There are people who love social media. These people check their Facebook 10 times an hour, they Tweet about their experiences in the bathroom, and they can’t fathom eating a meal without putting it on Instagram first. Then, there are people who loathe social media. They think it promotes narcissism and creates the illusion of a social life, when in reality those experiences on social media aren’t as real or meaningful as face-to-face interactions. Of course, those are the two ends of the spectrum and there’s a lot of middle ground, but it brings up an interesting question, one that a client of ours spoke of in a recent meeting. We’ve been talking about the question ever since. Is social media bad for us?
The short answer is no.
Sure, social media might encourage some people to become completely delusional and self-absorbed, but that’s not a requirement and by no means exclusive to social media.
A digital experience is still a real experience. It may be less personal, but so are plenty of other forms of communication. A phone conversation is less personal than meeting someone face to face, but it isn’t any less real. Deep conversations can be held on Facebook, and people can alienate each other on Twitter. Getting a happy Facebook message can make somebody’s day, and sharing a great Pin can do just as much for a relationship as telling a joke at the water cooler.
To say that social media creates the illusion of social engagement and the experiences are somehow fake is inaccurate. Social media gives an opportunity to be shallow and self-centered… just like real life. And it gives an opportunity to be authentic and supportive… just like real life.
It could be the case that many social media nay-sayers are traditionalists who disapprove of change. When dealing with something new or different, it’s often easier to reject it, or fear it, rather than accept that you know nothing about it and try, and learn it.
It’s strange to think of social media as something new, but it is. Facebook only started just over a decade ago. There are people entering adulthood who were born in a time where the internet has always existed. There are kids starting to get angsty and terrible who weren’t alive when social media wasn’t a thing. For these kids, it’s not some new strange thing called social media, it’s just socializing.
Those who think that social media is bad choose either to ignore the good, or feel that the good doesn’t outweigh the bad. Social media can help you stay in touch with friends and family who are far away, as well as the people who are close to you. It’s useful for sharing news and information, and getting to know people.
Saying that social media is bad is like saying that a rock is bad. The rock itself isn’t bad. You could use it as a paperweight, or a pretty decoration, and that rock is good. If you throw that rock at someone’s head, then the rock is bad. Social media can be a great tool for business as well as personal life. There were foolish and irresponsible people long before social media, and they’re not going anywhere. Social media isn’t to blame.