The definition of social media is any form of a website that makes it possible for people to connect and interact socially. Social media is however rapidly and significantly expanding all over the world. In the present day world, many teenagers, as well as adults, are now connecting to various social sites like facebook, twitter, my space among others. They do this to stay connected with their families, friends and even people who they are connecting with for the first time in their lives. The advent of social media has gradually brought diversities around the world in various ways. It impacts every individual differently. In the current world, social media can be used as an essential tool in transforming the lives of individuals. However, it can also be a destructive tool in bringing negative influences on a person's life. In as much as social media has brought about some negativities with it, it has brought about positivities in the communication systems all over the world, making the world an enjoyable place to live.
It is fair to say that in the present day world, individuals are over-dependent on social media for the better part of their daily activities. This means posting on Twitter, checking newsfeeds and latest trends on Facebook, or checking out new job opportunities via LinkedIn and other job advertising sites among others. Many people and even organizations find it challenging to carry out their daily operations without having to rely on social media to guide their timetables and diaries. The question, however, remains to be; is the over-dependence of people on social media healthy in terms of social interaction, or can it be deduced that dependence on social media leads to damaging levels of an isolated society?
Lots of arguments have been brought forth about the use of social media with a majority of the people arguing that it brings about social isolation and in worst case scenarios loneliness. Many parents and guardians, teachers, and even friends find it hard to connect just because the other parties are too involved in social media to pay any attention to them. You come to a setting whereby you find members of a family not engaging in family talks anymore like they used to because they are glued to their phones. However, according to Rodriguez, Annalisa, people enjoy criticizing contemporary society over the use of social media. Many people who lived in past societies like to compare the current society to theirs, thus making negative assumptions over it (Rodriguez par 4). A majority of the people want to romanticize the past to make the present look bad and say that people would instead blame social media and technology for the problems in society instead of looking for real solutions to real problems.
Rodriguez asserts that social media only contributes to making people's social experiences more productive and more diverse by linking them up with other people in new and exciting ways. Social media enables individuals to expand their social interactions beyond their regular scope. Rodriguez adds that internet users find it appropriate to confide in someone of a different race. He adds that users who share details and photos on social media are more likely to argue out political subjects with other people from various parties amicably without getting in to a confrontation (Rodriguez par 5). People are now finding it more comfortable to confide their emotions and fears to people they encounter with as strangers on social media without fear of being judged or gossiped.
According to (Anstead and O'Loughlin 213) social media does not lead to an isolated society but rather, it promotes unity in not only in contemporary society but in the world at large. The authors argue that people are now able to stay connected and linked to other people in various parts of the world through online social sites. Family members can communicate with their distant relatives through social media sites such as Google video call, Skype, and even recent advancements in Whatsapp video calls, etc. without having the extra stress of incurring costs. They add that, through social media, the world is now connected with people who use channels such as Facebook and Twitter being able to befriend people from all walks of life (Anstead and O'Loughlin 217). This has encouraged diversity in culture, and people are now able to learn about various things and people directly from them through social media. Ultimately, social media has become of help to people in general. The two say that many times people find it uncomfortable and peculiar to talk to strangers, they encounter in a bus or even in other social gatherings like in a park. Many people like to take their ride home or a relaxing time at the park without feeling obligated to engage themselves in small talks with people whom they do not know (Anstead and O'Loughlin 219). Because of this reason, social media has become of great help because instead of having the awkward silence with a stranger, one can quickly pull out their Smartphone or laptop and get in to social media while having a relaxed and quiet time.
Rodriguez argues that the advent of social media is of great help to society since it makes it possible to connect even with people who have not seen each other in general. Unlike the past years where people would disappear after high school or college and never see each other again. Today, people can keep in touch and stay connected with their longtime friends, check up on them and find out their whereabouts (Rodriguez par 6). People are no longer strangers, and everyone has an opportunity to communicate with friends from the past. Because of this, he argues, social media does not create an isolated society, but instead, it creates a community that is more unified and more connected.
Strachan Yukio, a different author, is however of the contrary opinion. According to him, mobile devices, emerging technologies, and social media are designed and equipped to enable individuals to stay connected in a better way, but in more than one way, they make people drift apart. For beginners, people can add other people to view their sites but yet keeping them at an emotional distance. Strachan argues that befriending individuals on sites like Facebook keeps them at an emotional distance (Strachan par 1). This argument is in no small extent correct because as people document their lives on social media, they are in large extent still putting an obstruction. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Whatsapp, and Facebook permits people to upload and record each single moment of their life affairs on online social pages belonging to them. They may include photos or images showing their current locations, what they are engaging in, and the company that they are with at the moment. People can also use hashtags to give them an allowance to relate their pictures and posts to another photo, website, or post (Strachan par 1). In as much as these tools allow people to reflect on other people's lives doing similar things as they are, they still keep them at a distance denying them an opportunity to physical interaction and get together to carry out these activities along.
Social media is drawing people away from one another by permitting them to view photos of others and read their posts every day. This action makes people no longer feel the need of having a personal interaction with one another. Strachan argues that social media offers people fantasies about companionship without necessarily having friendship demands (Strachan par 2). This vice results in seclusion and eventually falling into the depression of people since they are deprived of social interaction and the warmth of friendship. Loneliness and depression can, in turn, lead to dangerous acts like suicide and insanity. People opt to use social media simply because they have the urge to link with others though some barriers prevent this from happening (Bain par 2). The meetings at coffee houses to hang out and catch up on everyday activities have all become obsolete as a result of the need to work long hours, do more things, and to make more money. The long hour phone calls with friends and colleagues have all disappeared because of the idea that posting on someone's wall or texting them "I miss you" is in most cases the time people have for. Another author Huff Ethan argues that social networks and mobile devices are more or fewer tools for isolation that keep people away from meaningful and active interactions with each other (Huff par 2). This, in the long run, makes them more like machines and less like a human.
The most apparent disadvantage of social media sites is that they make social interactions difficult and almost impossible. They instead create alien and virtual substitutes that only promote emotional and physical distance in a society (Anstead and O'Loughlin 220). According to author Joel Bain, social media platforms only offers a mirage of having a company and that some forms of interactions people encounter cannot replace quality correlations and interactions. They get connected to social sites since they fancy staying linked with each other, but there exist lots of barriers preventing it from happening (Bain par 2). People can be in the same room, but they would still feel the need to put all their attention to online social platforms other than having meaningful conversations that promote one on one interaction with each other.
A great damaging effect of social media is that it gets people addicted without even their realization. Feelings of depression and loneliness and even suicidal thoughts are activated by too much of being online (Strachan par 1). Many people feel isolated when they look at other people's pictures online and seeing them enjoying themselves while they are not. This creates a sense of inadequacy and intimidation thus creating feelings of sorrow and inferiority. When people start having these feelings, they would much rather stay by themselves instead of meeting up with these people who are enjoying themselves for fear of being mocked or laughed at, and intimidated. Indeed, Strachan suggests that social networks contain contradictions that make users linked together but as well as increasing their likelihood of being passive observers as compared to individuals who are looking for genuine companionship and friendship. Strachan argues that increased access to Facebook is more likely to increase the cases of depression among people.
Another issue that Huff talks about is that of cyberbullying and cyber crimes. Through social media, people will feel the need to share their pictures and photos with others online. This in many instances has turned out ugly and consequential. Many people on social media are cruel and insensitive, and when they see a photo, they will criticize it and make negative comments about them (Huff par 2). The result is the owners of these pictures feeling humiliated and rejected and may develop self-esteem issues. There are many cases where people who have been cyberbullied have ended up developing a negative self-image, getting depressed and sometimes even committing suicide. The apparent fact is that of many cyber bullied people retrieving to their shells and avoiding any form of social interaction. Huff further argues that individuals should learn to switch off their computers and phones and try as much as possible to engage in face to face interactions (Huff par 3).
From the argument above, it is clear that social media has many advantages that are beneficial not only to society but also to individuals. However, its negative impacts are not to be ignored. Misuse or overuse of social media is creating an isolated society which is more damaging than ever before.
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