Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
It offers widespread reach beyond traditional media sources by creating broader distribution channels, some with unintended consequences. Its influence is too large to ignore.
But the unintended consequences of social media have begun to obscure the benefits. Cyber bullying and body shaming, fraud, privacy violations, and hacking are the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath is even more terrifying.
The two faces of social media have caused me to rethink its value.
Living in a Digital World
No matter how you feel, it’s one badass networking tool. Despite my belief that digital over-engagement is rampant, I confess I’m a regular user in both my personal and professional lives. In fact, I’m a daily user. There, I said it. But I only use it to do good in the world.
I was not born into the digital world, but as it advanced, so did my skills. The more comfortable I am with technology, the more I appreciate its capabilities. In the beginning it was strictly personal but over time it became a professional tool.
At its best, it distills complex business topics into shareable information easily read and discussed. It offers feedback options with the ability to continue the dialogue and generate broader engagement. The good face of social media is a platform for learning and expanding your network.
For professionals, the value of online dialog lies in the ability to better understand the buyer’s journey and behavioral histories, enabling a more focused understanding of audiences and segmentation. It provides a wide spectrum of networking and career opportunities.
Social Change Through Social Media
Social media has moved beyond the fad stage. It is the tool of choice for raising awareness, debate and dissent, challenging political power structures, organizing protests; and, of course, throwing shade at anyone or anything while remaining anonymous.
It is the medium that beats the news and delivers content to the world in seconds. However, there is no global consensus on how to use it. Living in a hyper-connected world removes intermediary ability to control what is posted and increases the ability to access content that might otherwise be unavailable.
Cue the hashtag. Sharing experiences through public campaigns empowers ordinary people who refuse to be ignored or forgotten. Hashtags like metoo and JeSuisCharlie began with low-risk social sharing; unifying everyday people in a communal bond and proving emotion is a powerful tool for change.
Digital drama is the reaction to negative online behavior. It occurs with other forms of technology, but social media is the context and platform of choice because of the wide audience, interactive nature, and live-streaming capability.
Of course, a platform that offers a bigger audience, or the potential to create one, comes with the risk that the buzz and resulting perceptions aren’t guaranteed. Remember, social media is two-faced and unpredictable.
A common thread in all of this is privacy. The sharing, collection and use of personal information has grown exponentially, increasing data collected from mainstream as well as rogue sources. Not all of it is real, much of it is hate speech, and none of it is necessary.
When this drama plays out on my social media feeds I am disheartened and angry. \I don’t want to read it, see it, participate in it or respond to it. I respect the First Amendment Right; and I know where the delete key is.
Unfriend, Unfollow, Unlike
I have been on the brink of deleting my personal social media accounts but am reluctant to pull the trigger. Their value is my connection with friends and family, sharing the minutiae of our daily lives even though we are physically apart.
I cannot imagine severing this connection, but I have grown intolerant of the political bashing and verbal shaming that have replaced the friendly social neighborhood I knew. It is the few, not the many—but just one of these posts ruins my day.
Before hitting the delete key I looked at the common threads of these posts and decided to unfriend a few and unfollow quite a few.
The unfriending was easy. These are people that have no connection other than a shared childhood. We are not friends, we have no common ground and I no longer want to see their political rants, insensitive responses, name calling and drunken postings.
Unfollowing was also easy. These are people I like, but Facebook has become a platform for them to rage against the machine. I no longer see vacation photos, family updates, or everyday celebrations. I miss reading those posts.
Political affiliation was never a reason to join Facebook. I don’t care what party my friends or their friends belong to but now it’s all I see. I choose not to read or engage in the current dialog.
The Two Different Worlds of Social Media
How can something be wonderful and dangerous at the same time? Easy—no rules. No enforced etiquette or guidelines governing social spaces means equal opportunity for good and evil.
Social media is a world within a world. A life defined by retweets, shares and likes means the real world is pushed away; replaced by a virtual one. Real world involvement is traded for on line living; superficial at its best, isolating at its worst.
Invested relationships are replaced by superficial profiles and postings driven by the need for public approval. The clutter and dissonance of on-line living removes users from reality and diminishes discernment between fact and fiction.
When we become more invested in posting our lives on line than living them, we have indeed gone to the dark side and embraced the other face of social media.