Millions of people today are heavily involved in online social media, like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr. There are many benefits of having an account for one or several of these platforms. You can reunite with old friends while making new ones; you can publicize upcoming events, charities, and performances; you can share posts that support a good cause, like fundraisers for sick or injured individuals; you can share cute/funny videos and memes to brighten people’s day; and you can talk about exciting events in your life that you want your friends to know about. Social media really does improve global communication; however, this easy online access creates some serious problems that we must address.
First, the anonymity that comes with online platforms is very dangerous with cases of cyber-bullying and public shaming. Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed addresses many of these issues with social media. If somebody shares a controversial post or photo, and if you don’t have tight privacy settings, anybody could either praise you or bash you. And once the bashing begins, there is this primitive and savage mob mentality that comes into play, where everyone jumps in on the harsh words, the insults, and the name-calling. The power that social media has given to initially voiceless individuals has been abused way too many times, as the repercussions for “speaking your mind” are minimal to none because you can’t punish somebody over the Internet very easily. Plus, some of these individuals use aliases and other pictures to identify themselves, so it is hard to track them down if they are cyber-bullying. Finally, social media makes it so easy to just delete your account before people can reprimand you for your actions, so there is often no just punishment in instances of online abuse. There are many individuals whose lives have been ruined because of these public shaming events. They have lost their jobs, their respectability, and their dignity. Some don’t go out in public for fear of being bullied, and some of their relationships with family and friends have been affected. Finally, with new posts going viral more quickly, it would only take a couple of hours before a crazy story circulates the Internet and almost everyone knows about it.
While it makes sense to check your social media often to see what’s happening with your friends and family, it is not a good idea to believe that everything you see is true, especially regarding global events and the news. Recently, there has been talk that the 2016 election turnout and results were influenced by the “fake news” that a particular comedian had posted in the weeks preceding the polls. Statistics also show that most people get their “news” from social media platforms rather than credited news sources like NBC, CNN, and the like. While opinions regarding current news can be shared and publicized on social media, I strongly believe that you should only get your information from valid news sources. If you can’t find any credible news on social media, just turn on your TV and flip the channel to your local or national news station. Turn on the radio and listen to what’s happening in the world. This spreading of misinformation on social media is extremely dangerous, especially when it involves real-life events. Know the difference between credible and not-so-credible sources, and make it known.
To conclude, there are definitely pros and cons to having a social media account. Please be careful about what you post, what you share, and who you follow or become friends with on social media. The online world is open to anyone that has a computer or a phone, so for all of our sakes, please think slowly and carefully when you make decisions on sharing, liking, or commenting on posts and stories on social media. Don’t hop on the bandwagon in cyber-bullying and public shaming events; instead, report it or do whatever you can to stop it. If you find a story that is going viral but may not be credible, post about it. You still have a voice, and people will hear you regardless of their perspective. Social media can be a beautiful thing, as long as we utilize it wisely. If you don’t want to be involved at all, just delete your account and move on; the world won’t catch on fire and you surely won’t be involved with the shenanigans of social media.