Is Social Networking a curse or a boon? There’s a very thin line. When Sunanda Pushkar had an outburst on a social networking site, the world tuned in and every Tom, Dick and Harry had their opinion about it. Her sudden death was only followed by a flood on the social media. There couldn’t be a better example of how the social networking websites have changed our lives. Private isn’t private any more and the anonymity it affords emboldens even the meek. It’s an addiction or maybe just a way of life now. Whatever it might be, it makes for a compelling discussion and throughout this discussion, you will see points about online services and not social media directly. Take a deep breath and just think “Aren’t they all related”.
As an evergreen topic, surely most of you already have heard or read enough about it. The points remain the same every year, only examples vary.
POINTS IN FAVOUR:
Better relationships: These sites help you connect with your friends and family. Geographical barriers are broken down and it increases bonding. Also helps in making new friends and interacting with people from places far and beyond. Social Networking has made the world a very small place. Ever increasing online dating and matrimonial services are a proof that these sites have, to a great extend, helped in keeping the fabric of society intact.
Spread of information: Like a forest fire, the networking sites spread the news of any major or minor events across the world within seconds of its occurrence. People learn about breaking news on social media. Be it an approaching storm in the US or AAP rally in Ram Leela Maidan, information now flows faster than ever.
Helping students: Students accessing these sites can discuss educational topics and assignments as a group and can keep themselves updated on the go. Helps increase the interest level in school related activities. Social networking provides academic research to a wider audience, allowing many people access to previously unavailable educational resources. Social networking sites are also being used to give students a support system at colleges. Social networking sites offer teachers a platform for collaboration with other teachers and communication with students outside the classroom. Preparing for competitive examinations has never been so easy.
Empower business men and women: Its on these sites that one can meet like minded people and receive all the support to extend any sort of business. Also latest technological trends related to your business are at your disposal at the click of a button. Small businesses benefit greatly from the free platforms to connect with customers and increase visibility of their products or services. For example, factors like spiraling inflation and slower economic growth failed to dampen the online shopping trends of Indian consumers and have witnessed a significant change in 2013, recorded 85% rise in online trends over the regular shopping than last year (65%), reveals ASSOCHAM latest paper released on Dec 30. A major driver behind this is the Social media. See those ads on the side of your facebook page. They are there for a reason.
Boon for job seekers: Several networking sites are solely dedicated for employment requirements. Example is LinkedIn. Employees and employers alike can find people best suited for their jobs. Social networking sites offer a way for musicians and artists to build audiences even if they don’t have a corporate contract. Examples include YouTube channels.
Affecting the political scene and bringing out social change: Social networking sites are the easiest low cost method to give a social movement the push it needs. Remember Anna’s India against Corruption campaign. People share their views which spread far and wide and can help a movement gain the momentum it desperately need. Over the years, we have seen mass vigils being organized through the help of social media. And since the major population group using these websites is youngsters and young adults, it is likely to increase voter participation and change the political scene of a specific region. Just Giving, United Nations Aid, Asian Development Bank, Oxfam and World Health Organisation widely use Facebook as a fundraising channel. Individuals can also join the bandwagon. During the 2006 tsunami crisis, over 500 young Indians started Facebook donation pages to raise funds for those affected.
Making people health conscious: Past few years have seen a revolution in the health business. From interacting with health professionals to learning about healthier alternative lifestyles, social media has changed it all. People have become more aware. From new exercise techniques to diet plans, everything is shared and propagated on social media. Social media allows for quick, easy dissemination of public health and safety information from reputable sources too. The governments use it too.
Helping the senior citizens: It’s not only the youngsters who enjoy social media; these sites provide a renewed zeal for life in the senior citizens. Finding their long lost friends and reconnecting with them, social media is a source of enjoyment for them too.
Overcoming social stigma: Social networking sites can be used as stepping stones for campaigns and providing awareness about issues regarding mental health, AIDS affliction, homosexuality, leprosy. Social networking allows for open debate on these topics and removes the doubts and misconceptions with regards to them. This lessens the stigma associated with them and helps in paving way for a more tolerant society.
Lack of privacy: Being on multiple social platforms is the current trend; a person’s most personal details are available for the world to see. Knowingly or unknowingly, every small detail of our day to day life is uploaded on social media. Even a person with average Internet skills can have easy access to personal and educational details as well as likes and dislikes of any random stranger. One can never be too careful about the information they reveal about themselves on the social media. Privacy is dead.
The latest addiction: How many of us can honestly talk about the first thing they do when then get up in the morning? As shallow as it sounds, the next move after turning the alarm off is to log onto Face book or Twitter or your personal favorite social networking website. You know you are an addict if you can’t go even a few minutes without checking up on these sites. From lower grades of students to decreased productivity at work, social media has a part to play. Why do you think they are banned at most workplaces? From uploading every little detail about your day to checking up on people’s lives, a major part of our day is consumed by social sites. Social Networking is the latest addiction of the new century.
Spreading false information: Social media is a rumour mill at a global level. From false news about natural as well as man made disasters to spreading incorrect information about world renowned people, social media shows it all. Celebrity death rumours or bogus information about health hazards, these websites are a non-stop source of news about every sphere of life. And with enough people talking about it, unreliable information is passed across the globe causing mass hysteria. Social networking sites encourage amateur advice and self-diagnosis for health problems which can lead to harmful or life-threatening results. Thanks to the sheer volumes of chatter, it’s become impossible to decide what is real and what is fake.
Lack of face to face interaction: With every eye glued to the screen of their smart phones and tablets, actual conversations have taken a back seat. People who express freely on a social networking site have forgotten how important face to face interaction is. Friends sharing every little scrap of detail on social media feel discomfort actually sitting across from each other. It’s rightly called the virtual world, as the champions of this world will more often than not, under perform in the real world. What happens when the virtual bubble bursts and you are left to face reality? You become self-loathing, depressed and demotivated.
A time waste: An experience most of the people are familiar with is how a “five-minute-checking-on-updates” ends up in several hours browsing through useless information. Not only is it a waste of precious time and energy, it cuts down on productivity. Most of us fall asleep checking up on social media sites without realizing how much of our actual sleep time gets consumed browsing through information that has absolutely no relevance in our lives. Less sleep leads to more health problem as well as our ability to concentrate on task at hand. Every new alert from a social networking site distracts us from the original task at hand and in general just brings down the performance level.
A harm to job prospect: For most of us, a social networking site is an extension of our actual life in the online world. Once it’s on the social media, there is no going back. A thorough back ground check on a potential employee includes going through details of their online profile as well. From poor grammar to a drunken post, or post containing religious content, absolutely anything can generate a negative reaction from the potential employer.
Affecting crime rate: A net savvy generation has seen a surge in social media related crimes. Minors befriended by criminals on social networking sites sometimes end up being blackmailed or raped or worse , being killed. Trusting the wrong person online has ended up in a huge personal as well as financial loss for even the smartest of people. Cyber suicide rates are growing by the day with the majority of cases involving youth under the age of 25 in India. While schools and colleges claim to be in the process of devising various plans to handle Facebook peer pressure in a more effective manner, the rate of suicides continue to increase. Adults can also be victims of cyber bullying, from social, familial, or workplace aggression being displayed on social media sites. Social media aids the spread of hate groups.
Personality disorders: Depression, anxiety, distress, feeling lonely are few of the many symptoms seen in people addicted to social media. Decreased interpersonal relationship and excessive use of social media can lead to problems relating to mental health .The use of social networking sites is correlated with personality and brain disorders, such as the inability to have in-person conversations, a need for instant gratification, ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and self-centered personalities, as well as addictive behaviours. Social networking can exacerbate feelings of disconnect leading to social isolation.
Social media is now pervasive in our world with existing social networks expanding, niche social networking sites being created for educators, medical professionals, and other groups, and new social media sites popping up regularly, all accessible 24 hours a day via computer, tablet, smart phone, and Internet-enabled devices. Proponents of social media cheer on the benefits and possible advances to society while dissenters worry the dangers and wasted time far outweigh any benefit.
Proponents of social networking sites say that the on-line communities promote increased interaction with friends and family; offer teachers, librarians, and students valuable access to educational support and materials; facilitate social and political change; and disseminate useful information rapidly. Opponents of social networking say that the sites prevent face-to-face communication; waste time on frivolous activity; alter children’s brains and behaviour making them more prone to ADHD; expose users to predators like paedophiles and burglars; and spread false and potentially dangerous information. But and needless to say, the impact of social media has been huge. It’s not so much the social media platform but it’s users that define its effect on general population. And since that is beyond any control of the makers of such sites, we are forced to be extra cautious.
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