Why should we be cautious of Social Media?
Social Media dominates many people’s lives. From sun up to sun down many people are addicted to checking their status, posting, tweeting, pining, and such. What started as a general way of communication has developed into something more, a lifestyle. And while there is nothing wrong with Social Media as a tool and a form of entertainment, there is a downside which should be considered. Here are a few of the downsides of Social Media.
A disassociation with reality
Social media presents us with an idealistic world. Even when there are negatives within that world, they are not pressing or permanent. One has only to block a thread, unfriend an offensive person, or click on the thumbs down button to avoid further interruption. While this filters out the offensive content, it also gives a skewed perception of the world. We come to believe that the world owes us happiness and that those who offend us in the world are doing so out of spite or in a deliberate attempt to offend us. We start to see the world from the same perspective that we see our social media, and that is the downside.
A break from social skills and communication
It is ironic to think of how much we have broken away from the standard conversation using technology which is intended for communication. Think about it. If there is a message that needs to be sent to multiple people, we do not call them or go visit, we post a status report. Should you wish to have instantaneous chatter with someone, there is IM. Letters and snail mail are a thing of the past, only used by billing companies and junk mail for the most part. It is rare to find a hand written stamped envelope with a letter these days. The downside of a lack of personal conversation is that we do not have strong memories built with those people and the power of the conversation is diminished. In a report from USA today it was stated that TalkTrack Research, Ed Keller, and Brad Fay stated that “our conversations in person are more powerful than those online” noting that we have more of a desire to talking with people we do not know about frivolous things than to real people we do know building memories and our interpersonal skills.
What is truth?
Perhaps the biggest downside of social media is the presumption that everything which is posted is truth. This is especially true when we look at posts, tweets, and pins from the media. Donald Trump consistently posts tweets with his opinions, the media regurgitates a form of the tweet, highlighting the post to serve their purposes, and then this is shared and reshaped. News media can share a fraction of a story on social media and quickly activists and various other groups can crop and edit the video, spin their interpretation of facts, and start a movement. Take for example the tweet of Justice Sacco. While the tweet was certainly not something which should have been posted, the story was blown out of its context and made to be a lot graver than what it was.
It is not that we do not know what is true and what is not, but rather that we have become lazy in seeking out references to prove that the information that we have read is factual. So long as it sounds good we tend to believe it.
The addicting power of Social media
Why, if there are so many downsides to social media do we continue to use it? Studies have shown that social media, specifically social media marketing is geared to cause addiction. The person using social media is given various rewards which trigger certain censors in the brain. These triggers release endorphins into the brain and make us feel good about ourselves and our decisions. The thing is that we become dependent upon that feeling. It is the same dependency which is needed for drug addicts, porn addiction, drinking, etc. So long as the feeling is euphoric to an extent, we want more of it. Since social media continuously evolves to play upon our sense of accomplishment and reward (whether this is through growing our friends, having the most likes, gaining a badge, having followers, or repost/pins), it is unlikely that there will be a deterring of using the major social media networks.
What we must understand about social media use is that it is a tool, primarily for communication and entertainment. We cannot elevate social media to a lifestyle status, placing our minds and our lives into an online platform. For when we lose the ability to think and to socialize we lose what makes us human, reason, common sense, and free-will.