sponsored accounts. So in terms of controllability and exchange of information for networks of users, WhatsApp is no different than Facebook or Twitter.

      I think your view is valid as long as you set a clear standard that defines social media. If you define the social media based on the users’ motivation and purpose of using it, then you can differentiate WhatsApp as a communication channel mainly for interpersonal communication, while Facebook and Twitter may be mainly for group communication. However, the controllability issue you pointed out is more of product feature that allows people set up the privacy level and size of the network. And it does not necessarily dictate or inhibit users from an exchange of ideas with a mass audience and opening their messages to the public. Also controllability is one social media function that can commonly apply for all three media you referred to: Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

      Thank you so much for your valuable input and contribution to in-depth thinking, and I hope to hear more about this topic from other students too!

      Like

  2. I strongly believe that Whatsapp is only a messaging system (person to person). Only the sender and receiver can see the content like telephone call. Moreover whatsapp is not storing the data which is pass through their website because it is not social media. Where all Social Media is legally bound to store data for a particular period of time as per the law in the state.

    Like

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