Social media has become such an integral part of our lives that we rarely even give it a second thought. It’s hard to believe that it’s actually not even been around for that long. We use it every day, for all sorts of things, from shopping to keeping up with friends to learning the latest news.
But while it comes with advantages, there are also a lot of disadvantages to come with, like the impact it has on one’s self-esteem, or the decrease in productivity that comes as a result of being on social media.
What’s awesome about social media?
Everyone around you will have been talking your ear off about everything that’s terrible about social media, so let’s start with the positives and see what’s great about social media.
- It’s easier to keep in touch with friends and family
First of all, the personal component and the way it made it easier for everyday people to keep in touch with their loved-ones is a major game-changer. Social media (let’s be honest, mainly Facebook) has made it possible to instantly share photos and updates with your entire network of friends and family.
While a yearly family newsletter and Christmas cards are still nice, being constantly connected in that way with everyone you love is one of the huge selling points of social media platforms. And who doesn’t want to be connected with their ex forever? Stalking their new partner is just a click away.
- Connecting with strangers near and far is effortless
Then, there’s the global nature of social media and how shockingly easy it is to connect to people from across the globe, whether you know them or not. Social media has made it possible to reach just about anyone, no matter how far.
In addition, it’s made it incredibly easy to reach (and hold accountable!) brands and celebrities. If you don’t believe it, just try going through a brand’s customer service email and be ignored, and then blast them on Twitter and see how quickly you get your problem fixed. It’s like magic.
- It opened up a whole new avenue for marketing
If marketing is your game, then you probably say a little “thank you” for the invention of social media every morning. It completely transformed the way we market to people, in the best way possible.
It’s easier than ever for companies to reach their target audience and market to them specifically, thus increasing conversion rates dramatically. It makes much more sense to target someone based on their tried and tested social media habits than to shoot blindly in the dark, hoping to nail it and get people to click on your ads. Social media has helped create the most accurately and precisely targeted ads we’ve seen yet.
- It made shopping easier and more intuitive
And while some may curse social media precisely for how easy it is to convince you to buy something, there is no doubt that it made shopping so much easier, because it’s intuitive.
The ads you get on social media are based on preferences, habits, and tastes you’ve already expressed, so they are very likely to fit you perfectly. And with so many online stores being on Instagram now (including small businesses, vintage boutiques, handmade shops, etc.), it’s only a matter of liking something enough to click and buy. Easy-peasy.
- It makes it easier for consumers to make informed decisions
Remember when going to a new hairdresser was an exercise in anxiety and nerves of steel, because you never knew if they were going to turn out to be amazing or awful? Now, there’s no need to go in blindly – you can just check out their social media.
It’s super easy to go online and see previous work from stylists, tattoo artists, carpenters, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. They are all likely to have a social media presence where you can interact with the company, their customers, and check out previous work.
- It helps spread news incredibly fast
On a more serious note, social media has been an excellent tool when it comes to disseminating information. Whatever the breaking news is for the day, you are pretty much guaranteed to hear about it instantly thanks to social media, because it lands on everyone’s feed.
When urgent information is involved, every second is important, so being able to receive news instantly via social media can make an enormous difference. Especially when fast action is needed, this manner of announcing news cannot be beat.
- It’s a remarkable tool for social change
In recent years, especially, social media has played an important role in enacting social change. Precisely because it connects so many people from all over the world, it makes it easy to for users to come together and support causes they believe in.
We’ve seen social media campaigns for same sex marriage, legalization of marijuana, body positivity, racial discrimination, and a lot of other political causes. Because the news spreads so fast, it makes the ideal way to get signatures for petitions, popularize a certain topic, or get people involved with a cause they are passionate about.
What are the dangers of social media?
Of course, there are also plenty of negatives to consider – let’s take a look at what’s not so great about social media.
- It’s a very big time-suck
More than anything else, social media seems to be reviled for the huge amount of time it’s stealing from people. Of course, we offer it up completely voluntarily, but it amounts to about two and a half hours per day per social media user. That’s over 17 hours a week spent scrolling on a tiny screen, staring at other people’s lives.
Considering how much we complain about not having enough time, it’s hard to not think about all the things we could be accomplishing in all those hours we’re wasting away. What did we do with all that time before Facebook was a thing?
- It affects one’s productivity and attention span
And speaking of wasted time, let’s also address what a strain it is on productivity levels and attention span. Have you ever stopped mid-way through a task and interrupted your workflow, because you were checking social media? That’s bound to happen again and again, and it can really mess with your productivity.
Imagine what you could accomplish if you worked uninterrupted for a few hours, instead of constantly checking your phone or your pinging laptop. It’s true that this is up to the individual user and not to social media platforms themselves, but we really don’t need more distractions or procrastination incentives, do we?
- It helps reinforce unrealistic standards
One of the topics that are in discussion lately is the set of unrealistic standards social media promotes, especially in terms of appearance, but also in terms of lifestyle, wealth, and general expectations. Regular people are already tempted to only post the highlights of their lives, creating the impression that every aspect of their life is perfect.
But with highly curated blogger content being posted right next to content from regular people on our feeds on platforms like Instagram, it’s hard for the line between the two worlds to not become blurred. Suddenly, standards are escalating to an unreasonable level for everyday people.
- It’s a huge reason for low self-esteem
And speaking of impossibly high standards, failing to reach them and being constantly exposed to the manufactured perfection of other people can take a real toll on one’s self-esteem. Particularly when it comes to children and teens, this presence of unrealistic standards can shape their sense of self-esteem and impact it in severe ways.
Seeing perfected, edited images every single day creates a warped sense of reality that leads to unhealthy thoughts and behavior, in an attempt to reach those unrealistic standards.
- It’s a tool for easy and targeted online bullying
The easy access and instant connection to people far and wide is one of the big advantages of social media, but it can also be one of its biggest disadvantages. Bullying is, unfortunately, something most people struggle with, particularly during their childhood and teen years. However, social media exacerbates it to a degree that has actually led to an increase in teen and young adult suicides.
The anonymous quality and the ability to have easy access to anyone creates a lot of people who spend time “trolling” or otherwise bullying, harassing, and threatening other people and up until fairly recently, this kind of behavior went unpunished.
- It leads to a decrease in in-person interaction
While there is an argument to be made about the fact that social media is meant to promote social interaction, some argue that it actually has the opposite effect. Spending time on social media can lead to a decrease in time spent socializing and interacting with people in-person. That can put children and young people at greater risk for depression, self-harm, and suicide.
But even when the consequences are not that extreme, the decrease in in-person socialization is not a positive sign. Feelings of loneliness can turn into alienation and create feelings of anxiety related to otherwise normal in-person interaction.
- It creates addiction
Did you know that it’s possible to become addicted to social media? With a whopping 2.65 billion people worldwide being social media users, a lot of them spend hours scrolling through their feeds every single day.
Not only can checking social media can become a habit, it can become a legitimate addiction, where the person experiences FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) when they are unable to check their social media pages. Obviously, this compulsive need to refresh social media is far from healthy and can interfere with everyday life and real-life relationships.
Love it or hate it, it seems like social media is here to stay. Like most hugely popular things, social media can be very polarizing, because while it certainly has advantages, it also comes with some hefty negative aspects.
Its wide accessibility means that anyone can connect with anyone, no matter where they are in the world, and that important information can be disseminated to large numbers of people in a matter of seconds.
However, it also means that the users can be vulnerable to the messages and images they encounter here, which can create issues with body image, self-esteem, unrealistic expectations, etc.