‘Social’ and ‘media’ have become common words on the lips of many people in both formal and informal settings. You hear talk about these words at work, at home, in leisure spaces, and wherever, but what exactly is social media?
Social media is especially good for news, education, research, communication, and connection as well as enjoyment among other advantages that I will be explaining.
While there are a great number of advantages of social media, there must be disadvantages as well. In summary;
Advantages of social media
- Connectivity and Communication
- News and Information discovery
- Education and Research
- Sales and Marketing
- Enjoyment and Refreshment
- Eliminates physical Biases and Stereotypes
- Identity and Awareness
Disadvantages of social media
- Privacy Concerns
- Mental health issues
- Distraction and inattention
- False information
In this article, the discussion focuses on the advantages of social media. We shall explore seven top advantages which cut across the economic, social, and mental aspects of life.
A Brief Description of Social Media
Social media is a collection of online platforms that foster personal expression through the creation and sharing of information, interests, and ideas;
The information sharing is done in a virtual space – a community or network.
Social media includes interactive internet-based applications like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, Telegram, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Viber, Teams, Blogs, TikTok, and many more.
Within the last two decades, social media has increasingly become an integral part of modern living; we hold meetings – formal or informal, facilitate classes, participate in group discussions, share material, or check in on loved ones on social media.
Pretty much everything social, economic, or otherwise can be done on these platforms.
Sharing of ideas and information is done not only by words in the form of texts, but also by audio or video messages, and images.
Social media meets the social, educational, career, or business needs of all people in all age brackets and all social classes. So yes, it has quite a number of advantages.
Let’s explore these top 7 advantages of social media.
Top 7 Advantages of Social Media
1. Connectivity and Communication
Connect, connect, connect! That’s the essence of social media.
You get numerous awesome platforms to connect to people, not just in your location but all over the world, isn’t this great?
You get to use Facebook or WhatsApp to connect to long-lost friends and relatives, keep in touch with family and workmates, or even meet new people and places around the world.
Passed is a time when people had to eagerly wait to receive mail in their post box, a fax from the machine, or at least a telephone call.
Now with all the connectivity, you do not need to wait for days or hours to communicate. All you have to do is pick up your smartphone or open your laptop or tablet, and there you are; communication is made pretty easy.
2. News and Information discovery
Instant news at all times and from all over the world is what social media offers.
Gone are the dull days of sitting and waiting, setting an alarm for 1 o’clock news, or grabbing a newspaper every morning from the streets to be able to keep informed.
Now all you need is a phone to get news, and if preferred, customized news. How cool is that?
Social media, in addition, helps you stay updated about situations, phenomena and transitions into the world of technology.
There are a variety of applications to choose from to stay updated worldwide and discover new things.
Twitter for example gives you plenty of stories making news from different media houses especially those you choose to follow; Facebook and Youtube are all channels that various media houses subscribe to and post updates daily.
3. Education and Research
Various social media platforms are a great way for students to learn as they can post questions and get responses from different people.
Students are also able to form discussion groups over these platforms.
You do not need to pile up books or meet physically only to learn. There is plenty of opportunity to learn and research by picking up your phone, tablet, or laptop and tapping on a particular app.
In this way, research and learning is made easier and more interesting.
Take Pinterest for instance which offers numerous topics and experiences in all aspects of life; be it gardening, cooking, parenting, or career, name it and find it with just a slide and a tap!
As a result of how technology has become a core part of the world, ongoing developments, including artificial intelligence are going to have a significance on future jobs.
According to The New Work Smart’s 2017 report; future jobs will become less focused on routine, and more on working with people and solving problems. This prediction is not unique to only young Australians but young people all over the world too, hence, digital skills are becoming more essential.
The young generation can skillfully and efficiently use social media to build skills like sharing digital information; building online identity; responsible online interaction and maintaining a digital reputation.
In addition, children can learn on social media by watching tutorials, asking questions on topics of interest, replying to posts, and reading articles.
There is plenty of useful and educational material that is shared on social media platforms.
4. Sales and Marketing
Social media offers unique opportunities for organizations and business owners to connect with clients.
With the wide variety of options, there are lots of business owners who have thrived using social media much more than they could have without it.
A lot of businesses market products on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp Business, LinkedIn, and others that promote commerce.
Whatever your product or service, whichever brand, whichever size, color, or texture; you can market, promote and sell using social media.
It offers an excellent opportunity to develop and practice your career; several people especially in the social work practice can reach out to clients, offer help, solve problems, and make a difference in someone’s life through social media.
It provides a good space for noble causes.
5. Enjoyment and Refreshment
Human beings are social creatures, and social media is one way you can enjoy this innate desire without actually doing much or going anywhere.
When tired, stressed, or bored, a tap on your smartphone can help calm you and relax your nerves.
With one of the various apps in the social media collection, you will certainly find a funny post on a WhatsApp group or a hilarious comment on a Twitter post. Reading through these, and watching some videos can be a way to freshen up.
This may not even take much time, could be during a lunch break, or even a 5-minute break from the busy schedule. Just for fun, and pure enjoyment.
6. Eliminates physical Biases and Stereotypes
While you air out your opinion on Facebook or Twitter, the focus is not on how you look like, which social class you belong to, or what flaws you have, all that the audience receives is the opinion, and it is respected or disregarded not based on your social or physical characteristics.
This allows for confidence in opinion, as well as interaction at the same level regardless of the physical, cultural, or doctrinal differences.
The ability to share and contribute without being judged and the excitement that comes from seeing positive and meaningful reactions to your posts can help build self-esteem and confidence.
7. Identity and Awareness
When you join a virtual community that shares your interests, concerns, or ideologies, you find yourself; your identity in and with that community.
For young people, this identity counts even more because the divide between online life and offline life is so slim, hence online presence forms an important part of their identity.
Social media is an extension of their identity and allows them to explore and share ideas and interests which are unavailable offline.
In joining the different communities, you get to meet people from all walks of life and different parts of the world.
The sense of belonging and identity can help you feel more accepted, you learn to deal with your feelings and get support through challenging and trying situations.
You will also get to understand and appreciate other people’s opinions and perspectives. All this builds self-awareness but also others’ awareness.
These very charming, helpful, and useful platforms, however, have undoubtedly got a downside as well. Putting connectivity, information, fun and education, and others aside, social media’s downside should be given attention.
Here are some common disadvantages of social media:
1. Privacy Concerns
On some occasions, you may share too much or too sensitive information that may expose you to danger, or lead to the loss of friends; tweeting inappropriate information may lead to the loss of a job for instance.
Be aware that security agencies globally have access to all your posted information on social media. Your privacy as a user of social media may be compromised.
2. Mental health issues
Social media brings together people of different social groups and backgrounds. For most young people, there is bound to be pressure to fit in or rise to the perceived acceptable standards which can strain one.
In addition, social media in most cases is used as a substitute for face-to-face physical interactions which can accelerate feelings of social isolation.
Let’s not forget cyberbullying. All these can lead to stress and anxiety, hence affecting one’s mental health.
3. Distraction and inattention
In my world of lecturing, I get to stand (or sit) in front of mostly young people who are excited and discovering.
On some occasions, students get distracted by the beeps or vibrations that alert them about a new post or message, or response from a friend or a group.
It gets quite annoying when one can not go 10 minutes without glancing, swiping, or tapping on their smartphone.
Social media can be quite distracting and may make you inattentive. This can affect your concentration and that of the people around you.
4. False information
Fake news and false information spread quite quickly on social media.
The information shared is basically the opinions and ideas of individuals which is not usually pre-checked and taken through verification and approval processes, anyone can create anything and share at any time. Even lies!
False information can have grave and disastrous effects on particular topics and subjects.
Social media with its many benefits for teenagers and young adults also has negative contributions including;
1. Addiction; when young people use social media excessively they develop a psychological addiction. They start to feel and act like they can not do without a selection of platforms and without the communities they have connected with.
2. Affects school performance; many young people can experience a surge in the quality of school performance because of low concentration and dedicating more time to virtual communities and interaction.
3. Ostracism and social disconnection; by excessively depending on social media, young people can cut themselves off from society and their natural world which will definitely affect the socialization process.
Qn. What is the Impact of Social media?
The social media impact is felt in different aspects of life including;
1. On politics. A great number of people get their political information primarily through social media. Electoral processes and activities are promoted and popularized through social media.
2. On commerce. Organizations, companies, and corporations use a platform or various platforms to reach out and connect to clients. There is increased connectivity through social media, improved marketing, and boosted sales in personal and corporate businesses
3. On society. Social media platforms have spread worldwide and almost every person now has access to at least one option.
A very big number of the world’s population subscribes to Facebook for example, and a good number of social media users subscribe to more than just one platform.
This widespread use comes with changes in societal norms which can be positive or negative.
4. On work and professionalism. Professional connections have been made easier with professional platforms like Linkedin. Employers can easily find suitable candidates in the comfort of their offices and without the hassles and expense of advertising.
Social media comes in the form of numerous platforms, the top five (5) commonly used platforms are;
Social media gives us great opportunities to explore and create a virtual extension of our social and physical life.
As seen above, this extension comes with numerous advantages that impact the social, economic, emotional, and physical life of the user.
The variety of apps in the collection of social media however have also got some negative impacts on the user.
It is important to use social media smartly, and this means being an intelligent and conscious user to harness more from the benefits than suffer from the disadvantages.
The world has changed and is still changing, social media is not something we should avoid, we need it and we can use it to our benefit.