Did you know that it has been proven that using social media makes people happier than spending time with family, sporting events, or having more money? (THE GUARDIAN, 2014). The rise of social media usage in modern society, particularly amongst young people, has raised concerns among many commentators about the risks and disadvantages of this type of communication. With more and more people choosing to spend large quantities of time communicating via site such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, critics of social media question the privacy, security, and usefulness of social media to modern society. There are both benefits and disadvantages to the increasing use of social media in our modern society. However, despite the very real disadvantages and dangers, research has indicated that social media has real benefits for modern users. Social media carries definite and proven risks for users; however, it can also be enormously beneficial.
Social media has been criticized as harmful to the communication skills and benefits of real, face-to-face interactions (READING EAGLE, 2012); because social media encourages virtual communication, it can be seen as impersonal, superficial, and lacking in true empathy. However, research has also indicated that using social media makes people happy. In a study that examined a number of situations such as having more money, spending time with family, and sports events, social media was shown to be the activity that rated highest as making people happy (THE GUARDIAN, 2014). It is likely that this is a direct result of the feeling of inclusiveness and connectedness that social media creates for users, who feel that they can be heard and involved through the use of social media; it may also be a result of the fact that social media facilitates many of the other factors seen to make people happy.
At the same time, social media has been criticized as harmful to the communication skills and benefits of real, face-to-face interactions (READING EAGLE, 2012). It is more accurate, however, to say that social media has changed the ways in which people communicate with one another, allowing faster and more informal and impulsive communication. Research has shown that, for businesses in particular, this change in communication methods has resulted in benefits for users in both economic terms and in terms of connectedness to others (THE SOCIAL SAVIOR, 2015). Social media makes it easier for individuals to connect to one another, but also for individuals and groups to communicate effectively, making it easier for messages and ideas to be shared widely and collectively.
Communications via social media, for example, can lack security and are vulnerable to invasions of privacy because of their public nature (READING EAGLE, 2012). Outweighing these disadvantages, however, is the fact that different studies have also shown that social media can help to equip young people with a range of valuable life-skills. These benefits occur as a result of the constant practice at communication it encourages (THE WASHINGTON TIMES, 2009). By being so constantly connected to the public, young people have the opportunity to explore and challenge social conventions, develop new interests and technical abilities, and develop their personal sense of identity (THE WASHINGTON TIMES, 2009). These skills help to keep society cutting-edge and progressive, and also help prepare the next generation for life, work, and society.
As can be seen, therefore, social media carries definite and proven risks for users; however, it can also be enormously beneficial. It cannot be denied that using social media carries certain risks to security, privacy and personality. However, the benefits that accrue from appropriate use of social media can be seen to outweigh those risks extensively.
- THE GUARDIAN. (2014). On Benefits of Social Media. [Online] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/advertising/digital-media-trends-blog-social-benefits. [Accessed: 25th October 2015].
- READING EAGLE. (2012). The Pros and Cons of Social Media. [Online] Available from: http://www2.readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=412755. [Accessed: 25th October 2015].
- THE SOCIAL SAVIOR. (2015). Benefits of Social Media for Business. [Online] Available from: https://www.thesocialsavior.com/uk/benefits-of-social-media-for-business/. [Accessed: 25th October 2015].
- THE WASHINGTON TIMES. (2009). Social Networking Benefits Validated. [Online] Available from: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jan/28/social-networking-benefits-validated/?page=all. [Accessed: 25th October 2015].