The term of social media relates to multiple online platforms that enable fast digital communication, information posting and sharing and easy creation of interest groups. First created as a private tool of connection for university alumni, Facebook has become both the most successful social network and the icon of social media as such. After its success similar platforms with different specializations sprang up one by one, filling the niches and offering more and more online activities. Today it is hard to imagine our life without newsfeeds, likes, shares and image posting, but isn’t the price we pay for this convenience too high? We will explore how social media affects the lives of different strata of people and what their greatest advantages and disadvantages are.
Children, teenagers and adults are all affected differently by online platforms and activities, and these effects are usually not that positive. To begin with, for children social platforms and gadgets have replaced play time and communication with parents. Instead of reading books, playing outside with peers or learning some craft young kids are already absorbed into newsfeeds and likes stuff. It reduces their ability to communicate with others in real life, to engage in meaningful activities and to invent their own play. Besides, they often cannot protect their sensitive information properly and can disclose enough data to put themselves into danger, especially when talking to strangers on the web. Thus social media harm their learning capacities and at the same time to their physical security.
Students seem more aware of dangers of social media but they nevertheless get hooked by entertainment features. Students are still dependent on the opinions of their peers and on connections to them, so presenting a proper self-brand on platforms like Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat is essential to them. This self-branding activity often comes to replace all other activities, and young people literally develop social addiction. Selfies, edited pictures of places, food, activities and what’s not consumed their time and efforts, and constant checking on what’s new ties them close to their gadgets and borders on obsession. One can only imagine how much hard is done to sleep and rest regime of these students and to their grades. Or else, in attempt to maintain good grades and participate in social media races students cut on sleep and any other useful activities. Even going to the gym turns into one more photoshoot and elaborate picture selecting and editing. Young people become timid and anxious in face-to-face communication, have health problems and base their self-esteem on features and tools that were invented to keep someone’s pockets full.
Adults may seem to be immune to social media effect yet in reality they also depend on what others think of them and how others present their life on the web. Since adults have full control over their lives and engage in a wide variety of activities that define success, it has become a norm to compare oneself to others based on the edited and glamorized narratives posted on Facebook. This phenomenon is carefully described and explained and multiple sources beg people not to take these ‘Facebook lives of others’ seriously. Nevertheless, even adults who spend plenty of time on Facebook report anxiety, envy and feeling of failure after looking through the newsfeed and comparing own life to someone’s assumed success.
Pros and Cons of Social Media
So are social media the world-scale ‘bad guys’ or do they deserve a second chance? Actually, like with all complex things, both beliefs apply. Depending on how one uses them, social networks impact can be useful or destructive.
Their greatest advantage is providing fast and easy connection to significant people all around the world. Distance does not matter as long as you have a PC or a smartphone and Internet connection. This fastness and easiness accounts for many political shifts that happened in the last decade, and many positive changes in social and political life would not be possible without them. Option of creating pages and groups allows uniting like-minded people, so it even reduces the feeling of loneliness for those who cannot find friends with similar interests in the vicinity. Social media also ensure free flow of ideas and knowledge and provide instruments for doing business and finding clients on the global scale.
On the other hand, all these opportunities have their downsides. Fast and easy communication also gave rise to cyberbullying on unparalleled scale. Circulation of information and ideas led to the phenomenon of fake news when fakes are posted and shared by bots and real people with shady purposes. Creation of interest groups allows radicals or illegal organizations to have their meeting points conveniently set up on these platforms, too. Finally, the unclear policies of data gathering from users lead to abuse and leaks of sensitive data, which is unacceptable.
However, each trouble has its remedy. Stronger security and moderation policies can assist against hatred and bullying being spread through social media. More informed and moderate approach can help people spend less time on the web and more in face-to-face interactions. So, after all, the problem is not the media themselves, it is how we use them and how we can use them better.
As shown, the effect social media create on people can be diverse. Children, students and adults experience this impact differently. It can be harmful to health, studies or self-esteem, or it can be a beneficial tool that facilitates communication. Indeed, some policies and more control should be implemented by inventors and managers of these media, but in the first place it is up to us to allow technology rule our life or to take it into our own hands.
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