More and more business and personal interaction is going to be taking place online. Because of that, it is not possible to dismiss social media. It is here to stay, and it does have value. However, how best to use it, how much value it really offers, and where it is going in the future are all issues to address. The media tools are taking the world somewhere exciting, and as boundaries fade and change the social rules that have been in place for so long are requiring a complete rewrite. Where will social media take society in the future? That remains to be seen. Most likely, social media will continue to grow and expand. That will allow it to change just as society changes, and that can help people who were previously focused on face-to-face interaction make the move to social media. Despite the value of interacting online, though, there needs to be a balancing act. In other words, it is vital that people learn to use social media but also keep their "real world" social skills.
Because social media showed up so quickly and seemed to explode onto the scene, it has allowed people to jump from interacting in person to interacting online. What do they do when they need to interact in person again? That is a good question, and one that many of them struggle with because they have forgotten how to be social from a face-to-face standpoint. A balancing act is definitely needed, because anyone who has to interact with others knows the value of doing that correctly. People who cannot interact one on one are often thought to be strange. They can be teased, bullied, and looked down upon. At the same time, it is thought to be strange if a person does not use social media. Is it necessary to use social media tools to have a successful life? Of course not. However, there will always be a stigma to not using them, because they are so common today.
When I first learned about social media, I was not that interested in it. I was used to interacting with other people every day, through phone calls and in person. Why would I put all the minutia of my life on the internet every day? Who in the world would want to read that, anyway? Apparently, a lot of people want to read about the lives of others, because it is very easy to make "friends" online. Some of the friends that link up on sites like Facebook have actually met one another in the past. They may have lost touch and then found one another again, or they may have remained close throughout the years. Other friends are not really friends in that they have never met in person and would not recognize one another if they walked right past one another on the sidewalk. Still, the younger generation considers these people to be their friends. There is little to no designation anymore between friends in "real life" and online friends, which shows that social media is starting to blur the lines and change the definitions of some common words and ideas.
Will that continue in the future? Most likely, yes. Social media may be relatively new, but it came onto the scene so strong that it is clearly not going to be disappearing anytime soon. While MySpace has mostly faded away and is used more by musicians and bands than by others, Facebook and Twitter are still going strong. The ease of interaction is part of what makes it so appealing. I can get all my news and weather there, right in the feed, and I can also see what all my friends and family members are doing. I can see what is taking place with the causes that matter to me and the organizations I support, and I can even see if any of the stores I like are having sales I want to take advantage of. There are many perks to having social media, because it can be used in so many different ways. Even if you are not that social, you can use social media to follow the companies and people that matter to you, and to get deals and information you might otherwise miss. Doing that does not require you to post anything about your life, if you do not want to share.
Privacy is a big issue for social media. People who do not use it at all sometimes make that choice because they are worried about the information the site collects and whether personal information they share will appear as public information at some point. Even if you have settings that only allow your "friends" to see certain things, there is nothing stopping a "friend" from copying that information and pasting it somewhere else - making it public. If you are going to use social media of any kind, a good rule of thumb is to never, ever put anything on it (even if it is supposed to be private) that you would not want or allow the world to see. If you are concerned about your privacy, avoid posting that information. Then you do not have to worry about whether anyone will see something you did not want them to see. Some people lead very public lives, so it does not matter at all to them if others see their information. Most people, though, still want to keep at least portions of their lives private. That can be difficult to do with social media.
In the future, I see social media as becoming even bigger than it is right now. I see people providing more and more information about their lives, to the point where (for some of them) nothing is really private and nothing sacred. Still, that does not mean that is a good idea. It can be easier for predators to take advantage of people when they can get access to more of their personal information. It can also be easier to tease and harass people, and to subject them to public humiliation based on the information they have provided to the world. Social media is a double-edged sword, and can easily do good or do harm. How it is used depends on the person using it, but also on the information that person can get access to. If you do not want people having your information to use in whatever way they want to, it is very wise to keep that information off of social media. Then you will not spend your time worrying about what you said and what others might do with that information. It can give you peace of mind and let you sleep better at night.
Even with some of the pitfalls and concerns, social media is exciting. There are so many things to learn about other people and the world we all live in. I enjoy social media because of the interaction I get from it, but I also enjoy interacting with people in person. My main concern is that generations in the future will have too much social media interaction and not enough real life interaction, which will make it harder for them to get jobs, find partners, raise families, and be productive members of society. That might not be the case, and people may learn to adapt on their own, but the idea of future generations that have no social skills is a real concern for me. Because I learned how to interact with people in person before I learned how to do that online, I can see the value in both. My fear is that too many people in future generations will see only the benefits of social media and will fail to understand why they should interact with people on a face-to-face basis.
Since they can attend school online now, and they can also get employment online (including working from home), where is the incentive to get out and "mingle?" They can also meet prospective love interests online, and eventually choose to meet in person. Will that meeting go well if one or both of them is not even used to talking to people somewhere other than through the computer? That might not seem like a big issue, but societies are based on cohesiveness and community. There is none of that on a local level when everyone is at home on their computers and thinking globally. That is not to say that globalization does not have its place, but only that social media may be setting future generations up for failure when it comes to local, in person interactions.
I want to see social media succeed, but I also want to see people stay social in person. There is nothing like meeting up with good friends and family members and doing something together. Anyone can do that, but he or she has to be able to interact with people when there is…