It would not be wrong to classify social media as one of the greatest inventions of technology. It has opened up new possibilities, ones that hadn’t even been imagined before. But again, like all other pieces of technology, it isn’t without its advantages and disadvantages.
WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA?
The term itself is self-explanatory. Social+media. “Social”, in this context, refers to the society. “Media” refers to a medium of communication. Hence, social media refers to interactive computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation or sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks.
Advantages of Social Media
The first and main advantage of social media is connectivity. People from anywhere can connect with anyone.
Not only are we able to make new friends, we are able to connect better with our existing friends. In the past, we lost our school friends or college friends as soon as we went our separate paths. However, with the advent of social media, it has become way more easier to get in touch with your long lost friends and rebuild old associations.
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Plus, it breaks boundaries and hence you can make friends across the globe and gain multiple new perspectives.
Social media has a lot of advantages for students and teachers. It is very easy to get educated by others who are experts and professionals via social media. You can follow anyone to learn from them and enhance your knowledge about any field that you might be interested in.
Not only is it easier to learn online, but you also have the opportunity to educate others. It becomes an easy way to earn extra money for many people. In modern days, many coaching institutes have dedicated their teams to build their social media presence.
Social media can also be used for many noble causes. NGO’s find it easier to spread their reach though the overarching arms of social media. It is easier to find donors who are outside your immediate locality.
Plus, people looking for a sponsor for their education or healthcare funds can also find philanthropic help. All you need is a well-crafted message that can reach the largest number of people. The added impact that social media creates is also very helpful in this scenario.
Social media also creates awareness among the masses. In the changing times, people’s lives have become such that they don’t have the time to read a news article to get into the depth of an issue.
In these cases, social media becomes the avenue through which they are able to keep themselves informed about the latest happenings. Many news organizations now maintain social media pages to reach their broad-based audiences.
Helps in Building Communities
Our world has different religions and beliefs. Social media helps in building and participating in the community of our own religion. Similarly, people of different communities can connect to discuss and share stuff.
The need for affiliation and belonging is at the top of hierarchy. Social media fulfils this need by helping to find like-minded people. If you are a movie lover, you can find fan pages with hundreds of others like you.
Disadvantages of Social Media
Threat to Safety and Privacy
One of the biggest risks associated with the rising use of social networking platforms is the threat to privacy. It allows users to post as much information as they want. This information can be pictures, personal detail, their whereabouts, et cetera. In an ideal situation, this would just be the individual being open with the people they are connected with on social media. However, this can be used by their followers in the wrong way that might hamper their safety. There have been various instances of people being stalked by people who follow them on social media. Some of these instances have ended rather violently.
Since people who post information cannot control who has access to information that they post, this information can also get into the wrong hands. Personal data and privacy can easily be hacked and shared on the Internet. This can lead to financial theft and even identity theft.
This is more common than people think. While signing up for any social media website, users are asked to read the terms and conditions. This is something that most people do not do. This allows the media owners to gain access to the user’s personal information, and do it legally.
A deeper and more invisible disadvantage that social networking poses is that it leads to severe psychological issues for its users. This happens on two levels.
Firstly, it can lead to inferiority complex for various individuals. More often than not, the lives that people are seen to live online are constructed. They portray that they have the perfect job, the perfect relationship, the perfect body, and more. This can lead to individuals strongly disliking the lives they currently live. This can take the shape of body-image issues as well, which can trigger eating disorders and other mental health issues.
Secondly, this can be used to target individuals who do not conform to certain ideas. These ideas can range from individuals’ race and sexuality to their appearance and religion. This disadvantage tends to impact teens and young adults the most. It is not unusual for the negative behaviours to be worse online than at school or work because bullies feel like they can be anonymous when sitting behind a screen or using a smartphone.
In extreme situations, both of these situations can end in anxiety, depression-like symptoms, high levels of stress, and even suicide.
Information and Misinformation
The quotation “spread like a wildfire” is not suitable for anything more than it is for this technology. One of the greatest advantages of social media is that it allows users to reach millions of others, almost instantaneously. The downside to this is that people can post whatever information they want, and have it delivered to millions of people in the blink of an eye.
This is harmful on 2 levels. Firstly, there is no restriction on who can post things online. This means that anyone can post information on social networking sites. There is no mechanism (without involving the state machinery) to track down who has posted the material in question.
Secondly, there is no restriction on what they post. They can post sensitive images and information. Furthermore, they can post false information. This might be done to intentionally malign someone or just for fun. Either way, it can have disastrous effects.
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Threat To Job Opportunities
Almost everyone has an online presence now. In most cases, it is beneficial. However, it can prove to have severe negative consequences for one’s life is not used carefully. Before hiring employees, most organizations conduct a thorough background check on the candidate. Now, it includes their social media activity as well.
They look through a candidate’s posts, interactions, and connections of social media platforms to find out more about them. If they find material that might prove to be a liability for the firm later on, they tend to reject the candidate. This includes offensive statements against certain communities or individuals. Sometimes they often take into account a candidate’s political views expressed on social media.
Pros and Cons of Social Media
Threat to safety and privacy
Information and misinformation
|Threat to job opportunities|
|Helps in building communities||