Influence of social media in changing human perspectives
News Desk || shiningbd
Only a decade ago, social media was little more than a budding trend. Sure, there were websites such as Friendster and MySpace that had a decent level of adoption, but the population as a whole had not come around to it yet.
Back in 2005, Facebook was still in it’s early stages of its spread across the world. Heck, I was signed up for it back then, but didn’t really see the point until a few years later. Twitter appeared around that time, but a lot of us saw it as a pointless lifecasting toy. LinkedIn was essentially a digital resume and, for some of us, a pseudo-Rolodex. And Google+ didn’t even come on the scene until 2011, followed later by Pinterest and other platforms.
Fast forward to 2014, and social media has become not only a key part of the modern lifestyle, but a useful marketing channel for businesses of all sizes. Yesterday, a friend commented (on Facebook of course) that her elementary age kids were stunned to know that phones were only used for conversations a few years ago. They were dumbfounded to hear that we didn’t even carry phones with us 15-20 years ago.
This tells me that everything has officially and permanently changed. There is a generation of kids coming up (mine included) who can’t even conceive of a world without smart phones and social networking. It has officially embedded itself in our culture.
As someone who spends nearly every waking hour connected in some way, including both personal and business, this really hits home for me. Let’s look at ways that social media improves our life experience, and also a few ways that it uncovers a few of the more unsightly parts of humanity. Surely you’ll agree on at least some if not all of them.
Social Media: The Good
Before I cover the “Bad,” let’s start by appreciating the things social media has done to add to our lives. Here are some of the better things I’ve observed.
Immediate Access to Information
Given all the consolidation of media companies in the United States, it is pretty easy to question whether the news we get from the major media is the full story or not. After all, it’s not a rare occasion to hear more about the latest Kardashian scandal or celebrity death than a political uprising in Turkey or elsewhere in the world.
One of the things that attracted me personally to Twitter was the immediate access to other sources of information. Back when the government raided Osama Bin Laden’s fortress in Pakistan, there was a nearby citizen live tweeting his observations of the whole situation through the night. I was out at an event that evening, and learned of it pretty soon after news broke domestically, directly from my contacts on Twitter.
Social media is also very helpful for expanding our sources of content as a whole. With so much being blogged and written, then curated and shared proactively, the volume of content has grown exponentially. Now, there is no shortage of viewpoints and sources from which we can draw our own conclusions about what is really happening in the world. It’s less important to have a news team interpret it on our behalf.
Connectivity To Others
I remember the days of phones with old style dials. We didn’t even have answering machines back then. If you called someone and they didn’t answer the phone, you had to call back and try to catch them in real time.
Today, if you can’t catch someone on the phone, you can leave a voice mail or send a text. Or even better, tweet, Facebook message, or touch base in some other means. You can see what others are doing within seconds of them doing it, assuming they share it on a social network of some sort. It’s not hard to catch up with someone if they want you to find them. Kids have no idea how convenient this is in our daily lives (privacy concerns aside).
Similar to the phone situation I just spelled out, it was extremely difficult to access a globally reaching platform where one could share their opinions or findings back a mere 25 years ago.
Today, all we have to do is login to our platform of choice. For those of us who can write, it takes only a couple of minutes to create a new blog and start putting our thoughts into words. And those thoughts could grow legs of their own once the social sphere grabs hold of them.
It is far easier to do something remarkable and noticeable, and have it reach people across the planet, than it has been at any time in our history. We now have truly globalized voices. What a privilege!
Here’s one that originated on Twitter and eventually made its way out to the other social networks. Hashtags served a very important purpose on Twitter in the early days – you could create one tied to a specific trend, event, or topic, and filter out everything that didn’t relate to the hashtag.
This was great for allowing a completely unstructured app like Twitter to enable focused conversation. It’s amazing how people will find answers to problems or needs on their own, and make the most of a platform.
More Level Playing Field for Business
Some may argue this point, but by providing us with global reach for our voices, social networks enable businesses across the world to amplify their message in a way never thought possible only a decade or two ago.
Now, a small company can achieve global reach within days of launching their business when the cards fall right. Perhaps it’s via an ingenious video, by sharing opinions that resonate and haven’t been stated in the past, or creating new knowledge that spreads like wildfire.
Social Media: The Bad
It would be short-sighted to only highlight the good from social media if I want to stay grounded in reality.
When it comes to politics, religion, or any other very personal area of life, discussion gets contentious almost immediately. If you have a different belief system from someone else, you are both more likely to fight to defend it rather than cave to the other side of the argument. These are very delicate topics, and it’s too easy for the conversation to devolve into personal attacks and negative judgments of each others’ characters.
Hiding Behind Anonymity
Although it is getting harder to shield your identity these days, anonymity has been a key piece of the internet since its early days. It’s amazing to see how people behave when their true identity is masked.
Being offensive anonymously is not only cowardly, it shows a lack of character. We should all be better than that.
All Talk, No Action
In recent years, we’ve seen a ton of hashtag activists and similar behaviors across social media.The idea is to get likes and shares on the picture or video, or challenge others to take part, aiming to have a message spread.
The ugly underbelly of ignorance is easy to ignore while you’re going about your everday life. But on Twitter, it’s all over the place. There have been many blog posts highlighting hateful, misinformed, or just plain confusing and delusional tweets at various times in the past.
It would be easy to laugh at this, but it’s also important to realize that this stuff is really going on out there. The world is not a perfect place, that’s a fact. If something is ignorant and it offends you, sharing it to express that outrage just amplifies the message further.
Social media makes the world a better place in many ways. It also gives a platform to some less savory behaviors and opinions.