The rise of social media has revolutionized communication giving anyone with Internet access the capability to create and curate content. As a journalism major with a specific concentration in online and public interest communication, social media platforms are integrated into the majority of my classes along with studying how people communicate through the Internet.
As a result, I am almost constantly behind a screen, writing, reading or editing. One of the major criticisms of our generation is that our obsession with our online appearance fueled by the capability to share anything and everything online contributes to a lack of “presentness” in life.
Another common criticism of the millennial generation is how their obsession with social media fuels their narcissism through the vapid gratification that social media offers via “likes.” Conversely, studies have shown that social media can also cause others (i.e. lonely people) anxiety as they are exposed to a social community of their peers, which they are excluded from.
Although I personally hold a certain reverence for social media because I have seen how it connects the world and how it can help change the world, I am aware of the limitations of these benefits.
For example, the ALS “ice bucket challenge” that was the most successful charitable challenge that went viral on social media in summer 2014 can act as an example of how social media can act as a double-edged sword.
- More than a million challenge videos were posted online, which increased awareness of this rare and dibilitating disease.
- Over $50 million was raised, as compared to the $2.2 million that was raised last year.
- The challenge was humorous and engaging, which actively encouraged more people to participate in it.
- As Arielle Pardes from Vice said: “It’s like a game of Would-You-Rather involving the entire internet where, appallingly, most Americans would rather dump ice water on their head than donate to charity.”
- Narcissism ultimately fueled the participation.
- Brian Carney asks if the “pretend suffering” of the ice bucket challenge is really the best way to help people suffering of ALS and encourage people to participate in charity.
This viral charitable challenge sparked a great deal of dialogue not only about ALS, but also a discussion about the ethics of whether it matters why people choose to give. Can something be considered bad when it does so much good?
This is parallel to my thoughts about social media.
Social media connects the world, but it does so at a cost. Social media has brought the rise of citizen journalism, immediate access to information, free advertising platform for businesses, etc.
Social media also causes the rapid dispersion of false information. There is a very crowded chatter on social media that is difficult to sift through at many times. Free advertising on social media is somewhat debatable due to the implementation of Facebook’s new algorithm, which makes it more difficult for Facebook pages to make it on people’s news feeds without many “likes” and the success of sponsored posts.
In addition, social media only connects parts of the world that have access to Wifi or don’t have government regulations on communication that restrict access to different platforms of social media.
As much as I am passionate about communications on the Internet and how much good it does, I think it is important to understand the inherent limitations of it. It can take away from my life at times. It can add to my life at times.
It’s all about balance and understanding.