Whether you believe it’s for better or worse, the power of social media is undeniable. Today, it’s considered essential. It’s difficult to find one person who is entirely offline. With so many social platforms comes the GR8 ability to access seemingly endless information–whether or not the information you get is accurate is often a topic of debate, but we’ll get to that later.
Many social movements gain significant traction, attention, and support due to the power of social media, with its broad reach and influence. Is this one of the benefits of social media or is it something to beware of? Can social media present triggers that affect us negatively?
A Changing Culture
Just 15 years ago, the idea of seeing a protest, a political speech, or even an inside peek at a celebrity’s home in real-time from a mobile device wasn’t possible. Many never even dreamed that it could happen. But today, it’s how we experience many moments. One of the benefits of social media is that we can live, literally, in-the-now without being physically present.
What musician is live streaming an acoustic set from their living room right now? What national events are unfolding across the country, yet also in the palm of our hands? And what about citizens in other countries who are fighting battles of their own that are not likely to be seen on the local news? With social media, you’ll know.
The Concept of “Now”
Years ago it may have taken us weeks, if not months, to learn of injustices or social uprisings in other countries. We may not have heard about a child being kidnapped at all if it wasn’t in our local area. All of these things spotlight the importance of social media.
Today, we learn about these things almost immediately. Furthermore, if we are ever interested in learning about local news in another state, or country, we have the ability to search and find instantaneous results.
This concept of “now” lends to the significant power of social media. With real-time updates and information on events, individuals have the opportunity to make immediate calls to action, to voice support or opposition to an event or movement, and to stay up-to-date on events as they unfold.
The Ability to Organize
Another one of the benefits of social media is that it provides individuals with the ability to organize like never before. Before the time of digital feeds and internet groups, it was only possible to organize for a cause in-person or through second-hand information.
With the power of social media, there are now online spaces that connect people around the world. We can now share plans, organize simultaneous demonstrations, provide tips on how to effectively voice opinions, and so much more. Social media offers a collaborative space for thinkers to communicate, no matter where they are.
The Spread of Information
The need for individuals to receive information, particularly during times of GR8 social movement and change, highlights the importance of social media. However, as public, open platforms where anyone can share what they wish, it can be hard to decipher what’s real and what’s not.
While some social media platforms implement “fact checking” features, with billions of posts shared daily it’s virtually impossible to verify the source and legitimacy of every content piece. What makes it even more challenging is the fact that information is often shared via screenshots from phones, or recirculated so many times it becomes hard to tell its origin.
The ability to easily disseminate information is one of the many benefits of social media, yet ensuring that the facts you share are correct is essential too. How do we know where to start? In the world of photo editing software and graphic design it’s easy to make something appear real, even if it isn’t.
Verified news sources are easy to trust, such as national television networks or online newspapers. But even they can get it wrong sometimes and need to post retractions. When looking at memes or shared posts, we must be careful of what we continue to spread online.
If you question the legitimacy of a post it’s always best to do your own research. Another one of the benefits of our online world is that research can be done quickly. There are websites dedicated to fact checking that you can search in a matter of minutes, and a few quick clicks on a search platform can usually provide you with an answer.
When Social Media Turns Ugly
There is no doubt that there are many benefits of social media, and the importance of social media in today’s climate is undeniable. But sometimes it turns ugly. From online arguments to fake news, social media can have a negative impact on our mental health.
Social Media and Mental Health
With a constant stream of information coming through our phones and computers, it’s possible to begin struggling with feelings of anxiety and depression as a result. One study shows that after just fourteen minutes of exposure to negative news our mental state begins to decline. But we can’t get away from it.
To reset and relax, it may be a good idea to consider a short social media detox. Take a break from the bombardment of news on social media even if it’s for a few short hours.
Social Media and Relationships
Other times we find ourselves in heated debates, in a series of comments with those who have opposing viewpoints. If we don’t know how to have these conversations in a healthy way, the negative feelings can follow us around through our everyday lives.
You may find that these exchanges happen with strangers, or with friends and family who have different social and political views. Sometimes they happen with acquaintances, people on your friends list who you haven’t spoken to in years. If you find this happening often it may be time to clear your social media feed of negative individuals.
The Bottom Line
We’ve come too far to banish social media, and if you ask, many people would never want to. Just like many other things in the world, there are many benefits of social media yet also many downsides. The power of social media has taken on a life of its own.
We can’t always control what we see and what we don’t see on social media. To an extent, this may be a good thing. We’re exposed to new perspectives, new information, and other ways of thinking. Other times, it can bring us down and promote the spread of false rumors.
So what to do? The best advice is to use social media wisely. Check your sources, share things you know are real and not things that are simply what you want to hear. Keep it cool when you have discourse with others online, be civil. Use social media to your advantage to stand up for your beliefs and what is right, to benefit social causes and battle injustice, but never to bring others down on a personal level.
Think of social media just as you think of real life: treat others how you wish to be treated, yet stand firm in your morals and beliefs.