Sixdegrees.com is considered by many to be the first site in what is now called "social media." The site's premise was based on the six degrees of separation theory, where everyone and everything in the world is connected in six or fewer steps. While Sixdegrees is still active, not in its initial incarnation, from 1997 through to 2001 it had around 100 employees with 3,500,000 registered members. In 1999, it was sold to Youthstream Media Networks for $125 million, pocket change in today's evaluations for the likes of Facebook and Snapchat, which are valued at billions and have over a billion users combined.
Looking back on the history of social media sites, many have come and gone but a few still lead the sector today, each with its own niche. In 2002, Friendster was launched, followed by the professionals' social media site, LinkedIn in. In 2004, Myspace and Facebook entered the world and, in 2006, Twitter entered the market. The year 2009 brought us Foursquare and in 2011 one of the latest big guns, Snapchat began its story.
The rise of social media as both a way to stay in contact with friends and an advertising tool for companies grew exponentially quick. As with other trends, Turkey was not to be left behind. As one of the most online and connected countries in both MEA and Europe, Turks jumped on board in massive numbers. When looking at internet penetration numbers across Europe for 2015, Germany was leading the pack with 71 million, followed by the U.K. at 59 million with third place going to France at 55 million. Turkey with its population of nearly 80 million has 46 million internet users and, amazingly, led all of Europe for the number of Facebook users, coming in at 41 million. This is in alignment with the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) numbers that show social media as the leading internet feature used in Turkey, followed closely by online news, media uploading and informational searches. While Turkish society has always been more conservative, the influence of celebrities has taken its place in society; evident in the number of fan pages in social media. According to one study last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the fourth most popular leader in the world when ranked by fans and second for interactions with around 127,000 interactions per post. Turkish footballer Arda Turan leads in the celebrity stakes with just over 7.3 million fans followed by actress Beren Saat with just over 7.1 million.The slow but sure shift to extrovertism has well and truly taken hold in Turkey. While Facebook and Instagram are all about recording life for others to see and look back on, Snapchat fills a niche of sharing moments, but only to a chosen few and only for a set period of time, permanently deleting the video or picture soon after it has been viewed. The app allows a replay but notifies the sender as soon as it has been replayed and will also notify the sender if the receiver takes a screenshot on their phone. The app has been a hit worldwide and is taking hold in Turkey where users are sharing more and more temporary moments that can be deleted quickly. With the recent addition of filters and the ability to draw on your pictures, a photo can be spruced up to add some fun to the moment, too.
Since its launch, Snapchat has grown to become one of the top social media apps, which has around 10 billion videos viewed daily, surpassing Facebook's 8 million video views and 1 million ad views per day, a valuation of around $18 billion and a prized demographic consisting of 60 percent users between the ages of 18 and 34; 70 percent of whom are female. Ireland is the leading country with most users worldwide, followed by Sweden and Belgium.
Speaking with several Turkish teenagers and millennials in Turkey about their social media usage, they said Snapchat seems to be gaining momentum alongside leading platforms, Facebook and Twitter.
Mürşide, a young teacher in her mid-twenties has Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Swarm and Instagram installed on her phone. Interestingly though, Instagram and Snapchat were the only two apps that she said she actively uses, others were used for consumption only. She began her usage in 2010 with Facebook out of curiosity and uses Snapchat and Instagram to see what others are up to throughout the day. Regarding privacy concerns, Mürşide said that she does not include or give out personal details but she is okay with sites storing her data for marketing purposes, something she was not aware of. Interestingly, as a teacher, Mürşide connects and shares with her students on the same account, something which users in other countries rarely do.
Ayşenur Günay and Betül Dikmen, also in their twenties, had Facebook, Instagram and Swarm installed. Since joining Facebook about five years ago, they said they spend three-to-five hours a day using social media. Ayşenur mentioned that with many online profiles being aliases, she finds that the downside to social media is that anonymity can create a hostile space for many while Betül, when asked about privacy said it mattered a lot to her, which is why she used Snapchat a lot. "I like sending in the moment photos and videos to friends, knowing that 10 seconds later the photo will be gone forever, I'm using Snapchat more these days for that reason," she said.