How Has Social Media Changed Society?
Society was once a place where to talk to someone you had to talk to them in person or called them on the phone. It was a place where you had to have good social skills in order to communicate effectively with others. The world we live in was once a place where no one could hide. That world is no longer here. That world has been taken over by social media that has brought many positives and negatives to our society. When it comes to the uses of social media, the good needs to be emphasized and encouraged while the bad needs to be exposed and changed.
Through improvements and transformations to social media websites, people have begun to find more and more negative ways to use it. The most common example of this is cyber bullying and incivility on comment boards. Social media has created a way for people to say nasty things to one another while hiding their identity behind a keyboard. Even the social media sites with known identities are dealing with issues of bullying, as well. Those who don’t want to take the wrath of saying hateful things to someone’s face can now turn to social media. It’s much easier for them to type what they want to say, rather them to say it to the person’s face. This ability to hide fears behind computer screens is what is ruining social media today.
Social media has also created generations of children, teenagers, and even some adults that do not know how to properly communicate in person. These generations have become so immune to talking to one another over social media that talking on the phone or in person is like speaking a foreign language. This can lead to problems in the future when they have to go for a job interview and communicate with the people they work with. If these generations continue to rely on social media to communicate, their futures could be in jeopardy due to their inexperience with real life confrontation.
Graduate students at UNLV are currently researching “virtual” communities. The have found that social media is presenting many dangers to society. A UNLV researcher and sociology professor, Simon Gottschalk, says, “Social media sites are addictive, seductive, and irresistible.” He also believes that social media “changes human brain structure and how people interact” (Drawhorn). So far, the research indicates that since there is no physical interaction, conversations tend to be less civil and demeaning, and this can directly affect the ways in which we communicate in person. If we are saying ruthless and hurtful things online, it could lead to a lack of respect for one another in real life.
News outlets tend to focus on all the negative aspects of social media, which gives many people the wrong impression. Social media has had plenty of positive additions to society that are often times over looked. With the help of social media, family and friends that don’t regularly get to see each other can stay connected. Friends are able to view pictures that are uploaded, status updates, and videos of different activities that are posted on YouTube or Facebook. Social media has made it very easy for those who live hundreds of miles apart to still feel like they are connected to each other’s lives.
Another example of social media being used to positively contribute to society is what is called social media for social good. Social media for social good can be defined as the act of using social media to spread awareness and help raise money for certain charities. For example, just recently there was a typhoon in the Philippines that not only took many lives and left many people injured, but it also destroyed a whole country. In order to raise money and awareness for the people in need, the Red Cross put banners on Facebook and ITunes that would connect you to a donation page. It was a great way to encourage many people to help those in need by the use of social media as advertisement. The fact that millions of people are on social networking sites everyday makes it a great way to advertise and promote the important things in our society.
Finally, social media is overlooked as being used in a positive way by many of the younger generations. Last year, Common Sense Media, a non-profit child advocacy group, surveyed more than 1000 13-17-year-old students about how they view their digital lives. The survey resulted in 52% of teens saying that social media has made their relationships with their peers better versus the 4% that said social media had negatively affected their relationships. Social media is a great way for peers to upload and share pictures taken with one another and interact using the different features each site has to offer. Just as some kids comment and write hateful things to each other, many more write uplifting things and tell one another how beautiful they are in their pictures. Children and teens can be given confidence on Facebook, which can create a fun and positive environment for them to interact. Lisa Katz, the director of digital media for Common Sense Media said, “For every heartbreaking case of cyber bullying, there are many stories of teens using social media for social good” (Wallace). Even though some take advantage of the anonymity that social media presents we can’t let that tiny population ruin the image of social media for everyone.
Unfortunately, the positives become lost in all the criticism social media faces. In order to create a more positive association with social media, schools and the social media websites themselves are starting to find ways to eliminate the negative actions. The first tactic schools are bringing to use is to simply inform students about social media. Educating students on how to use social media is starting to become a popular way to try and eliminate the hate on these websites. Along with this, schools are also beginning to keep a closer eye on social media by punishing students when they use it in an inappropriate way. If an authority figure, other than parents, is threatening punishments, this is often enough of an influence to prevent further action. Another great solution that YouTube has recently come up with to eliminate the problem of incivility on their comment boards is to force users to create a Google Plus account. By doing this people are no longer able to anonymously comment. YouTube is hoping that if people can no longer hide their identity, they won’t comment hurtful things. By creating severe punishments and unmasking identities, social media may have a chance at being a positive environment for all.
Erasing the negativity completely on social media is an impossible task, but taking steps towards lessening the problem is what will be beneficial to future generations. Hopefully, the steps YouTube has taken will start a trend, and many more social media sites will find ways to help reduce the negativity. Social media is going to be around for a long time; we might as well make it a positive experience rather than something that tears people down.
“Benefits of Online Social Networking.” Parent Further. Search Institute, Web. 9 Dec. 2013.
Drawhorn, Aaron and Sharie Harvin. “Researchers Say Social Media Affecting Interaction.” 8 News Now. 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.
Wallace, Kelly. “The upside of selfies: Social media isn’t all bad for kids.” CNN. 22 Nov. 2013. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.