Social media enables people in different countries to interact and share news. It’s a great way to keep in touch with family who live far away. Its positive uses are many and varied. Unfortunately, with every positive comes a negative.
The negative uses of social media are many and varied. This truth smacked me in the face during a recent conversation with my youngest son. He is away at college and we were using Skype (yes, technology provides many conveniences we love).
I informed him that a relative was engaged to be married. His response?
“No way! I didn’t read about that on Facebook.”
I’m sure you’ve heard similar statements from people in a variety of generations. My son was only partly serious. This initial response loosed the analytical side of my mind. Thoughts about the problems various forms of social media can and do cause churned and roiled.
My short-list looks like this:
- Sterile Relationships: My initial response when my son made his comment: “Some things should be conveyed face-to-face.” Social media sterilizes and cheapens personal relationships. Debates rage about whether too much socializing on social media affects a teenagers desire and ability to interact personally. An informal poll shows that 67 percent of people feel this is a viable problem.
- Miscommunication: The news is quick to tout the Tweets that went out at inappropriate moments (the Boston Marathon bombing a year ago comes to mind). I’ve seen reports of Jackie Chan’s death on Facebook. These are big name items but the likelihood that any post can be misinterpreted is high. Someone stops talking to you. When you track them down for the cause, it turns out they misread a status update on your Facebook timeline.
- Negativity: Do I even need to embellish this point? We’ve all seen the negative memes featuring President Obama. Cute pictures provide backdrops for hateful words degrading anything from marriage to religion. Yes, I’m thankful for free speech but have you ever noticed how much faster those negative posts spread? People are too happy to jump aboard. All the negative vibes on social media reinforce my original reluctance to join it.
- Loss of Privacy: For most people, this one ranks much higher on the list of problems. We can choose how much information to share, so I don’t get all up in arms about loss of privacy. When people share my business that I wanted to keep private? A problem arises, but I can take down the post or kindly ask them to do it. For the gossips of the world, social media expands their network of listening ears exponentially. No thanks.
- Is Everyone a busybody? Suddenly, people think they need to know every little thing about everyone. Instant news – we want it. Updates about health problems – why aren’t they posting on Facebook? Fodder for gossip mills – yep, people expect to see it all on social media. It’s harder than ever to convince people to give you space when people post pictures of all the food they eat, detail doctor visits and spill venom from a fight with their sister for everyone to see. This last is the worst. Since they don’t have to face a real person, many people feel entitled to say things in a disrespectful manner they would never use in a personal confrontation.
- Distance: Ironically, most social media exists to help us stay in touch and bring us closer to other people. Instead, too many people substitute kind words on Facebook for genuine caring outreach to people in need. This creates emotional distance. We need each other. We need hugs and someone typing *hugs* in my comments doesn’t offer the same endorphin release as actual skin to skin contact. (Although for those who live far away, I appreciate the sentiment behind this.)
I signed up for Facebook under duress because I need to build a platform for my writing. Since those early grudging posts, I’ve met quite a few incredible people from all over the world who I would never have otherwise encountered. Social media paved the way.
I’ve also had to block some strangers, remove myself from groups to which I didn’t ask to be added and hide posts from people I know from showing in my newsfeed. Minor inconveniences, sure, but infringements on my personal space that I would never have encountered if I hadn’t taken the social media plunge.
What are your thoughts? Are there other problems with social media that bother you? Maybe you think I’m over-reacting. Tell me about it in the comments.