Let’s face it. To keep up with current trends and not be looked down upon as old-fashioned and outdated, a social media presence is a must. People compete with each other to make their presence across various sites like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.
It is no longer a generational thing, either. You’ll find everyone from grandparents to business tycoons to kids using social media every single day. Some people are even sure to update multiple apps. People also use social media sites like LinkedIn to find jobs and connect with colleagues.
Our deep dependence on social media raises an important question — are they these platforms good for society? Or are they a negative influence on children as well as adults.
Let’s look at its history before we take a closer look at the impact of social media on society.
A Brief History of Social Media
The first attempt at a social network goes as far back as 1969 when the military created ARPAN. It was intended as a tool to connect universities on an early prototype of the internet.
Decades later, technology caught up, allowing the formation of Six Degrees, which had one million members who were able to friend each other and create profiles.
This ushered in a tidal wave of web 1.0 social sites like Myspace, Friendster, and LiveJournal, which pioneered the features we love on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
As the early pioneers gave away, newer, more fleshed-out platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter replaced them. To this day, new platforms are launching and becoming polarized every year. TikTok is the latest craze, particularly amongst younger people.
Positive Impacts of Social Media:
Maintain and Develop New Relationships
The main point, and one of the most redeeming qualities of social media, is maintaining and developing relationships. It allows us to connect with friends we haven’t seen in years, and easily share what’s going on in our lives. We can also find people with similar interests using things like Reddit and Facebook groups to spark new relationships.
Share and Enhance Our Knowledge
The ease in which you can share news, scientific research, and other articles make social media a great place to learn. In school, teachers can use programs like Google classrooms and Zoom to host lively discussions and lectures. The key is that everyone does their best to make sure we’re only sharing accurate information. Social media definitely has a flip side that we’ll discuss later.
Promotes Your Business:
Businesses have benefited greatly from social media. Restaurants can upload their menu and number to sites like Yelp. You can advertise on platforms like Facebook to promote your brand, or even organically engage with your customers. Platforms like Pinterest let you share the art you’re selling.
Provide Information on the Latest Trends:
Social media makes it easy to see current trends. The front page of Reddit and trending hashtags are an easy way to see the most important things going on in the world. Just be careful not to put yourself into too much of an echo chamber, or you’ll miss out on a lot of news.
Social media is the perfect place for people to showcase their creativity. Just look at TikTok to see some of the work people put into creating their content. Pinterest is also a great platform to see art from around the world.
Negative Impacts of Social Media:
The ease of sharing has also resulted in what some people call cancel culture, where people are publicly put on blast. Sometimes this is a good thing, like when people are racist and hateful. Other times, people can jump the gun. That said, it can be effortless to ruin your reputation or your business’s reputation online. You may go to bed one night and wake up with your life in shambles. The key is to be thoughtful and considerate about what you say online.
Bad Habits, Addiction, and even Depression
Too much of anything is a bad thing. Many people find themselves addicted to social media, spending most of their day scrolling through their feeds. This can be very common among teenagers, who ironically become more anti-social due to social media. The key, as with anything, is to limit screen time.
One other side effect of social media can be depression. Watching curated versions of other people’s lives can make you feel inadequate. The key is to realize that people put their idealized selves out there to the world. In reality, their lives are very similar to yours.
Since the beginning, cybersecurity has been a major issue. Thousands have had their accounts hacked and used for illegal transactions. Even if your account is secure, others have been doxxed by groups online. This has led to things like stalking and swatting that have even gotten some people killed. Also Read: Pros and Cons of Technology
The biggest con to Social Media in our current world is the disinformation. A shocking amount of information posted to Twitter or Facebook is false. This has affected elections and deeply polarized the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. In Myanmar, this has even contributed to the genocide of The Rohingya People.
Is Social Media Good or Bad?
As you can see, social media is a mixed bag. It can act as a platform to celebrate and advertise our professional and personal achievements. At the same time, these sites can lead us down a dark road of depression and inadequacy. It’s hard to say exactly what Social Media is because there are so many platforms. You’d be hard-pressed to call TikTok evil, but a platform like Facebook that has spread misinformation and potentially led to deaths, you wouldn’t. The impact of social media websites in our society mainly depends on us. It’s up to us to stop spreading misinformation and perpetuating bad behavior. We need to get back to the roots of what makes social media great – connecting with other people in meaningful ways.