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Understanding Social Media and its Impact

Whether or not you use social media, it has had a great influence on our lives since it began. News travels faster, businesses broaden their reach and get cheaper advertising, and you can instantly touch lives within your network with pictures and videos from across the miles. These are just a few ways social media has impacted our lives and more than likely, you’ve been on one of the three largest sources.

The “Big Three” social media sites

Facebook: By far the largest social media network in the world. A quick Google search shows, “In the third quarter of 2012, the number of active Facebook users had surpassed 1 billion.” Being that this was a few years ago and Facebook is still here, chances are you either use Facebook, or know someone who does. This is a social media platform that is here for the long haul.

Twitter: Probably the second-largest social media network in the world. Although, not nearly as large as Facebook, Google says, “As of the fourth quarter of 2015, the microblogging service averaged at 305 million monthly active users,” that’s not too shabby. Twitter brands itself as a social media AND microblogging site. Microblogging, in that a “Tweet,” can’t be more than 140 characters in length, whereas a Facebook post can be 63,206 characters long!

Instagram: This social networking site had 300 million users as of December 2014. In April 2012, Instagram was acquired by Facebook for approximately $1 billion. While Instagram posts must contain a photo or video, Facebook or Twitter can post pictures, videos, or just plain text, which makes many people prefer the latter platforms. Ever popular with Generation Z or the generation without a name, however, Instagram seems their preferred way to tell and read one’s story.

Social Media “Pros”

News: Stories in the news are spreading much faster thanks to social media. Many of us check social media sites more frequently than we watch television or listen to the radio. Users can like or follow their favorite news outlets on their preferred social media site, which allows them to see news stories from these news outlets as they are posted. If one has notifications on, they can see news as it’s posted, allowing information to be captured faster than if they were getting news from television or radio.

Advertising: Businesses are finding that it is much cheaper to advertise on social media sites rather than having to pay high amounts for television and radio advertising. Considering the amount of users on social media, a social media advertising campaign might reach as many, if not more customers, than television or radio. As a side note, social media also allows businesses to get fast feedback from their customers.

Family and Friends: Social media provides us with a great way to keep in touch with family members and friends that do not live near us. It makes it easy to lookup long-lost family members and friends and likewise, we can share certain aspects of our lives through pictures, videos and posts.

Groups: There are social media features that allow us to create groups with specific interests for users to join. For example, if you’re into cars, you can create a group comprised of individuals that like cars. Basically, the members have discussions generally about the topic of the group, bringing like-minded people together to talk about the subject they are interested in, and share information about it as well.

Law Enforcement: Social media can assist law enforcement in the capture of wanted criminals or establishing a case against them. It is not uncommon to hear or read about the police building a case against someone based on the content of their social media page.

Employers: Social media sites can reach more prospective employees than traditional methods. In addition, if a person follows a page, they generally have a liking or an interest in the company, potentially making them a vested employee before they even begin.

Social Media “Cons”

Can be addictive: Just like most activities, social media can be addicting. Users should be careful not to get sucked into news and other stories that they do not find interesting. In addition, just the act of being on social media can be addicting. It is far too easy to pick up a phone and start scrolling; you see it all the time, individuals looking at their phones while driving, walking, even sitting in restaurants and social settings. At times, people seem more interested in their social media app than they are the person sitting in front of them.

Cyber-bullies: Social media can open the door for cyber-bullies to harass their victims. Some kids get attacked on the internet by bullies calling them names and threatening them. For a kid, this type of attack can make it seem like nobody likes them and, in extreme cases, can lead to suicide. It’s important for a parent to educate their children on these matters and stay involved when in social media activities.

Employees: At times, companies may experience their employees spending too much time on social media, and not enough time doing their jobs. Even if a company allows their employees to use social media, which many do not, they are not likely giving their employees permission to browse social media for more time than they are expected to be working.

Children: Social media can open the door for cyber-bullies to harass their victims. Some kids get attacked on the internet by bullies calling them names and threatening them. For a kid, this type of attack can make it seem like nobody likes them and, in extreme cases, can lead to suicide. It’s important for a parent to educate their children on these matters and stay involved when in social media activities.

Inaccurate information: Some social media users tend to believe whatever they see in a post or meme (an image with text.) Oftentimes, these posts and memes are created by users who do not always do research before creating them. This can spread inaccurate facts about important situations, as more and more people get their information from forms of social media.

As we’ve discussed, there are positive and negative aspects of social media in regards to how it has impacted our lives since it began. Being aware of the impacts and keeping the content seen in perspective can make for a fun browsing experience. One thing is for sure, social media is here to stay, so, until the next post...

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