I want to reflect on the role of social media in our lives because it has completely changed how we interact with one another, for better or worse. Social media has opened up so many channels for learning, discovering, and sharing ideas, but those new opportunities don’t come without risks.
The Advantages of Social Media
Personally, I’m a huge fan of social media. I think it is an incredible resource and can be leveraged in so many ways. To list a few…
- Connections- both business (LinkedIn) and personal (Facebook)
- Rapid responsiveness- live streaming of disasters and injustices (ie. the recent protests at airports around the country)
- Marketing/advertising- for online as well as brick-and-mortar businesses
- Ease of transactions- Venmo and PayPal
- Cost saving- LevelUp; Virtual doctor’s visits
- Community building- People united under a cause or interest (Facebook groups)
- Relationships- Match.com; eHarmony
- Job searches- LinkedIn; Google+
- News in real time- Twitter; Facebook Live
- Awareness of new trends and fads- Pinterest; Blogs
There is so much more we could add to this list, but let’s move on for now.
Recently, I’ve noticed that grade-school aged kids are turned off to a lot of the so-called “millennial” social media platforms, like Facebook or Twitter. However, they aren’t moving away from social media, they are just moving to newer, different platforms (Snapchat or Kik, for example). The modes of digital social engagement may change, but the concept sticks. On the other hand, there is definitely a subset of each generation that denounces social media (…some were probably scarred by MySpace).
My brother is part of this subset. He refuses to take part in social media even though most of his friends are fully committed. He doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account. He thinks Instagram is a game (like Candy Crush). When people talk about Pokemon Go, he references his vintage Gameboy, and he has never even heard of Snapchat or Pinterest. My brother uses email, but getting him to respond is usually a challenge. He rarely uses his phone to text or make calls, which is probably a result of the fact that he isn’t on his phone constantly to look at social apps.
My brother’s complete lack of involvement in the digital world makes me realize how important that world actually is. Not only is he missing out on the social aspect (keeping in touch with friends and family, dating apps and websites, event invites on Facebook, photo sharing, etc.), but he’s much slower to hear about the news, job-related updates, and overall he’s just missing from the conversation.
My brother’s relationship with social media (or lack thereof) reminds me of computer keyboards. I know, super weird, but hear me out. Where I work I noticed that the majority of 50+ year-old people type on a keyboard using only their two index fingers because they never learned how to do it properly. On a day-to-day basis the difference between a good and bad typer isn’t too substantial, but if we look at productivity over the course of a year we can see that the inefficient typers fall way behind (less emails written, fewer projects completed, etc). Not only do they fall behind, but the gap gets wider and wider with each passing year. Similarly in social media, there is always something new “buzzing” – a new platform, app, news, etc.- and the longer we stay out of the loop the harder it becomes to catch up.
The Disadvantages of Social Media
Now on the other side of things, I get why my brother keeps his distance. There are definitely cons to social media and digital involvement…
- Lack of privacy
- Impulsive and inappropriate content
- Socialization issues
My brother is a very private person and he’s terrified of sharing anything about himself with a total stranger. This is inherent to all of us. We are afraid to share things about ourselves for fear of judgment or backlash, and if we can’t see the point in doing it then why would we bother?
This fear manifests itself in many situations, especially when job-searching comes into play. Who wants their potential employer to see their not-so-sober weekend shenanigans right before an interview? The fear of judgment is also present throughout our relationships with friends, families, partners, etc., and all of these relationships have social media platforms that take advantage of them.
So, Where’s the Balance?
Social media can be risky, yes, but if we play it right it can be an incredible resource and give us a significant advantage in various facets of life.
One of the greatest things about social media is that we don’t have to actually participate or be vulnerable in order to make use of it. We can be on Twitter for news and updates, but never even send a tweet. We can be on Facebook and watch what all of our friends and family are doing, but never post a thing ourselves.
The risk comes in when we stop watching and start participating. If there are people in this world- friends or strangers- that you wouldn’t want to read a post that you wrote or see a picture that you’re in, then don’t post it. Don’t tweet it. Don’t Snap it. If you can’t stand behind what you share with the world, then the trolls will come a’knockin and their doubt about you will make you start to doubt yourself. The key is to strike a balance between sharing the things you want and keeping the rest out.