You can’t spend a lot of time on social media without seeing repeated references to the dangers of social media itself. It’s almost as if many users feel the need to supply their own warning labels to the very forums they frequent.
Dangers of Social Media
The perils of being distracted by our smart phones, the ridiculousness of instant messaging people who are nearby in real life, the annoyance of spam, the threat of hackers, and the dangers to our children of too much screen time, bullying, and access to inappropriate content are just a few of the issues that are discussed repeatedly in the media and on social platforms. And while it is good to be conscious of the risks of online use, I wonder if, as a society, we have become too focused on the negative aspects of social media.
Our world has changed drastically and in a relatively short period of time as a result of the popularity of social media platforms. It is only natural that we feel a little wary about what such changes mean. But when we focus so single-mindedly on the negative, is there a danger that we will overlook the potential for positive use of these platforms?
Positive Aspects of Social Media
There are many charities who have skillfully used social media platforms to raise awareness of their causes. This can result in increased donations to their organizations and, consequently, increased ability to accomplish their charity work. Think of the Movember campaign that has raised millions of dollars for men’s health.
Campaigns that effectively evoke strong emotions tend to be the most successful. The Make-A-Wish Foundation has had much success in this vein. There remains the concern that people will be so manipulated on an emotional level through social media campaigns that they will participate without becoming fully informed (by sharing or liking the story on Facebook, for example, or even by donating money). But that, I would argue, is a problem we face in many areas of our lives and therefore not a new problem generated by social media (companies that use product placements in movies and television have capitalized on this tendency for many years).
Many businesses have also become more profitable through social media. New and better ways to market services and products, the emergence of new types of careers, as well as opportunities for crowd-funding projects (which, in fact, charities and individuals can use, as well) are all ways that businesses can profit if they use their social media platforms wisely.
Perhaps the most meaningful use of Facebook I have seen is when it is used to memorialize a loved one who has passed away. There are constant reminders in the media to be careful of what you put on the Internet because of the longevity of information in that sphere. But when someone is gone, the information they have shared can become a comfort to those left behind. Life is now being documented in new and long-lasting ways through social media and even though this has caused problems for many people (who regret their words or actions for various reasons) it can also become a beautiful thing.
Why I Like Social Media
As a stay-at-home mom of three kids, I personally have found social media, and specifically Facebook, to be very useful in establishing and maintaining social connections. Being home with young children can be very isolating and lonely at times. And while I do make an attempt to spend time with friends as well as connect with other moms in real life it just isn’t always possible (or even desirable) to get out of the house with or without the kids in tow.
Facebook has provided me with a platform to share and connect with other people at times when the possibility of doing so in real life was nearly absent. Even small things, like setting up playdates for my kids or planning get-togethers with friends, have become easier for me. Many people will receive a Facebook message quicker than an email and it is read at the convenience of the user, unlike a phone call that often can be received at a less than ideal time.
“Producing a positive outcome involves conscious decision-making and intentional effort on the part of the users.”
Because social media is so powerful yet still so new we need to learn to navigate it in the same way we do any other big changes that occur in our world. It’s true that many rules, including proper etiquette, remain to be established or widely accepted and put into practice.
Despite the many problems that have arisen, I still believe that there is great potential for good in these platforms. But producing a positive outcome involves conscious decision-making and intentional effort on the part of the users of social media. If we can do that, then maybe one day instead of warnings of the hazards of social media, my Facebook news feed will be filled with wonderful stories that were a direct result of social media itself.
DO YOU THINK SOCIAL MEDIA IS A GOOD THING OR A BAD THING? HAVE YOU SEEN IT USED IN A GOOD WAY OTHER THAN THOSE NAMED ABOVE?