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Social Media Essay

social media essay



Social Media: Benefits, Drawbacks, Nuances and the Future

Abstract

Most people have heard the expression that “no man is an island.” Essentially, this expression seeks to comment upon the fact that human beings are social creatures. Human need other humans—for support, for companionship, for help, for brainstorming, for sharing information. Human beings working together goes back to the time of the caveman, when teamwork was crucial for survival. In the last few hundreds of years as humans have spread across the globe, there’s become an aggravated need to stay in touch, share news, and information and to nurture the practical connection from both a personal, logistical and professional level.  

When the first form of social media debuted, no one could possibly realize the tremendous impact it was going to have on society and the global economy. If you ask the average person what the first manifestation of social media actually was, they might say Facebook. Another person with a better memory might cite MySpace, the precursor to Facebook. However, the origins of social media go back even further, to the dawn of the Internet. The fact that an initial social networking and sharing tool debuted as the internet was in its infancy, highlights the primacy of social connection  and sharing one another’s lives. From that time onwards, social networking has been refined and redefined, and the ways we use it have evolved as well, along with the enormous power and scope that it contains and can wield. 

The essay will look at the origins of social media, the nuances connected to social media, and the benefits and disadvantages of social media. Social media has had far-reaching repercussions that few people are adequately aware of. This essay will examine how social media has not only impacted how we socialize and communicate, but how we shop, do business, promote and market, along with the inherent possibilities and pitfalls of the social media user, influencer and receiver.

Titles

Pros and Cons and Nuances: An Examination of Social Media

The Influence of Social Media Today: Youths and Adults

More Than Keeping in Touch: How Social Media is Changing Business, Commerce and Identities.

How Many Likes? Social Media as the Final Influencer

Social Media Unknown: The Origins, Nuances and Secrets

Topics

Origins of Social Media

Benefits of Social Media

Disadvantages of Social Media

Social Media and Celebrities

Social Media and Business

Outline

I. Introduction

            A. Brief definition of Social Media

            B. Brief overview of the origins and expectations of social media today

            C. Thesis: Social Media is both simple and complex, beneficial and adverse, and has changed the world and human interaction in immediate and hidden ways.

I. Advantages of Social Media

            A. – Social Benefits

            B. – Information

            C. – Fun

II. Disadvantages of Social Media

            A. – Privacy

            B. – Compare and Despair       

III. Celebrities and Social Media

            A. – Benefits and Drawbacks

IV. Business and Social Media

V. Conclusion

Essay Hook

Social media has undeniably changed the way that human beings interact with one another, in ways that we are all aware of and in ways that are more opaque. Likewise, social media has an ability to both damage and elevate in humans in ways that are both obvious and hidden. Given that social media is such a complex tool, one needs to examine it fully in order to completely understand it.

Introduction

Social media is definitely a term that is thrown around a lot lately, and people often use it to refer to really any site or app on a computer or a phone, that has users. That’s hardly correct and for the purpose of lucidity, this paper will define social media as, “Social media are web-based communication tools that enable people to interact with each other by both sharing and consuming information” (Nations, 2018). There are hundreds of social media tools out there, but even though they all offer the user a different experience, they still have some common features. Some of the more common features of social media tools are things like: user accounts, profile pages, friends, followers, hashtags, likes, news feeds, personalization, notifications, information saving, updating, posting, comment sections, like buttons, reviews, ratings, voting systems (Nations, 2018).

In the late 80s and 90s, when the Internet was in its infancy, there was a system for true computer science experts called Bulletin Board System or BBS: “these online meeting places were effectively independently-produced hunks of code that allowed users to communicate with a central system where they could download files or games (many times including pirated software) and post messages to other users. Accessed over telephone lines via a modem, BBSes were often run by hobbyists who carefully nurtured the social aspects and interest-specific nature of their projects – which, more often than not in those early days of computers, was technology-related’” (Shah, 2016). Long Distance calling rates were still relevant in those times, so the interactions on BBS really were social, as they encouraged in person meetings (Shah, 2016). Later in the 90s came sites like Classmates.com and SixDegrees.com, which were all specialized versions of what behemoths like Facebook does today.

Social media, in all of its early incarnations encouraged users to connect and share and gave them a platform where doing both these things were easier.

Thesis Statement

Social media is a both a powerful tool that can renew friendships, bridge long-distance relationships and connect people who have fallen out of touch, while making day to day sharing easier. It offers many immediate benefits as well as disadvantages, and challenges to the average user, influencer or company. The more one understands its nuances, the more poised one will be to take advantage of all it has to offer. 

Essay Body

Advantages of Social Media

Perhaps one of the most overwhelming benefits from social media is the value that it connect people with ease and accessibility. Old friends and partners can be reunited, or complete strangers can befriend one another from different parts of the globe. This means that through social media, we have the potential to become a more peaceful world through the ability to exchange ideas and find peace through common understandings. Another aspect of this connectivity that is important to focus on is the ease that it provides: “Now that we're connected wherever we go, we don't have to rely on our landlines, answering machines or snail mail to contact somebody. We can simply open up our laptops or pick up our smartphones and immediately start communicating with anyone on platforms like Twitter or one of the many social messaging apps available” (Moreau, 2018). The connectivity that social media offers means that people can connect to help one another as well as to share advice and workable solutions.

Another massive advantage of social media is that at its heart, it is a platform of shared information. “The main advantage of the social media is that you update yourself from the latest happenings around in the world. Most of the time, Television and print media these days are biased and does not convey the true message. With the help of social media you can get the facts and true information by doing some research” (Ahmad, 2016). Fundamentally, news is discovered in real time, rather than the old bygone days of waiting for the 5pm news or trying to get a hold of a newspaper in order to find out what is going on in the world. News emerges in one’s social media feed in real time, along with other forms of information discovery, and one has the ability to customize one’s news so one can focus on things like human rights issues and hide other alerts such as technology or political news.

Likewise, social media can help forge an increased sense of awareness in the rest of the world, assisting people in discovering new ideas that can enhance their own lives. Social media also helps government entities fight crime, allowing them to spy on criminals and to alert citizens of criminals on the loose.

It’s also important to acknowledge that social media is fun. Many of the obligations of modern adults can be quite filled with drudgery and social media is able to change all that, giving people an escape from work, and insights into one another’s lives. Social media has essentially given users another means of having fun and receiving a form of enjoyment in life, and that is at its core a very good thing.

Disadvantages of Social Media

Just as a new invention can give to users, it can also create problems in their lives, both big and small. One of the bigger problems connected to social media is the fact that it can eliminate a certain amount of privacy. Given the recent scandal with Facebook, there are very concrete reasons as to why one might want to be concerned about the information given out on social networking sites, and what these companies do with the data collected. Research conducted at the Pew Center has found that “Overall, a 2014 survey found that 91% of Americans ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that people have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by all kinds of entities. Some 80% of social media users said they were concerned about advertisers and businesses accessing the data they share on social media platforms, and 64% said the government should do more to regulate advertisers” (Rainie, 2018). This data demonstrates one of the overwhelming flaws with social media: these companies are collecting very private, very valuable data about their users and then selling it to other companies and advertisers, so that these people can be influenced, targeted and perhaps manipulated. As recent events have demonstrated, using social media to any extent represents a rather sizeable risk for the user when it comes to their personal data. Aside from the disgrace of having one’s personal data collected and sold, a presence on social media can make one vulnerable to hacking. “Personal data and privacy can easily be hacked and shared on the Internet. Which can make financial losses and loss to personal life. Similarly, identity theft is another issue that can give financial losses to anyone by hacking their personal accounts. Several personal twitter and Facebook accounts have been hacked in the past and the hacker had posted materials that have affected the individuals personal lives” (Ahmad, 2015).

Furthermore, sometimes criminals will monitor people’s social media feeds when they are on vacation and attempt to rob them, knowing their homes are empty during the holidays.

Another major problem with social media is a phenomenon where people just post the best parts of their lives and make themselves look like everyday is just an epic party of fabulousness. People compare the fabulous pictures of others to their own mundane lives and engage in a phenomenon known as “compare and despair” (Macmillan, 2017). But these dynamic is not a passing moment of discomfort. “Previous studies have suggested that young people who spend more than two hours a day on social networking sites are more likely to report psychological distress. ‘Seeing friends constantly on holiday or enjoying nights out can make young people feel like they are missing out while others enjoy life,’”(MacMillan, 2017). Issues like these can just be confounded when it comes to an issue as delicate as body image. When people are constantly posting gorgeous pics of themselves and those same people happen to be models and actors who always happen to look good, it can set unrealistic expectations for young people, and create beliefs that one is inadequate, and also create beliefs that one is unworthy of love or attention. “As one survey respondent wrote, “Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect’” (MacMillan, 2017).

Celebrities and Social Media

Social media has offered celebrities numerous opportunities, benefits and pitfalls, just as it has for normal civilians. Starting with the positive aspects, social media gives celebrities a platform for them to directly connect with fans. Fans can share stories, sentences of adoration, etc. and potentially have some sort of interaction with their beloved celebrity. Celebrities can share relevant information like when they’ll be making public appearances such as book-signings, concerts, movie premieres and opening weekends or when there are contests for free merchandise. Too many celebrities or well-known personalities view social media as a tool for self-promotion—and it is. But the really skillful celebrities are the ones who use social media to connect with their fans and not just hurl information at them or ask them to buy their products, but to connect and forge a deeper connection with and hopefully more loyalty and understanding. Using this approach, the best celebrities are the ones who are able to attract an even bigger following with the way they use social media and to do so organically, by showing sides of themselves that are usually concealed.

Many celebrities nowadays have such a clear understanding of social media that they could teach big corporations on how to better use their accounts to engage with users and to attract more of an audience in a way that isn’t preachy or sale-pitchy. At the same time, celebrities have often very publicly gone off social media, because it has become hailstorm of criticism and trolls and negativity. Many of these celebrities who are on social media today really are sensitive artists at their core. It can be difficult for people like them to have to endure the constant barrage of hatred from people all over the globe, people who are more than happy to tell them how ugly, worthless or talentless they are. The accessibility that social media gives so many celebrities also makes them open to much hatred and this can be a toxic combination for the more sensitive people in the public eye.

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Many celebrities run their own social media accounts and do so with a certain high level of success. However, there are some that are given to social media blunders and such events can be very embarrassing for the average public person, as the internet makes sure that these events are filed away and remembered. For example, Kim Kardashian, who is usually very good on social media and manages her brand well, posted a picture of her and her daughter, in a shoot that attempted to channel Jackie Onassis. “Some Twitter users claimed the 37-year-old reality star’s skin was purposely darkened to match her daughter's complexion, while others were more outraged Kardashian was attempting to compare herself to the late first lady” (Nolasco, 2017). While some might argue that such a faux-pas is inconsequential, it’s important to remember that its offensive to both race relations and to American political history. Similarly, the comedian Chelsea Handler, who usually handles herself with ease on social media platforms, mistakenly referred to the male Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as a woman just two weeks after she announced she was taking time off from comedy to focus on activism (Nolasco, 2017). Small mistakes like these can undermine the credibility of the average individual in the public eye.

Social Media and Business

The opportunities that social media can offer business are immense.  Similar to the ways that celebrities use such platforms, companies can take their presence on Instagram or twitter and use it to better connect with their customer base. For many companies, this increased exposure to their customer base is like a form of informal market research: this allows the leaders of the company to get a better sense of their likes and dislikes, their quirks and goals.

More importantly, when done correctly, social media can be a lightening rod benefit when it comes to building awareness for a company or a brand. “Social media is one of the most cost-efficient digital marketing methods used to syndicate content and increase your business’ visibility… Simply having people interact with your content will increase brand awareness and begin building your reputation as a business” (BFM, 2018). This can create a domino effect, where a fresh network of potential customers will then look at each post that is shared. The likes and shares can be never-ending, allowing you to build substantial brand awareness in a few short months.  “By investing only a few hours per week, over 91% of marketers claimed that their social marketing efforts greatly increased their exposure” (BFM, 2018).

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Social media helps drive more traffic to your company website, something that is essential for survival in this day and age. By marketing on different platforms of social media, this will allow companies to reach different age groups, and direct them all to a product or service that you are selling. The more inbound traffic that you have, the higher your search engine rankings will be. “While social media doesn’t directly increase search engine rankings, Social Media Examiner states that more than 58% of marketers who have been using social media for one year or longer still see improved search engine rankings. Being able to rank in the top positions for your keywords will revolutionize your traffic and continue to generate positive results for your business” (BFM, 2018). This demonstrates that there is a direct correlation between how strong a presence a business has online and their social media platform. The stronger one’s social media platform, the more engaged and more loyal their customer base usually is.

Conclusion

Social Media has largely been a benevolent gift to people, companies, schools, institutions, governmental bodies and society as a whole. It has created tremendous advantages and opportunities for the average person or group. Above all else, it has taught us the lesson of connectivity, and the importance of us honoring the fact that we are social beings. We prize communication and engagement and we seek to reap the benefits of these things. By connecting us with one another, we are able to convey information, take in information, better protect ourselves, better understand the world we live in, and forge healthier and happier lives. Social media has helped to create careers when previously there were none, and raise awareness to issues that people had no ideas about. By examining how we conduct ourselves on social media, we get a sense of the temperature and focus of society today and a snapshot of where we are headed.

Likewise, social media has taught us about the severe dangers of overuse. Social media can lead to addictions and obsessive behavior. It can lead people to “compare and despair” essentially lowering their sense of self worth when they compare themselves to others online. Social media can open one up to personal attacks, libel and toxic criticism, essentially lowering one’s sense of happiness. Social media can also gravely jeopardize one’s privacy and private data, putting oneself in potential dangerous situations or severe risks. Given all these benefits and disadvantages, one can still conclude that there will also be attempts to connect socially, as human beings are inherently social creatures, as it is in our best interest to be.

References

Ahmad, B. (2016, March 10). 10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media for Society -. Retrieved from https://www.techmaish.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-social-media-for-society/

BFM. (2018). 10 Advantages of Social Media Marketing for Your Business. Retrieved from https://www.bluefountainmedia.com/blog/advantages-of-social-media-marketing/

Macmillan, A. (2017, May 25). Why Instagram Is the Worst Social Media for Mental Health. Retrieved from http://time.com/4793331/instagram-social-media-mental-health/

Moreau, E. (2014, June 5). The Good and the Bad About Social Networking. Retrieved from https://www.lifewire.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-social-networking-3486020

Nations, D. (2008, February 28). Serious Question: What Exactly Is Social Media? Retrieved from https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-social-media-explaining-the-big-trend-3486616

Nolasco, S. (2017, December 28). Biggest celebrity social media mistakes of 2017. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/12/29/biggest-celebrity-social-media-mistakes-2017.html

Rainie, L. (2018, March 27). Americans? complicated feelings about social media in an era of privacy concerns. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/27/americans-complicated-feelings-about-social-media-in-an-era-of-privacy-concerns/

Shah, S. (2016, 14). The history of social networking. Retrieved from https://www.digitaltrends.com/features/the-history-of-social-networking/

Closing

The essay on social media touched briefly on the origins of social media, the definition of social media, and the expectations presented by various social media apps. The paper has showed us that at its core, social media seeks to connect people and aid in the exchange of information. This essay has taken a long hard look at the benefits and drawbacks of socialization and the challenges it presents in the modern era. While the drawbacks of social media are very real and at times very severe, a strong sense of character and practical behavior should safeguard most of the issue. For example, someone with solid self esteem won’t be made to feel insecure by all the pictures of beautiful models. Similarly, someone with a practical sense of privacy will keep on private data off of social media to begin with. Yet even with safeguards like those in place, people are still vulnerable.

Subsequent essays on social media should explore more ways for the common individual to protect themselves on social media and to use it to their utmost advantage and for the benefit of their brand or company.

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