It is quite true that use of social media in many fields remains to be a highly contradictory issue. Particularly it is controversial in the aspect of interpersonal communication. On the one hand, as remarked by Fogelson et al (2013), social media provide unique opportunities of communication to the people, who would otherwise be entirely isolated from the society and would lack interpersonal communication. In this respect it would seem, the use of social media is inevitable. But than, on the other hand, it is questionable whether or not the communication of the quality, which can be achieved through social media, is of reasonable quality, and whether or not interpersonal communication of this quality is better than nothing. It is questionable, whether or not this communication being not of the primary quality on the one hand, on the other hand takes away the stimulus for face-to-face communication, real life communication from the participants of the social media. In this respect it comes to be evident, that though it is unacceptable to ban social media or otherwise limit the use of such by the people, it is still important to inform people about the disadvantages of communicating through social media. Limiting or forbidding anything is almost never an option, but it is essential, that people should be aware of what they are using and of possible consequences of such use.
Many researchers including Caron & Light (2015) particularly emphasize the role of social media in the life of people with disabilities and some other groups of people, who have got difficulties with socialization due to one reason or another. Among such reasons may be the state of health, discrimination, family state, and other factors which, depending on the culture, may end up preventing people from proper socialization and, thus, communication in traditional understanding of this word. Meanwhile it has been found, that online socialization, which is oftentimes the purpose of social media use, oftentimes interferes with real life socialization and basically only takes a person away from their goals (Morahan-Martin & Schumacher, 2003). Let us look at the situation with people with disabilities and other low mobility groups. Certainly, for people with disabilities it is much more difficult to find a communication partner. Provided all other conditions are equal, it will be much more complicated for a disabled person to establish stable ongoing communication with anyone than for anybody else. There are a few factors which influence this. A disabled person is not as actively taking part in social life because of physical restrictions. It is physically more complex for many of people with disabilities to go out. Moreover, in some societies more and in some societies less, discrimination is often the case. The majority of people are simply not ready to properly comprehend disabled people. As a result, this provokes expectations of failure, and people with disabilities are oftentimes afraid to initiate communication, while expecting a failure. But is social media a solution of this problem? Hardly so. First of all communication is one of basic needs of a person. And thus a person is motivated to establish some relations even though this may cost them overcoming certain barriers. On the one hand social media seem to remove these barriers, while on the other hand along with these barriers removed is also the stimulus, the motivation to overcome obstacles. Meanwhile, the quality of communication which can be achieved through social media leaves much to be desired. Social media do not resolve the problem of discrimination. Social media only allows people to play suitable roles, roles, which they feel confident in. This only drives them away from actual communication and from sincere understanding and support, which may be provided by such.
In many instances people are prevented from interpersonal communication due to being located far from one another. Social media are believed to resolve this problem as well. But in reality they provide opportunities for formal communication, which is then oftentimes taken as an excuse for not communicating face-to-face. Why go a thousand miles, if a tablet can resolve the issue? But this sort of attitude is absolutely wrong. Unfortunately, social media are not providing the warmth and the support, which actual face-to-face communication is capable to provide.
Particular attention is paid by researchers to the use of social media by youth. Wang et al (2012) particularly point at the circumstance, that many researches have been found to point at the circumstance that social media actually interfere with establishing real-life relations in youth. Such relations are oftentimes replaced with virtual, in which people are choosing a suitable role and simply play it, remaining within the comfort zone and not establishing face-to-face communications. The popularity of social media discourages youth from real life communication, hampers their socialization processes. In this respect too heavy use of social media may also be considered dangerous.
Social media are also oftentimes seen by users as informational source. Meanwhile, in reality the information from social media needs to be properly comprehended. It is information, which is created by the users, and as such, it should be checked and should not be blindly trusted. Communication through social media may be dangerous for inexperienced users by providing them with significant amounts of unreliable data or, in some instances, propaganda. For instance, according to Ajbaili (2014) ISIS and a number of other terrorist groups are hiring their new members through social media. Thus, in many instances such communication over social media may also be dangerous.
Thus, as shown above, despite common belief, social media do not resolve issues with socialization for socially isolated people. Social media fail to help people who are located far from their relatives, instead oftentimes creating an illusion of communication. When speaking of youth, it has been found, that in many cases social media interfere with proper development of social skills in youth. Lastly, communication through social media may be dangerous, as many extremist groups hire their new members through social media, and arranging full-time control of social media by respective agencies appears to be impossible within democratic framework. Considering this it is important, that people should be aware with risks related to communication through social media. It would be wrong to ban social media or apply any limitations, which would prevent people from freely using social media. This contradicts the principles of democracy. However, it is certainly the right of people to know what they are using and what risks are associated with their use of social media. Thus it should be recommended that citizens should be informed more about social media, their advantages and disadvantages from the very early school age.
- Ajbaili, Mustapha (24 June 2014). “How ISIS conquered social media”. Al Arabiya News.
- Caron, J ., & Light, J . (2015). “My world has expanded even though I’m stuck at home”: Experiences of individuals with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis who use augmentative and alternative communication and social media. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 24(4), 680-695. doi:10.1044/2015_AJSLP-15-0010.
- Fogelson, N.,Rubir1, Z., ,Ault, K., etal (2013). Beyondlikesandtweets:Amn-deptl1lookat the physician social media landscape.” Clin Obstet Gynecol, 56, 495-508.
- Morahan-Martin, J.; Schumacher, P. (2003). “Loneliness and social uses of the internet”. Computers in Human Behavior 19 (6): 659–671.
- Wang, Z.; Tchernev, J. M.; Solloway, T. (2012). “A dynamic longitudinal examination of social media use, needs, and gratifications among college students”. Computers in Human Behavior 28 (5): 1829–1839.