Social media, we all come in contact with it these days. In fact, this whole blog can be counted as social media as you can communicate, i.e. bein socially active, with other people. I’m sure you all have Facebook and maybe Twitter where you share all you ever wanted with half the world.
Social media has become increasingly popular in the last few years and has anchored in today’s society. But what exactly are social media? Well, the explanation is in the name itself, it’s an environment for people to meet and chat about topics of their liking. Several social media websites have spawned into existence in the recent years, most of which you already know. For example there is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Myspace. It’s safe to say that these are the most known with Facebook and Twitter right at the head of this list. Currently, Facebook is on 500 million users. To put that into perspective, that is 1/12 of the world’s population registered on the same website. That’s a massive amount of people that you can instantly connect to! So naturally that brings a lot of opportunities and threats (Starting to sound like a SWOT-analysis here).
First of all, social media websites are a way to connect with your friends, and communicate with them. I personally use it for that purpose. It’s a great tool to quickly exchange information about whatever you want, basically. Be it random chatter between friends or copy your homework from classmates (C’mon admit it! You’ve done it too!). Next to that, it’s also used as a profile of yourself for the world to see. You can select your interests, write down your school or work career, ‘like’ groups, upload photos and so on.
Taking this one step further, it’s a way to become known in the world. Many celebrities and high profile people use social networking sites as a gateway to success. They do this by just making their own fan page or share their daily routines, news and randomness with the world. And apparently, this seems to work fairly well as they often get thousands upon thousands of fans and followers who eagerly devour every new status update or tweet. In essence, social media is used as a marketing tool and a very effective one at that. Just about anything you can think of has its own page on one of these websites. Whether you like dancing in the rain or eating paper, you will find a page with people who like the same things as you. And therein lies the strength of social media, namely connecting with like-minded individuals around the globe and bringing them together.
It’s only natural that the corporate world has picked up on this new sensation. Companies all around the world have set up various systems of using social media to their advantage. This ranges from promoting their product or service to screening new job-applicants. Companies get a good look into an applicant’s personal life, just by quickly surfing to their Facebook page and use this information, in conjunction with other systems such as a job interview, to determine if that particular candidate would be the best choice for a particular job opening or not. In fact, I did a presentation on this subject for my Human Resources course this year where I elaborated on this subject.
Now, let’s talk about some dangers of social media. The most prominent danger is obviously related to privacy. There have been many publications about this subject with extremely varying opinions. Now, you should know that just about any social media website has settings to regulate the information you show and to whom you show it. Privacy settings have come a long way since the launch of social networking websites, but they aren’t always very accessible to people who don’t know about them. And even then, you can still find most profiles (and a profile picture) on Google, regardless of what settings you use. But, when all is said and done, if you don’t want people to know something, just don’t post it! Easy as that.
Another concern is addiction. Yes people get addicted to these websites which leads to them posting EVERYTHING. Seriously, no one cares if you just went to the toilet or if you contracted some STD during some wild party of which you remember … nothing. This sharing madness has become so bad that a few websites have begun collecting all the funny and awkward things people post (see link above). I’m sure this problem will only become worse in the future.
Next up, communication. You can communicate just about anything to everyone on social networks, which can be potentially disadvantageous. Things are being posted, liked and commenting without the slightest thought put into them or their impact on others.
In the end, social networks aren’t at all bad or good in the same way that not everything is black or white. Everything has to be put in perspective and viewed as a whole. Social media will become an increasingly important part in all our lives, and it will continue to evolve. The only question is: do you jump on the bandwagon, or do you jump off?