Social media gets a bit of a bad rap in some quarters, with constant complaining amongst older generations and even younger people about the way that it has infiltrated a lot of aspects of modern life.
From tourist hotspots swamped by selfie-snapping Instagram enthusiasts to restaurants rammed with silently swiping, thoroughly distracted diners, the naysayers can paint a bleak picture of the social media epidemic.
All this doom and gloom can be pretty convincing if you buy into the arguments being made, but it's always sensible to get a bit of balance. To that end, here are some of the main ways in which social media can have a positive impact on your life, making the modern world more bearable, inclusive and beautiful as a result.
1. It keeps you connected to the people you love
Even as recently as a decade ago, the internet was a place where communities could grow and emerge around previously untapped cultural niches. This was all well and good for enthusiasts who were willing to spend a lot of time sitting at their PCs, engaged with forums and forging friendships digitally.
For everyone else, in a time before smartphones and social media apps, it was much harder to keep up with the people that mean the most in your life. Unless you worked incredibly hard to keep meeting up or stayed in touch proactively in other ways, it was all too easy to drift apart and end up losing those once strong connections.
Social media flips the script on communicating and socializing, allowing you to be as active or as passive as you desire without feeling under pressure to constantly engage directly in order to sustain those relationships you value most.
Whether its a friend from school or a relation living in another part of the country, social media gives you the tools to stay connected and up to date with what's going on in their world. Then when you do decide to get together in the future, you are not completely out of touch and can slip back into that easy familiarity that existed in the past, rather than realizing that a lot of what you knew about each other or had in common has been eroded.
Staying connected with social media will anchor you to your favourite people.
2. It gets you jobs
Sure, there are horror stories about people being fired over posts from social media, and it even impacts the rich and famous. However, the potential downsides of ill-conceived tweets being taken into account by a prospective employer as part of the recruitment process are massively outweighed by the ability to get entirely new career opportunities thanks to social media's influence.
This clearly depends on the type of presence you have built on your social platforms of choice, but there are tens of thousands of people around the world today who got job offers, advice and other career-related breaks all thanks to this calling card.
Get jobs without jumping through hoops thanks to social media.
If this is something you're interested in pursuing, then clearly you'll need to think carefully about the kinds of content you are adding to any social media profile you run. Crucially it does not just apply to LinkedIn, which is oriented around professional use in the first place. Pursue your passions, whether that might be writing weird jokes on Twitter, publishing photos to Instagram, or making videos for YouTube. If you gain a following, then employers will come calling, which has to be a better alternative to going through the traditional rigmarole of complex application forms and nerve-wracking interviews.
What is even more relevant about the job-securing power of social media is that it does not just apply to specific industries. Sure, plenty of authors, journalists and creatives have got their big break in this arena, but you could equally use it to demonstrate your expertise operating a scaffold hoist, using a forklift truck or leading a business seminar.
3. It exposes you to new ideas
Some claim that even with the vast scope of social media today, most people end up shutting themselves away in their own little bubble, meaning that each user has an entirely different experience according to their own world view.
For people who want to challenge themselves and ensure that they are not closed off from what the wider world is discussing, the opposite is true. Furthermore, it is simple to achieve a more open, unfiltered approach to social media browsing, whatever your ultimate aims.
Checking out the trending topics on your platform of choice is a good place to start since you will be able to get a snapshot of the issues that are shaping the social media landscape at that particular moment in time. This is the quickest way to become aware of issues, events, and debates that are emerging across the blogosphere. It might be intimidating to peek outside of your comfort zone, but social media provides you with the tools to do so in a matter of seconds and it could give you a better insight into why the world is in its current state.
Expand your horizons with new ideas on social media.
4. It helps good causes gain momentum
In the age of viral trends, almost anything can become a meme, whether it is a funny clip of a cat that looks grumpy or a charity campaign that sets out to raise cash for a worthwhile organization.
The best example of this emerged back in 2014 when the Ice Bucket Challenge was conceived to drum up interest and investment in ALS research. In less than a month over $100 million had been donated to the campaign and it eventually led to an important breakthrough in the treatment of this degenerative disease.
Perhaps this sounds like a peripheral benefit, but not one which impacts you directly? Well given the sheer number of charity drives, promotions, and campaigns that are operating on social media at any one time, it is almost a certainty that there will be at least one cause that has an effect on you that is getting a leg up as a result.
5. It documents your life
Social media may seem like a disposable format for expressing yourself, which is true in the case of something like Snapchat or Instagram Stories. However, for the most part, it is an indelible way of keeping track of your thoughts, feelings, and activities on a day to day basis.
While in the past people would have kept a diary to remind themselves of everything they got up to over the course of their lives, social media handles this all for you. Better still, everything you post is time stamped, fully searchable and accessible from almost any device with an internet connection. There is no need to save photos locally or contain your creations to a single platform; your presence on social media will document your life and allow you to live on in an almost tangible way, long after you are gone.
Document your life with social media.
6. It expands your social circle
People who have a lot of friends and relatives to keep up with on social media might find that they don't really need to squeeze new people into their lives. Of course, on the other hand, there are a lot of other users who take to these platforms with the goal of getting to know like-minded individuals who would otherwise be inaccessible to them due to a range of limitations.
You might fall into a particular community on social media by accident, or as a result of deliberate decisions you make. You might gain a following and become a prominent figure in a community of your own creation, especially if you find that there is not currently something that suits your tastes and interests in place already.
Communicating online gets rid of a lot of the awkwardness and insecurity that comes with interacting in real life. This has its downsides, including the heavily publicized issues with harassment which are present on most major services, yet is also an advantage for anyone who wants to be more social but lacks the skill set to represent themselves well in real-world meet-ups.
7. It inspires you
Social media provides instant access to an entire universe of human ingenuity and creativity, wherever your interests lie. From modern dance and theatre to digital art and game design, seeing the amazing things that other people are conceiving, building and putting out into the world can be incredibly inspiring.
For some, consuming this kind of output in a passive way is enough. For others, it is helpful to take inspiration from the efforts of others and use this to fuel your own passion projects.
There has never been a better time to start work on something that you have been thinking about doing for a long time. Further to this, you can then use social media to chart the progress you are making over time, review how far you have come, gain momentum with a global audience and showcase the final results to potentially take your career in a new direction, neatly tying together the life-improving advantages of this technology.
Energise your inspiration and find your muse on social media.