How many of us have spent hours surfing our social media pages? Whether it is mindless scrolling through random selfies and song quotes, planning the next big social get-together, or posting about a recent life changing event, social media has changed how society functions. Social media technology may not be tangible in itself, however it does create somewhat tangible positive and negative consequences. There are many different kinds of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even dating sites, which all function differently and are tailored to suit different audiences. However, most all social media is connected by one common interest: communication. Social media allows millions of people to communicate ideas, feelings, pictures, and even have conversations in just a few clicks of a mouse. This increase of communication has drastically changed how information is spread through society.
The technology of social media has allowed information to be conveyed to a mass amount of people in an instant. “Social networking sites like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are fast becoming a constant source of alternative news for Internet users, and also becoming a channel in which users can direct the focus of national news media” (Mason). This has been absorbed by politics and celebrities to influence a mass amount of people. However, social media has improved communication opportunities on a smaller scale as well. In addition being a record of someone’s past, it can be used to efficiently plan events for the future or even a medium for personal conversation. Either through group chats, direct messages, or creating a “group event page”, plans can easily, quickly, and even personally be communicated to multiple individuals. This replaces past methods of looking through a phone book to call each individual, or even writing letters. This saves an immense amount of time and thus makes it easier for people to contact their friends or family to have social interaction.
Social media is typically thought of as the classic Facebook and Twitter posts, which are updated records of what happens in an individual’s life. This creates an archive of such person’s life, which can be very beneficial. Personally, I enjoy being able to keep in touch more easily with friends or family members that I haven’t had direct contact with in a while. Scrolling through my Facebook and Twitter feeds can be entertaining and helps me know what specific people are up to. My relatives have often commented that they enjoy knowing how I am doing and being able to keep up to date with my life even though I haven’t seen them in a very long time. It is also a way to express feelings and store actual images or videos. This versatility for communication however comes with a great cost, privacy.
It concerns me to some regards just how much privacy this generation has lost through the use of social media. As a potential law enforcement officer, I have researched how social media users’ information can easily be tapped into and exploited. However, one big problem (or solution depending on how you look at it) is that most of us simply don’t care. As a society, we have become accustomed to being public and lacking privacy. It has become a social norm to publically share private matters about our lives. In fact, sometimes not being public about one’s life leads to social criticism. Social media in this sense creates a social hierarchy based on how many “followers/ friends” someone has or how much they post/tweet, etc. Our definitions of “friends” becomes much less personal when we have over 500 of them, most of who we have rarely ever talked to in person. None of the less, as a society we crave having influence (politics) over others, and having more followers and posts leaders to greater influence. Although most of this influence is backed by pre-determined social hierarchies, such as celebrities, social media still promotes this authoritarian political system. Twitter even has an “official blue check mark” which indicates that someone is of a higher social class. It also creates division among those who have access to social media and those who don’t. As the number of poorer countries that gain access to the internet and social media increases, so does the influence that certain groups begin to have which leads to more social change. “We will only continue to see social media directing world events, building awareness and breaking news. It’s the voice of the people, speaking to the people. Everyone is now a reporter, and that’s an empowering feeling when the pen is mightier than the sword” (Mason).
Yet, social media does have a Democratic aspect. Since it does allow such mass communication, this communication CAN be utilized by all. In many ways, social media breaks social class divisions by allowing this free communication. If I wanted to, I could say something to my favorite celebrity, just by tweeting them. With normal social barriers, I would never be able to so easily contact those of higher social class. Social media opens doors and increases opportunities for interaction, communication, and expression.
1.Mason, Lisa “Impact of Social Media on Society: 5 Times Social Changed the World” SocialMediaSun.com