Social media is defined as the collection of online communication channels that are dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration (Turban, Strauss & Lai, 2016). The communication channels are presented to people as applications or websites that are dedicated to social networking, microblogging, and online forums. The most prominent examples of social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Reddit and Pinterest. Through these platforms, individuals are able to create content, share it, discuss it and even modify the content created by other users. Social media is accessed through web-based services in computers and mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets (Boyd, 2014). Over the last few years, the popularity of social media has increased exponentially. It is estimated that more than 80% of teenagers in the United States have a Facebook account (Pew Research Center, 2017). The popularity of the social media over the traditional media can be attributed to its reach, interactivity, and permanence. The model of communication of social media is more appealing than the traditional media because it operates in a dialogic transmission where there are many senders and many recipients as opposed to traditional media's monologic transmission which consists of one sender and many recipients (Boyd, 2014). The popularity of social media has led to changes in the way people communicate. Although there is an increase in its prevalence, the social media has resulted in huge changes in the way people interact, and this has led to both positive and negative effects.
Positive Effects of Social Media
The social media has positively impacted on the society. To begin with, it has improved peoples ability to communicate with friends and family. No matter how far physically one's friends are, on social media, they can be accessed through the click of a button. The speed of sending tweets or Facebook posts cannot be compared to traditional methods of communication such as sending letters or faxes (Turban et al., 2016). Social media has made it easier to exchange messages, images and videos with friends and relatives all over the world. It has provided an avenue for making and maintaining long-distance friendships. The use of social media has enabled people to make new friends through the online interactions. People have developed personal relations with people they met on social media.
Social media has also improved the art of sharing real-time information. Many social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have a messaging option where people can exchange information in real time. The real-time information sharing capability can be utilized in a wide range of activities such as education, business meetings or even customer service (Boyd, 2014). In education, teachers can engage with students during online classes and can assist students in classwork without the physical presence in classrooms. Customer care personnel can interact with aggrieved clients in real-time, and this enables them to solve their queries quickly leading to improved services. Boardroom meetings can utilize this feature to ensure that directors can attend the meeting even when they are physically far from the venues.
Additionally, increased new cycle speeds can be attributed to the social media. Social media has changed the methods utilized in collecting and sharing data. News organizations are now using the social media to collect and share the news with their fans (Evans, 2017). Some social media platforms such as Twitter have become the mainstream source of breaking news. With this cycle, news events are becoming obsolete very quickly as the every building collapse or car crash is being reported as soon as it happens through social media. This fast news speed has also resulted in the popularity of smartphones. Smartphones have an ability to record high-quality images and videos that can be shared with the mainstream media.
Furthermore, social media has remodeled the entertainment industry. The entertainment industry is an industry that rides on popularity, and the social media provides a viable route for artists and athletes to increase their popularity (Boyd, 2014). It is no wonder that among the 10 most followed accounts on Twitter, eight are owned by popular entertainment figures that include a soccer player, musicians, and TV personalities (Evans, 2017). On Instagram, nine out of the 10 most followed accounts belong to key entertainment figures. Artists and athletes are using social media to promote their works and to encourage the fans to purchase their works or even attend their concerts or even games.
Social media has also improved the ability of organizations to do business. With millions of people on social media, it provides businesses with platforms where they can advertise, do business, meet potential clients and offer services to their existing clients (Cohen, 2016). Businesses are using targeted advertisement, a concept developed in social media, whereby products are marketed to individuals who are interested in that line of products. The social media platforms also sell adverts to businesses. These opportunities to market ones product on social media are available even to small businesses that lack enough finances to advertise in mainstream media.
Negative Effects of Social Media
In spite of the numerous positive effects of social media on the society, it also possesses some negative effects. In as much as much as social media has provided more opportunities for social interactions, it has also provided a new opportunity for criminals. Criminals are making extensive use of the social media with the aim of increasing their earnings with fraud, child pornography, and extortion being among the crimes that have been executed via the social media (Cover, 2015). Criminals have been able to coerce children from all over the world into sending them nude pictures of themselves. Some criminals have taken advantage of the social media to extort people into paying them in order not to release private pictures, videos or sex tapes. There is rampant use of social media by criminals to mislead individuals into providing sensitive information such as credit card numbers that can be used to steal money from them (Evans, 2017). Criminals share malicious links in social media hoping to use them to trick unsuspecting individuals into divulging sensitive information. There is also a widespread use of social media in promotion of the sale of illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine (Cover, 2015). In social media, potential buyers of these drugs can link with the sellers in order to purchase the illegal drugs.
Also, social media has provided an avenue for cyberbullying. According to Evans (2017), bullying has become a persistent, ever-presence online menace that genuine social media users are struggling to cope with. Time has passed when bullying was a thing that happened in the school yard, now children are being bullied even when they are away from school through the use of the social media. Due to the influx of social media, bullying is now not only limited to school going children but also adults (Evans, 2017). The anonymity offered by social media enable individual to bully others without facing the consequences of their irresponsible actions.
Moreover, social media has led to the diminishing privacy of individuals. People's information that has been used to set up profiles can be misused to develop one's personality by use of algorithms. There have been reported cases in which social media companies have sold the user's data to the advertisers (Cohen, 2016). The social media platforms usually store users data in order to provide the user with content well-tailor to meet their taste and preferences. There are severe consequences of this information falling into the wrong hands.
Apart from the invasion of privacy, fake news has become a nuisance with the development of social media. According to Allcott and Gentzkow (2017), more than 62% of American adults get their news from the social media. The information that comes from social media lacks significant third-party filtering, fact-checking or editorial judgment. On social media, individuals with no reputation can reach as many people as established media organizations such as the CNN or Fox News with contradictory or unverified content. In the 2016 US elections, for instance, the supporters of Donald Trump used the social media, mostly Facebook, to share the fake news that condemned Hillary Clinton to a humiliating loss in the elections (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017).
Social media has moreover been blamed for creating social isolation. Whereas social media improves interaction between people, a study by Reed et al. (2017) demonstrated that people exhibit withdrawal symptoms when they are removed from social media platforms. As people spend time on social media, this makes them less dependent on interaction with other people, but more dependent on their interaction with their devices. This social isolation can lead to mental or psychological problems such as depression or anxiety (Reed et al., 2017). This is dangerous as it may lead to an increased number of psychologically unstable people in the society.
In conclusion, it is important to appreciate that social media has revolutionized the day-to-day activities in the society such as interaction with other people, learning and the conduct of business among others. It has made these activities easier and more efficient. People are able to communicate with their friends in real time, access breaking news by a tap on their smartphones or shop from their couch al due to the influx of the social media. However, although it improves peoples lives, it also has been associated with several negative effects. Social media has provided criminals with new opportunities to make money illegally. The rise of cyberbullying and fake news also coincided with the popularity of the social media. In an effort to improve communication between people, social media has made people dependent on their gadgets and this has led to social isolation. It is therefore clear that although social media created a hugely positive contribution to the society, it has been accompanied by negative implications that make the platforms dangerous for our use. It is, therefore, necessary for the stakeholders to make the social media a safe place for all.
Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social media and fake news in the 2016 election. Journal Of Economic Perspectives, 31(2), 211-236. http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/jep.31.2.211Boyd, D. (2014). It's complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven: Yale University Press
Cohen, S. (2016). Privacy risk with social media. Huff post. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-cohen/privacy-risk-with-social-_b_13006700.htmlCover, R. (2015). Digital identities: Creating and communicating the online self.
Evans, A. (2017). Tackling the rise of cyber-bullying via social media | Echosec. Echosec. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from https://www.echosec.net/cyber-bullying-social-media/
Pew Research Center. (2017). Social media fact sheet. Pew research center: internet, science & tech. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media/
Reed, P., Romano, M., Re, F., Roaro, A., Osborne, L., Vigano, C., & Truzoli, R. (2017). Differential physiological changes following internet exposure in higher and lower problematic internet users. PLOS ONE, 12(5), e0178480. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178480
Turban, E., Strauss, J., & Lai, L. (2016). Social Commerce: Marketing, Technology and Ma...
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