(6) Immediacy

Messaging is a manifestation of connectivity is daily life and in real time. Messages can be sent in two technical formats: SMS or short message service transmits data in the form of texts over a regular cellular phone service from one phone to another, and doesn’t require synchronicity. IM or Instant Messaging sends messages over the Internet, and, in the days before smartphones, required both parties to be online simultaneously.18 With the advent of smartphones, IM advanced to consecutive entries rather than simultaneous chat.

Nearly 75 % of the adult US population will use smartphones compared with less than 50 % print newspaper readers in 2016. According to survey data from the marketing firm eMarketer, of the time spent during the day on various smartphone activities, 22 % was devoted to entertainment and 65 % was allotted to communication (ofwhich an equal amount, 22 %, was spent on texting and phone, with 10 % each on email and SM) [84]. How do users decide upon the appropriate medium of communication when choosing between texting and phone? The spontaneity and simultaneity offered by phone is deceptive since the call may simply be switched to voicemail, which entails a lag that can exceed that of messaging.

Recent messaging apps, such as Signal Private Messenger, Gliph, Wickr, Telegram and iMessage have sophisticated encryption capabilities, with some apps (such as Telegram) having the capability of programing messages to self-destruct from both devices at a certain time. Snapchat, the picture-messaging app, features user-generated videos, which creates a community of viewers since all are watching the same videos. In the world of entertainment, messages on Twitter alert viewers to movie and shows, and the “fear-of-missing-out” or FOMO persuades even more users to gravitate toward that form of entertainment.

Messaging is becoming the primary form of communication with more than 1.6 billion people worldwide, or 22 % or the global population, being regular users of mobile messaging apps. This has allowed firms, who have a presence on the app, to offer customer service for individuals on their messaging platforms using “bots,” which are algorithms using artificial intelligence for real-time conversations about products and services. Communication and shopping are merging onto a single platform as in Tencent QQ, the instant messaging platform and WeChat, the mobile chat service, both owned by Tencent, the Chinese Internet holding company.

Beyond the world of personal memorabilia, SNs are critical in the spread of ideas. How do ideas spread through networks? Discussion on the SNs provides insight into the zeitgeist or culture of the age. The structure of the network (pattern of links) is important not only for opportunities to transact but also for the diffusion of ideas and innovations. For a new idea to catch on, one can argue that a critical minimum fraction of individuals in the network must switch to this idea. If the idea remains isolated with a single individual or an individual who is only connected to, for example, two other individuals, then it has not reached a critical threshold so the idea disintegrates.

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