Social media is a phrase used to describe any internet-based application or service that promotes the sharing and mass communication of user-generated content, ranging from pictures, to videos, to written texts. Social media does not manifest itself in only one form; Flickr, for example, is an image and video hosting website, while Facebook is used for posting and sharing essentially anything: a status update, or a new photo or video of something that you feel the need to share with others.
The world before the inception of what we know as the Internet in the late 1980’s was unlike the interconnected and technologically controlled life that we live today. The only way to receive news and updates was via radio, TV, or newspaper. If an individual needed information, they would have to physically travel to a library and look through a series of books to find it. In addition, the only way to get in touch with another person would be to see them face-to-face, call them from a landline telephone, fax, or, if you were fortunate enough, use a cell phone (the immense, clunky kind, unlike the ones we have today), or to write a letter.
However, since the expansion of the Internet for daily use in the early 1990s, the amount of users has grown extensively, from 14,161,570 in 1993 to 2,925,249,355 users in 2014. Mirroring this growth in users, the new age of social media and Internet has allowed a new level of connectivity and socialization to come to fruition. Being constantly updated by the second, it gives any person the power to have instantaneous knowledge of many incidents around the world, and bestows the ability to instantly communicate with another person at any time.
While this increased connection has led to an increased ability to interact with others, free advertising through means such as Youtube or Instagram, and expression on a massive scale, there have been some negative outcomes as well. Our society has experienced a decrease in the personal aspect of their lives, as many of our actions and comments are tweeted, vined, or posted on one of many social media outlets. In our current age, jobs can be lost due to insensitive or inappropriate posts that are uploaded to social media. In addition, words and phrases can lose their true or intended meaning when seen as text on a website rather than from an actual person. People’s lives have been ruined by one poor social media decision. Justine Sacco, while traveling to South Africa from New York, posted one offensive tweet before her 11-hour flight. By the time she arrived to her destination, she had become the No. 1 worldwide trend on twitter, received extreme backlash from friends and strangers alike, lost her job, and her reputation as well.
Additionally, social media has led a greater freedom to express opinions and comments that you wouldn’t normally say face-to-face to another person. The anonymity of the true person behind a username and profile picture bestows a certain feeling of power to the one typing behind the screen. If you scour the depths of comments on social media sites such as Youtube or Twitter, you can find plenty of negative, malicious comments. In 2010, according to a CBS news report, 42% of youth admitted to being a victim of cyberbullying. The absence of physically seeing the hurt, sadness, or dejection register on a person’s face due to a degrading comment has led to decreased awareness and empathy between others, especially on the Internet.
If you grew up in the 1980’s and late 90’s to the 2000’s you are labeled by the media as the millennial generation. When the majority of people talk about millennials, the mention “distractions,” “selfishness,” and an “absence of work ethic” due to the constant presence of technology (specifically phones). While most of these claims and assumptions of this generation are exaggerated or stated without concrete reason, the abundance of social media has led to decreased productivity. In fact, Nucleus Research states that approximately 1.5% of office productivity is lost due to social media, and according to Morse, an IT service provider, it is estimated that 2.2 billion dollars are lost by by British companies each year due to the distraction of social media.
To provide further insight, current high school students conversed about the subject. When asked how she uses social media, Toler Innes (‘17) replied, “Like every time I check my phone, I Snapchat all the time.” Kate Surgner (‘17) added that she spends her free time on social media, and on Saturdays specifically about two hours. When posed with the question of whether social media has a positive or negative effect, both Surgner and Innes were partial to both sides of the argument. “Social media gives us a chance to keep up with friends and family that you don’t see everyday, but it takes away from daily interaction. Every time you send a snapchat, you take time away from talking to the person next to you.” says Surgner. Similarly, Cole Eck (’17) said he spends about “one hour” on social media, and responded to the question of positivity and negativity with a thoughtful “Both.”
My parents remained divided on the issue as well. My mother Jocellyn Perry stated, “I think it is a universal vehicle to stay connected, but its drawback is over-accessibility.” More frank in his response, my father said, “Social media is good when it comes to either promoting yourself or your business, but it also gives every fool a voice to be critical.”
Having a phone with access to social media, I find myself more distracted and entranced than I care to admit by the latest Instagram post, snapchat story, or funny video on youtube as I try to complete my homework or other activities. The constant alerts, ringers, and notifications of new additions to an intricate social media web serve as easy distractions and deterrents from what is really important or essential.
Social media has indefinitely connected the larger world around us in ways not possible before. However, the negative consequences of the usage, as well as overuse of it, outweigh the positive influence that it exudes. The world that we live in today thrived and flourished without technology and social media for thousands of years, and though it may seem essential, a society without social media may be a more desired one.