We are bombarded with social networking possibilities more and more every year. They are supposed to allow us to connect with one another easily across long distances. While these social networking sites (SNS) accomplish this, they also prevent us from meeting new people or connecting with friends and family face-to-face. I am just as guilty as anyone else. I am a part of so many social networking sites that I have them in my bookmarks so I don’t forget which ones I am a part of. So this leads me to ask if these sites are friends or foes? Let’s take a look with a handy-dandy list.
1. These sites allow people to connect online with people they haven’t seen in years or people that they would have never met otherwise. We’ve all had friends move away. SNS have allowed us to keep in touch with all of them. If we have family in the military, these sites can keep them informed about home.
2. Let’s face it. They are fun. On tumblr, I have a blog called “My Life As A Dog” devoted to my three pets. It’s fun. It’s cute. As long as tumblr survives, I’ll have memories of my dogs’ lives and a constant reminder of how silly they are. On Stumlbeupon, I find great ideas for DIY projects or teaching ideas. Just the other day I found a great resource for classroom blogging. (Here I go promoting SNS in the classroom.)
3. These sites are great for promoting anything you need such as a business, party, interests, etc. Many people will see what you’re posting, which is the ultimate goal. Once people start following you, it’s easier to build business and promote yourself.
4. SNS have been created for very specific groups, allowing people to expand their interests, gain new interests, receive advice, or get help. The potential anonymity of these sites can allow people with issues such as alcohol or drugs to seek help or advice. Before, their only help might have been attending an AA meeting or seeing a counselor, something that is not really that anonymous and might turn people away from help.
5. SNS can have a huge, positive impact. The grassroots movement needs the power of the social network. Look at the political campaigns run with SNS. Look at Iran’s use of social media during the protests in 2009.
1. Many adolescents are logging in. This means that those who are too young to join FB are still joining FB, leaving them open for predators.
2. These sites can be highly addicting for some people. There are those who never leave their computers for fear that they’ll miss the latest FB post or the latest Tweet. Are these people really being social? Typing online is not speaking to someone directly or showing that you have the social skills needed to make it in the world.
3. SNS take up a significant amount of time, especially if your job depends on word of mouth from these sites. Many businesses today have blogs, FBs, and Twitter accounts. If you are a small business owner, or brand new business owner, you really have to pound the keyboard to get yourself noticed. Does it take away time from your family?
4. Many instances of cyberbullying take place on SNS. Sometimes kids, even adults for that matter, don’t understand the impact that their words, even typed, may have on a person’s psyche. They also don’t understand that it’s typed proof that they’ve harassed someone. Schools are cracking down on this and actually suspending, citing, and expelling students for their online behavior.
5. People are not always careful about what they post on their sites. Many businesses look at FB to determine the qualities of the candidates they are thinking about bringing into their company. They want a “face” that matches theirs. Pictures of your weekend drinking binges with you passed out on the floor of the bathroom probably don’t promote the responsible image the businesses are trying to portray.
So…friends or foes? Honestly, I have to go with friends despite all the bad that can happen with social media. It doesn’t matter how safe anything is these days. There is always going to be someone who finds a way to make it unsafe. Social networking sites are here to stay. In order to keep them as friends, we have to learn how to use them correctly and not abuse them. It’s not okay to spend hours on FB every single day. It’s not okay to spend so much time on tumblr that we ignore the people in our lives that really matter.