Social media is an integral part of today’s society. With loads of information being disseminated over the Internet, social media has become the very fabric upon which our society is being built. The people who are at the forefront of molding the future of social networking sites are teens and children. This is because vast majorities of the people who use the Internet are children and teens. Reportedly, many teens spend an average of 8 hours online every day. Much of that time is thought to be spent on social media sites, with only some attention focused on research and learning.
For the past decade, social media has been touted as a platform for youngsters to congregate online and interact socially as if they were in person, regardless of their distance from each other. There are likely teens out there who do not know of many other uses of the Internet other than their favorite social media platform.
While there have been many negative outcomes from social media such as cyberbullying and other online dangers, social media can be used in ways that promote positive and productive ideas in society. These positive behaviors make social media an invaluable tool to young people if used correctly. Below are some of the ways in which social media can be used to benefit young people:
1. Social media can be used to educate young people. While talking to and advising kids and teens on a one-on-one basis is considered ideal, social media can do the same much more effectively and to a broader audience all at once. People like to use YouTube to express their opinions on various subjects. In the process, they attract millions of views and climb to the top of search engines. This leads to companies taking an interest in sponsorship and furnishing of better gear to make better videos while showcasing their product.
2. Social media can be used as a voice of reason in society. Various social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are being used by the youth to create a voice for the voiceless. On Facebook, for example, groups like “Disability is not inability” are being brought up to make society more conscious of how they treat the disabled. Most of these groups are started by young people who see the essence of treating everyone equally and social media as the perfect place to spread that message.
3. Social media has enabled more young people to be creative and innovative. Social media sites mostly depend on active participation and sharing of different content. This makes it so that young people think outside the box and come up with new content when sharing information. Not only is the content they share unique, but new applications and websites spring up every day with new ways to express creativity and individuality.
4. Social media has given teens the ability to hone different skills that are important in the real world. Young people are increasingly able to interact more freely and easily in different social environments online, much like they will later on in life in the workplace. This is a result of the endless exposure they get from being online and talking to different people, some of whom are their potential employers. Young people acquire skills that enable them evaluate and interpret different situations contextually and prepare themselves mentally for situations later on. Sites like YouTube have thousands of educational videos that give anyone the ability to sharpen and develop their various skills and talents, for example, playing the guitar, swimming and even cooking.
5. Social media gives teens skills to become more confident and independent. Engaging on social networking sites can be a new adventure for young people. It is like exploring a new place where different skills are needed. Young people learn to mold their character to be more confident and independent in order to be heard or have a positive online presence. This eventually transfers to their daily lives.
Social media sites have taken over our lives. It’s hard to even imagine that 10 years ago there was no Facebook or Twitter! 15 years ago people were actually waiting to hear from each other because even email wasn’t that common.
How did social media actually influenced our life and the society in general? In my opinion (and I am an early adopter) it has had a positive impact. I am all for the widening of the world we live in, and easy communication around the world.
Social media has definitely made us closer to other parts of the world – as someone who used to do the worldwide business from Ukraine, I am the one who can totally appreciate it!
It doesn’t mean I don’t see the back side of the coin. I do know the cons along with the pros…
First, we have the obvious: communication. We are living in a time where the world is open to us. We can contact anyone around the world, at any time, with just a few keystrokes. It is free, unlike calling across the ocean, and live. We can also share elements of our life, from what we enjoy to photos of ourselves and those in our lives. It is like being a part of that person’s world, even though distance keeps you apart.
We also have the communication between people and businesses. Since they have paved a new way for interaction between the two, customers can now tell brands exactly what they want. Businesses can then use that information to tailor their products of more appeal. They used to have to spend a ton of cash for this kind of marketing data. Customers used to have to spend hours on phones getting more and more frustrated when they had a problem or complaint.
There are also causes and information. Social media has made it possible for like minded individuals to discuss important topics, widen their personal knowledge and discover things they never knew before. For example, young people around the world are now more involved than ever in their country’s politics. The last presidential elections in the US are proof of that. Social media has contributed to that increase in a big way.
Non-profits are seeing the benefits of using social media for their awareness campaigns. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others are a cost effective means of spreading the word and getting support. Not to mention socially shared petitions from sites like Causes.org, reaching hundreds of thousands of people.
There is no doubt that there are many reasons to love social media.
But not all consequences of this technology are good ones. Like the way it has allowed us to hide behind screens and limited our social interaction face to face. You get the feeling of being social without having to go out and socialize. In the same vein, it gives you the feeling of being a friend (or having friends) without having to put in any actual work to build the relationship. Just think of how many people you have on your Facebook friends list. How many of them do you see on a semi-regular basis? At all?
Then we have the issue of how it has taken over our lives. I hate being out in public and seeing people on their phones. Seeing them talking never bothered me as long as they weren’t being obnoxious. Nor does sending off a quick text bug me; maybe they are meeting someone and telling them where they are, or something. It is the obvious Facebooking or tweeting or whatever else that keeps people’s eyes glued to their phones.
I never check social media sites when I am out doing something. Whether it is grocery shopping, getting dinner with friends or waiting in line, it is just so impolite. It also shows a serious problem with distraction in today’s society. We can’t enjoy the world around us for an hour without retreating back into that safe little digital box.
Productivity is pretty much shot thanks to social media, as well. Admit it, you check your profiles during work, or find yourself wandering over to YouTube or your favorite blog during work hours. Here is a fun little game: every time you get distracted by a social media site, make a little strike on a piece of paper. At the end of the day, count all the strikes and feel your heart drop into your stomach as you try to estimate how much time wasted it represents.
Some of what social media has done isn’t just ‘bad’, it is flat out ‘ugly’. Like the number of relationships that have been broken up over social networks. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that Facebook is to blame for this. It is just a tool that has seemed to make it easier to cheat, or to do things that cross a boundary in your relationship. Like flirty PM’s with that high school sweetheart you haven’t seen since graduation. Or much more blatant infidelities that are sure to be caught the first time you forget to log out of the computer you share with your spouse.
Then there are the sheer number of stupid, vain people on Facebook. Yeah, it seems a little mean to point out. But I bet you are thinking of at least one person who would fit into one (or both) of these categories.
Each status message is a flat-out attention whoring sob fest, usually vague. Or way TMI about their struggling relationship with someone they should have dumped six months ago. Let’s not forget the badly spelled, grammatical nightmares that you would need a magic decoder ring that translated moron into English to read. If you want proof that this kind of thing is spreading, as is the self-centered douchebaggery that most of us try to keep out of our lives, check out Lamebook sometime.
I think that the effects of social media have been somewhat balanced, to be honest. There are many good things about it, and many bad things. In the end, if you can keep your own life centered in reality and use social networking as a small part of it, you should be just fine.
For those who can’t, it might be time to turn off the computer for a bit and go for a walk.
Image Credits: 1, 2, 3.