Social media: A force for positive good, or an outlet for the trivial?
Write to the Point
Sometimes I wonder just how much good social media does, or if it’s meant to do good at all. Maybe it’s not meant to do anything. It’s just there.
In a way it boils down to how you define good. What kind of outcome do you expect from using social media?
If you define good by the re-establishment of long forgotten friendships, connecting with lost relatives, promoting a cause or organization or creating awareness about an issue, well maybe there is some good to be had in social media. You can do some of these through more traditional communications methods, like newspapers, as well though.
Even with social media, like Facebook, you have to be a member and be connected with people, much like being a subscriber to a newspaper, or magazine. But most of us in media recognize you likely don’t get the same speed of feedback or response through conventional means as you do with social media.
I’ve been a Facebook user for 4-5 years now, but lately my frequency of usage is dropping. And I’m not alone.
According a recent Pew Research report, 61 percent of Facebook users have taken a multi-week break from using the site in the past, and I’m one of them. The reasons are many and varied, the leading at 21 percent being they were just too busy and didn’t have time for it.
Ten percent didn’t like it or weren’t interested and another 10 percent felt the content was irrelevant and a waste of time. Considering how many posts there are about how much someone loves their kids, grandkids, dogs, cats, Juicy Fruit gum, where they’re at right now, what song just popped into their brains, what they’re listening to, on and on ad nauseam, I can fully relate to this last 10 percent.
Nine percent felt there was too much drama, gossip, negativity and/or conflict on the site, and again on my part – ditto. In fact conflict and negativity were two of the main reasons I decided to take a break not long ago.
One of my Facebook “friends” likes to use the site to test the waters of public opinion about issues of the day, especially local issues. That’s a use that might do some good, except these posts invariably degenerate – and usually it only takes three or four responses for this to happen – into episodes of confrontation, with individuals clashing over ideas not in a productive argument, but through name calling and sarcastic insinuation, even cynicism, about others – and cynicism to me is an unhealthy emotion bordering on hate.
There are other types of social media as well. I don’t use Twitter all that much, I get breaking news in other ways, and have begun getting into the business network Linkedln.
I was on Craigslist the other day and for some reason was drawn into checking out that site’s discussion forums. Some, like politics and sports, had posts that were beyond mean, but in all of the topics there were posts leaving me wondering that if these people had to attach their names, photos and contact information, would they even have dared uttering, let alone writing down what they said.
It’s the bravery of being out of range.
But under the “Dying” forum was a post from someone who said they entertained thoughts of suicide. The responses to this person were positive attempts at reaffirmation, and hopefully the individual followed through on some of the requests to be contacted.
Which brings me back to my original question: How much good is social media doing? Is it making our lives better, our society more whole, our community stronger?
Or is it just giving form to the mundane?
I’m interested in knowing, so go to the Free Press’s Facebook page and post a response.