Social media has been at the forefront of popular culture for several years now. The likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have infiltrated society at almost every level, creating the illusion of connections and importance. Instead of serving as a tremendous boon for global communication, it has metastasized into a cesspool of vile behavior, cyber bullying and political correctness gone amok.
See Also: Why Effective Social Media Requires Audience Engagement
Despite the side effects of nausea, annoyance and depression that come with continually perusing the Twittersphere, we are addicted to social networks, and there is no end in sight. Our appetite for tweeting and liking just expands. Whether at home or on the road, we’re always scanning some social media outlet to find out what a friend of ours ate for dinner, what some uninformed celebrity thinks about a political issue or what the most popular hashtag is right now.
Our addiction to social media has amplified, and you are a social outcast if you are not friending a stranger on Facebook, taking a picture of every waking moment on Instagram or recording a fight to upload it to YouTube. Perhaps these are exaggerations, but they are closer to the truth than we all would like. Although social media is a billion-dollar industry (in a bubble), it’s a revenue generating platform that allows millions of people to shout inane banter, insult one another and belittle those we disagree with. It shields the keyboard warriors.
Why are 1.3 billion people on Facebook and 500 million people on Twitter?
Here are eight ways social media has changed humanity for the good and the bad:
1. Instant Communication with Friends and Family
A century ago, we had to communicate with friends and family on the other side of the world through letters and telegrams. Years later, we had to spend an arm and leg to make a simple telephone call to our friends. Today, all we have to do is log into our Facebook or Twitter account, and we can then instantly connect with anyone we wish without spending our entire paycheck. This is how social networking technology has enhanced communication.
2. A Big Whine Fest
Before continuing with this article, head on over to Twitter. Once there, just look around for a minute or two. Didn’t you notice that there are several people whining and moaning about absolutely nothing? This is what social media has morphed into: a giant, smelly and cringing whine fest.
It seems like every day a newspaper or a blog carries a story about how a few people on Twitter are upset, enraged or offended. Our moral barometer is determined by a few hashtags and a couple of people crying about how some unknown person on the other side of the world dressed like a Native Indian or how a political leader said "he" is opposed to "he or she." Oy vey!
3. Breaking News in Real-Time
The Arab Spring provided journalism schools everywhere with teaching material for a long time. Why? Because the Arab Spring, which led to uprisings in various Middle Eastern countries, was not broadcast on television but rather on social media and in real-time. You see, breaking news on social media is actually breaking news because you have the story unfolding in real-time.
4. We Have Nothing Interesting to Say
Although we have an entire platform to pontificate on a wide variety of issues, whether it’s on classic literature, classical music or classic film, we don’t really say much about anything. We perhaps air our grievances, retweet something or like a picture. But that’s all we do on the social networks. Similar to what we mentioned before, social media consists of this formula: sign in, complain, sign out, repeat. If someone has something interesting to say then two things happen: you are insulted for your opinion or it’s lost in this immense realm.
5. Receiving Discounts & Promotions From Vendors
You can get 10 percent off of your next purchase if you simply like a Facebook page? You can receive a free item if you retweet the message? You can garner an exclusive item if you take a picture on Instagram? Social media has allowed businesses and vendors to market to a larger demographic, and at the same time help you save some dough. Although corporations can be rather stupid with their digital marketing campaigns, for the most part they’re doing a good job.
6. Our Productivity Levels Have Decreased
At the office, instead of performing your assignments for the day, you’re procrastinating by spending the bulk of your time skimming through your friend’s Instagram photos, reading Reddit’s subreddit professional wrestling page or searching for new employment opportunities on LinkedIn.
Essentially, social media has led to a vast reduction in our productivity levels. At work, we’re not really working. We’re just wasting time on Facebook waiting to go home so we can...waste more time on Facebook.
7. The Envy of Others
Here is one area that scientists agree on: social media is creating a lot of envy.
It’s rather elementary: we see all of our friends from high school publishing glamorous photos of themselves being happy, traveling the world and working at jobs they love. Their world is perfect, or is it? You have to realize that people are not taking pictures of arguments with their loved ones; they’re not taking pictures of their maxed out credit cards, and they’re not taking pictures of all of the other terrible moments, like an eviction notice, in our day-to-day lives.
Well, people are taking selfies accidentally killing themselves...But maybe these are the recipients of the prestigious Darwin Award.
8. Bullying of Youth Has Amplified
Back in the day, when children were bullied at school, they sought refuge at home. Children and teenagers only had to endure bullying for five or six hours a day, but they gained respite when they got home and on weekends. Unfortunately, due to the ubiquitous and invasive nature of social media, cyberbullying has become a major part of children’s lives in the last few years. Kids are being bullied left, right and center 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can’t get any reprieve.
Simply put: children’s arrogant, mean and ferocious behavior is no longer confined to schools, they can transfer that mindset to the online world, too. How sad.
As the years and decades pass us by, perhaps the likes of Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter will go the way of the telegram, fax machine and even the telephone to a certain extent. Maybe there will be new forms of communication developed and presented to us by the year 2100. Nobody knew that a thing such as social media would be so engulfed in our conscious as it is today.
In a century, will we have new ways to bully people, shut down dissent through the mob mentality and be envious of our friends, family members, co-workers and fellow peers?
Do you think social media has been a mostly positive or negative experience? Let us know in the comments section...