Social media today has invaded our lives like never before and the phenomenon is universal. It has, literally, made the world a smaller place, helping people connect, share, exchange information from across the globe.
From getting their dose of news, sharing envy-inducing vacation pics, to starting movements, signing petitions, raising funds, seeking help, social media is everyone’s go-to spot for everything.
Social networking gives people the ease to communicate with anybody in any part of the world at any time and the origin of this trend can be traced back to 1997 when the first social media site SixDegrees gave people the option to share profiles and make virtual friends. Technology, or SoNet, has changed a lot since then.
In the era of LinkedIn (2003), Youtube (2005), Facebook (2006), Twitter (2006), Instagram (2010), and Snapchat (2011), people communicate in the language of filters, stickers, memes and emojis.
Now, the all pervasiveness of social media has led us to celebrate its own special day, the Social Media Day that falls on 30 June of every year. Lets therefore take a while, on this day, to recount all the good, bad and ugly that the social media has brought unto us.
Lets begin with the positives:
- Ease of connectivity:
The most basic function of any social network is connecting people, helping them communicate and share information. Social media bridges these physical distances, letting users share their lives, sorrows and joys, with people who matter no matter how far and unknown they may be to each other.
- News, live and as it happens:
In today’s digital age, no one wants to wait for the newspaper to get his or her load of what’s happening in the world. It’s all about instant information, and social media helps spread that information.
It’s also a medium where movements for driving change begin and gain momentum. Whether it was #MeToo that gave women the world over a voice to speak up against sexual assault, the #IceBucketChallenge that raised awareness and money for ALS, or other campaigns against and for several other topics, social media has often helped drive change.
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- Opportunities for Business And Growth:
Social Media has also turned into an universal marketplace for new and existing businesses. It gives them the power to reach customers across boundaries. It facilitates direct consumer interaction and allows businesses to grow exponentially virtually eliminating all geographic boundaries.
Lets now discuss the negatives:
- Information overload:
The barrage of information on social media can at times be overwhelming, whether it’s posts from friends or fake news doing the rounds. While information is good, too much of it can make your feed feel cumbersome, scared and paranoid. Moreover the added burden of sifting the grain from the chaff.
- Privacy issues:
The recent Facebook – Cambridge Analytica scandal has raised questions about how much of the users data do social media companies keep, and more importantly what do they do with it. Data privacy is the tech-age’s biggest bane at the moment.
- Lack of personal interaction:
While social media is a great way to stay connected, it has in some ways also led to loss of personal interaction. Conversations have been replaced with ‘pings’ and emoticons; and the charm of meeting and talking to people face-to-face often lost. In fact most schools, colleges and now even restaurants have begun banning the use of cell phones on their premises all in the hope of rekindling human interaction.
- Cyber Harassment:
Harassment, whether online or offline, can scar people for a long time. And social media makes users easy targets. Trolls don’t spare anyone, and cyber harassment can often lead to depression. Anonymity provided by Social Media makes it easy for even ordinary folk to turn bullies, stalkers and trolls. Everyone seems to have an opinion on everything and wants it known to everyone. Cyber crime has therefore increased greatly and even the rates of suicides and depression especially among lonely, marginalised youth.
Too much of anything can be unhealthy. And this stands true for social media too. On an average, users spend nine to ten hours on social media without even consciously realising it, this is even longer than a normal person’s sleep time. This affects people in ways they often don’t realise, from mood swings to the quality of work to other lifestyle diseases. In fact an entire branch of study has evolved due to the physiological and psychological ills of constant connectivity and excessive social media addiction.
But the hard fact of the matter is love it or hate it; we just can’t avoid it. the solution therefore lies in moderation. and moderation can only be achieved through sheer will, intent and self-control.
So, Social Media has changed our lives, for better or for worse. But in our opinion, the pros outweigh the cons by a large margin.