Today is January 31, 2017 and it is a time of great change in the world. Through the help of various mediums including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, thoughts and ideas are flowing more freely than ever. People who previously did not have the opportunity to share their ideas have been given the chance to voice every last thought that crosses their mind. In this way, social media has been a blessing and a curse.
This is not something I had noticed until I arrived at college. I would scroll through my news feed on the two social media networks I use the most, Facebook and Twitter, just to realize that I was reading about the lives of people I barely knew and likely would not have even said hello to if I saw them face to face. Although it is interesting to hear different perspectives from time to time, I was not concerned with how their cousins wedding went the previous weekend or what they thought about their favorite sports team. I went on social media to get updates from friends and read updated news stories as soon as they are released. Instead, I found myself casting too wide of a net and as a result, decided to go through the lists of those I am “friends” with or whom I follow and cut down accordingly.
What I began to notice on social media once I started following only those who I knew well was how people try to display an ideal image of themselves through a collection of photos, videos, and statuses. Nobody takes time out of their day to post humiliating content on their own page. It was fascinating to see social media pages from my friends and notice how much it differed from who they were in real life. I would be willing to bet that if you looked at the Facebook and Twitter pages someone you have never met and later went on to meet in real life, there is a good chance that you will feel like you are meeting two completely different people. This especially goes for Twitter as people are able to share their thoughts with little to no factual basis. Aside from responses that challenge what they have shared, they are rarely held accountable. This has been a major focal point for athletes who challenge media reporters.
In the above example, Clay Travis, a sports media reporter with 280,000 followers on Twitter criticizes NBA superstar DeMarcus Cousins. For one of the only times in the history in social media, Travis is held accountable for an incorrect derogatory claim he made and goes on to apologize. In real life, there is absolutely no way Clay Travis would tell six foot eleven, two-hundred and seventy pound DeMarcus Cousins that he would be arrested sometime in the next five years without facing severe consequences. That is my biggest problem with social media today. With the increase in the free flow of ideas, users are able to able to sit behind a screen and write outrageous statements including the ability to defame others without being forced to back their statements up whatsoever. It has ruined friendships, relationships, and the reputation of countless people and in that sense, it makes me question whether the benefits of social media actually do outweigh the negatives.
Social media is not all negative. It has given companies the ability to reach out to potential customers in such a vast way never before seen in history. For example, two weeks ago I received an e-mail from Nike stating they were having a post-holiday Christmas sale. As someone with boxes of brand new shoes still sitting under my bed, I really do not need to be buying a new pair anytime soon. However, I scrolled through the Nike Twitter page, found a pair I really liked and ended up purchasing. Without the combination of their social media presence as well as their e-mail chain, I likely would not have ended up with this pair of sneakers that I could not be happier that I purchased.
Another major benefit of social media is the ability to read news as soon as it breaks. Whether this relates to politics, sports, or simply finding out that a close friend or relative is getting married, you are able to learn things that in the previous years would have taken significantly longer to hear about. However, this brings in the question of how important it is to hear about these types of events right away. Is it a big deal whether I find out that my cousin is in engaged today or next week? To me, it is not of grave importance but I could see how it could be.
Social media is changing each and every day. Half the topics that seem to dominate the news today will be gone by next week. It will be interesting to see how these massive social media networks play a bigger role in society going forward because they certainly aren’t going away any time soon.