Social media – a curse or a blessing?

Social media. Its a bit of a “mixed bag” isn’t it? Some people love the likes of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, spending hours on end tweeting and posting their Every. Waking. Moment. Whilst others steer clear and act all “old fashioned” by going outside and actually talking to people, devoid from the comfort of their computer screens.

Well, one thing for sure is that social media is inescapable. It’s everywhere, even in places you wouldn’t expect it. Bought a new phone? Facebook’s likely to be installed. Visited a shop? Look out for the “Follow us on Twitter” card, I’m sure it’ll be there! Heck, just the other day I was reading on my Kindle and it inquired if I wanted to “link to my Facebook” … so that all 250 of my friends could learn that I was reading “Pet Cemetery”  and so that they too could enjoy my chosen excerpts. Social media has even spread to educational settings, with “learning oriented social networking sites” popping up everywhere.  The one I’m particularly familiar with is “Edmodo”, best described as an “educational Facebook”, it allows students to submit and view assignments online, receive marks online and contact their teachers and classmates on… yep you guessed it… online.

So, now we’ve established that social media is seemingly omnipresent, we can ask the question that begs to be answered – is this really a good thing?

To prevent this article from turning into a six page extravaganza (because, well there is a big number of social networking sites out there and an even bigger number of things to say about each of them), I’ll just focus on the most widely recognised one of them all; Facebook. Currently more than a billion people use the site each month and it’s not surprising – Facebook has many attractive elements. You can do pretty much anything from ‘video chatting’ your best pal over on the other side of the world to playing a nice friendly game of  ‘Pet Rescue Saga’ with your next door neighbour.  Take your profile for example – it’s literally your very own ‘virtual space’  that centres on you. The addition of your personal timeline means that you can even scroll on back to yesteryear and re-live those oh-so-embarrassing posts that were written when you were like, twelve. But Facebook is certainly not about just you alone. True to its purpose, Facebook connects people to people… and yes that is a good thing. With a click of a button you can add a long lost friend and catch up with them effortlessly and if they’re as liberal with their privacy settings as most people are these days, you can learn everything about them. Hence, this is where our beloved social media ‘craze’ turns quite sinister.

With a further click you can know their job, where they live, their relationship status, what sports they like, what movies they’ve watched… the list goes on and on. What happened to that beautiful gem called privacy? Social media seems to have obliterated it – people are now more than happy to share every detail of their lives, no matter how trivial. It’s not uncommon to see someone post “Just had a cup of tea” or “Going for a shower”. Why do they feel the need? Well, that’s truly a phenomenon lost on me.

Social media. It really is a “mixed bag”.  Is it a blessing? Yes, it brings people together in ways that would not be possible offline; it’s highly entertaining, the access to millions of pages and groups means that users will instantly find their interests and others who share those interests. All in all it is what users make of it, they can tailor it to their own needs, whether they use it to simply chat to friends or as a place to share their whole life, pictures, videos… the lot. Social media can certainly be a great thing. It’s only when people misuse it, when they go overboard with the sharing or borderline on annoying (yep I’m talking about those pesky multiple game requests that no one really wants) or when they forget that life does exist beyond the screen, that social media can actually become a curse.

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