By Chris Taydus
News stories about social media tend to be on the more negative side of the spectrum. Facebook’s latest court case is more likely to make the 10 o’clock news than a woman in San Francisco who got the opportunity to see her new granddaughter in New York on the day she was born through a video chat. It can be hard to find the silver lining to these dark clouds of digital technology in today’s news-scape.
I promise I’m not blind to the negatives of social media though. Turn on any news program or open any newspaper, and you’ll read about security breaches, cyberbullying, catfishing, offensive statements, or fake news that stemmed from one of the various social media sites. So, what are some of the positives of utilizing social media?
One of the first social media websites to come into existence was titled Six Degrees. It began in 1997, seven years before Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook. The site was based on the pop culture theory that anyone in the world is connected to actor Kevin Bacon by six people or fewer. Isn’t that the point of social media? To keep people connected throughout the world regardless of distance.
As stated earlier, first and foremost, Social Media keeps you connected and up to date on what friends and family members across the world are up to. How many times have you run into an old friend out in the “real world,” only to realize that you haven’t spoken to them in months or even years? Sites like Facebook can help to keep you up to date on what these people are up to so that you can stay in touch.
Keeping in touch is somewhat apparent though. What about people you don’t necessarily know? Social media can allow you to make contact with people and communities that have similar interests, even if those interests may be more uncommon. For me personally, because of Facebook, I met a group of friends that share my enthusiasm for the 1984 sci-fi comedy Ghostbusters. Now I spend time with these people attending conventions, participating in charity events, and generally hanging out. These are people I most likely wouldn’t have ever met without social media.
It’s not just similar interests though. Websites like Facebook and Twitter, or even community message boards can assist in locating people that share your medical issue or ailment. The Parkinson’s Foundation has 492,775 people connected to their Facebook page. The Alzheimer’s Association has 136,000 followers on their Twitter page. Users can utilize these pages to find support, information, or just personal stories that you most likely can’t find on their websites.
Finally, there’s the anonymity. There are issues with privacy, but it can also help people find it easier to share their feelings and problems openly with minimal risk of identification. They can get the support they need to deal with issues they may not feel comfortable sharing with the people in the “real world.”
Like many things in this world, social media can be okay if you know how to use it properly and you manage your limits appropriately. I don’t expect this piece to have people clamoring to sign up for every social media site tomorrow, but I hope that this has at least quell some of the fears you might have about participating in this cultural phenomenon.