The Social Media as a Neutral Technology
Social media has become a common technology among a majority of individuals in the contemporary society. Over the last decade, social media users have been on the rise. This has been mainly the result of proliferation of cheap smartphones and increased connectivity to the internet. According to Statista.com, the current number of internet users is at a staggering 3.58 billion, representing almost half of the world’s population. As social media permeate people’s lives, concerns are mounting about the negative impacts it has especially among children and the youth. Social media allows people to enjoy interconnection in a virtual space. However, it is this connection through virtual space that some skeptics argue brings more harm than good. This might not be true at all. The main argument advanced in this paper is that social media is a neutral technology whose consequences depends on how individuals use it.
Contrary to research findings that social media use contributes to alienation, social media sites enable users to develop more interactions and expand their social space. People can use social media to meet new friends or even their life partners, just like in the real world. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow people to share images, exchange messages, and receive new information on daily basis. Social media allows people to breach the physical space between them. For instance, individuals who schooled together but currently living in different geographical areas are likely to keep in touch through the social media. However, spending too much time on social media may actually lead to alienation from the real world. Individuals who may prefer to spend much of their time on social media may not have enough time to interact with family and friends. As such, how people use social media determines the outcomes.
Sharing of information and experiences on social media enables people to feel happy or to experience a sense of self-fulfillment. This is similar to sharing experiences or news with friends in the physical world. According to Konnikova (2013), sharing experiences through the social media allows individuals to achieve a certain psychological need that arises out of the fact that human beings are social beings and will normally feel the need to interconnect and share with others. The emergence of the social media merely came to fulfill an inherent need among individuals, which is to share and interconnect with others. Through sharing and interconnecting with others via social media, the brain’s reward center becomes activated thus making individuals feel happy. When people share positive content, they are likely to receive positive feedback from their friends thus feeling happier. Nonetheless, sharing information through social media can also attract ridicule from users. This is no different from the ridicule that one can experience in the physical world.
The use of social media allows people to utilize their free time in an interesting or fun way. When individual feel bored, they are likely to turn to social media for entertainment or to chat with friends. In addition, they may create content or share images just for interacting with others. As Fitzgerald (2018) asserts, the use of social media sites such as Snapchat allows individuals to express themselves in ways they are not able to do in the real world. In particular, the ability to use social media sites allows individuals to escape from reality. Most social media sites allow users to limit the sharing of content with others or even the number of friends they can have. This creates a healthy space where individuals can express themselves to friends or those they wish to share content with. This, nonetheless, comes with a risk of spending too much time on social media, which could significantly influence one’s productivity.
Some social media users are able to take advantage of the interconnectedness that social platforms provide to advance their hobbies, talents, and work. While most social media users are driven by the need to develop and perpetuate social connections, some users have taken advantage of this to market their skills and reach a greater audience. In the story shared by The Telegraph, Alexander Lawrence is able to make use of Twitter to meet new friends, get expert advice, and advance his writing career. This is evidence enough that by using social media responsibly, people can fulfill their dreams and lead happier lives. Alexander has been able to develop connections through Twitter and get requests to write blogs for people. Not all people can be able to take advantage of social media or their interconnectedness to market their skills. As such, this will largely depend on how individuals make use of the social media.
The selfie culture has permeated social spaces with strong vigor. Some social media users derive happiness by sharing selfies with their online friends and getting feedback about their looks through comments and likes. However, as Moses (2018) a highlight, behind the smiles is a different story. Some selfie takers are likely to feel worse in their attempt to feel happier through sharing pictures online. This could be worse especially when there is cyberbullying motivated by pictures shared online. Feelings of worthlessness may exacerbate such a situation. Thus, in as much as social media may contribute to negative feelings, other factors not related to social media come into play, for instance, self-esteem and personality.
In summary, the consequences of using social media largely depend on how individuals utilize the social platforms. While there are dangers that lurk to those using social media, these dangers are not unique to social media alone, but are present in the real world. As the internet becomes increasingly common, there is no way to prevent individuals and especially adolescents from exposure to social media. Parents should guide their children on how to use the social media responsibly and mainly to avoid the many dangers that lurk in the use of the internet.