Social media – a boon or bane to society?

Social media can best be described as web based communication tools that enable its users to interact with each other efficiently and effectively. Some of the prominent examples of social media are Facebook, Twitter, What’s app, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat etc... Social media has revolutionized the way people communicate with each other, share their views, pictures, videos and do business. With growing reach of technology people are bound to use social media in some way or the other. From developed to developing nations people are connected via social media.  However, on the other hand it has also adversely affected society. As the saying goes, ‘’water can give life, and water can also take life. It all depends on how you use it.’’. Similarly social media can be a boon or a bane, it all depends on how constructively and effectively it is used. Willingly or unwillingly it can still have positive and negative impacts on its users.

Staying Connected – We have moved from the era of writing letters to writing emails to instantly connecting using social media. This has made connecting with friends, family and re-connecting with long lost acquaintances easier and instant. Social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and so on, have also helped strangers connect. The best part of social media is the efficiency and effectiveness in which it helps users connect with others.

A Global Village – In today’s society, from a global perspective, the social media has changed how individuals function with each other as well as how business is now conducted. From simple daily communication to how we seek employment, social media has a role to play. Business is no longer restricted to your location. You may be sitting in India, but you can buy or sell any product in any other country using shopping apps like Amazon and eBay. The boundaries of the world are slowly dissolving with e-commerce, and social media is redefining how business is done.

Awareness / Education / Information – Social media has played a vital role in creating awareness and spreading information among people.  Instant news is now available through   apps, Twitter updates, what’s app forwards etc. Today election results are known to all even before it appears in the newspapers or on TV channels. Apps like Zomato, tell you about restaurants, Google maps help navigate the route to any destination of our choice. With access to the internet one can avail any information at any time and place as per one’s convenience.

Powerful tool – With millions of apps available to communicate these days, this is truly the age of social media. The power to spread information or create awareness is all in a click of a button. NGO’s may use social media like YouTube to spread awareness about social and environmental issues, while forums or online groups are used as a platform to discuss particular topics. Social media can be used to build relationships with fans, customers and people. From a large organization, to an individual, anyone can use the social media platform. When used strategically over time it can be the most powerful form of marketing and market research. When used effectively, social media can be the most efficient, cheap and effective way to reach out to the world.

 Addiction – The younger generation is one of the biggest victims to the addiction of social media. If not used constructively it can lead to wastage of time, creating a generation of social media potato couch.

Decrease in real world and personal connections – Welcome to the e-world, a place where technology has replaced personal interactions.  Social networking tends to distract people from their real life problems. Doing so it has caused people to care less for personal relationships with their friends and family, to act as an outlet for people to leave the real world. Nowadays how often do we see family members talk in general or parents actually talking to their children, ‘Face to face’? Very rarely! People prefer sending text messages, posting on Facebook or a tweet rather than making an effort to interact personally. Even worse is when children face problems they no longer go to their parents for comfort or support, they’d rather vent it on a social media site.

Cyber bullying – recent study showed cyber bullying is linked to depression in teenagers. A number of young people are or have become victims of cyber bullying in some way or the other. Teens or kids are hesitant to tell anyone when cyber bullying occurs. A common reason being the fear of losing internet access if they tell their parents. It therefore is important for parents to respond carefully if their kids are victims of cyber bullying. It is equally important to teach kids safe internet use rather than cutting off access to the internet.

Negative impact on personal relationship – one needs to know when and where to draw the line while using social media. A 2012 survey conducted in UK (Divorce online UK) found out that approx one in three divorces resulted from social media related disagreements. Similarly a 2010 survey by American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found out that four out of five lawyers used evidence derived from social networking sites in divorce cases with Facebook leading the pack.

Access to personal info and privacy – the most concerning aspect of social media is that they encourage people to share personal information. The more comfortable we become with these sites the more apt we are to share personal details about ourselves as we interact with others. Even the most cautious and well-meaning individuals can give away information they should not. Are we sharing too much information? Is what we share knowingly or unknowingly putting our privacy at risk? Our privacy and security on these sites, in terms of how much we share with others and what we consume is ultimately up to each of us.

Frauds and scams – Social media networks can unknowingly facilitate identity theft and fraud. Recent research revealed how millions of people a year are affected through identity thefts costing victims countless hours and money in identity recovery and repair.

Can adversely affect reputation – Social media sites like Facebook, twitter allow us to connect with a lot of people in a short span of time. However when improperly used social media can be a dangerous platform to ruin ones reputation and image. A simple post or an image with an inappropriate message can destroy one’s self-respect and reputation in no time.

Health issues – long hours spent on social media sites is inversely proportional to lack of sleep, depression, stress and other psychological problems. Most often we find the younger generation victims of the above consequences. Users ought to use social media constructively and effectively and not become slaves of technology.

Teenagers today are one of the top users of most social media platforms on the internet. Whether it’s updating a Facebook status, fitting a joke into 150 characters or uploading a picture of your lunch on Instagram, we are on the internet a lot. With each passing day the internet is changing our lives. Social media has become a huge part of our culture. With all of these ways to have our voices heard, it is upto each one of us to use this freedom constructively and effectively for the greater good.

Karen Dias