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In the past few decades, communication has been through many severe and drastic changes especially due to the appearance of the Internet. More than half a decade ago, the main means of distance communication was made through letters. Nowadays, things have changed a lot and the Internet has completely changed communication as we knew it several decades ago and has made everything a lot easier. You can talk to your best friend who happens to be on the other side of the world via one of the many Internet-based programs available at only one click away, not to mention that this can be done for free!
Social media and social networking have taken communication to a whole different level lately. While some people are of the opinion that it has brought a series of great advantages to people and has significantly improved their communication skills, there are other people who completely disagree with these opinions. They say that social media has done nothing but to cripple their social and communication skills. Simply the idea of sitting at the desk behind your computer and engaging in various conversations with the so-called ‘cyber friends’ can significantly weaken your verbal communication skills, as you use your keyboard to write to your friends.
Of course, people have been communicating to each other for thousands of years, but there were some major changes at some point that influenced the course of history – the invention of the telegraph, the telephone and later on the computers. People started developing ways to try and connect several computers with each other, thus creating networks and that, we might say, is the beginning of the era of social media. In the 1960s, some primitive forms of email messaging appeared and by the beginning of the 1980s, people were already able to communicate through virtual newsletters. Six Degrees was the first social media site that was also recognized and it was launched in 1997. Since then, things have rapidly evolved and more and more social media sites appeared on the Internet, such as MySpace, Hi5, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tagged and many others.
Social media is not something too complicated, as some might think. At its basis, it’s an application or a website that allows people to create accounts where they get to share content in various forms (photos, text, video) and to communicate with other users that have an account on that networking platform too. Studies have shown that nearly 70% of American adults utilize at least one of the many social networking sites.
The fact that they are so easy to use is one major factor that encourages so many people to create accounts on these social media sites and thus to create their ‘virtual profile’. In the case of most of these sites, you only have to fill in a form where you provide some personal details, such as an email address, your name and birth date, and a password at your choice, keeping in mind that it has to be ‘complicated’ enough in order to avoid having your account hacked or broken into.
Some say that people don’t actually get to choose whether or not they do social media, but they have to choose instead how well they want to do it. Although social media has already been present for a couple of years now, it still continues to gain popularity amongst people of all ages. Specialists claim that the audience today is nothing like the audience that was observed ten years ago for instance and this is due to the great influence that social media has on people.
It’s true that social media has changed people’s lives for the better in many areas, as it facilitated the means of communication, it has brought people closer and it has become probably the fastest way of spreading news. Nevertheless, there are many people who are rightly concerned about where will social media be in two decades from now for instance and how much will it influence their lives.
One of the many concerns was already mentioned – the fact that it will completely alter people’s verbal communication skills. People talk to each other verbally less today than they did even one decade ago and this can actually be a downsize of social media and social networking.
Many people claim they feel a lot more powerful and more confident in their own strengths when sitting behind a computer than when being in front of an audience with real people or in the middle of a crowd. This happens especially with the young generation of people, who were born in the era of technology. Furthermore, social media can also influence social skills and not for the better. The fact that people interact with each other mostly via these social networking sites available on the Internet can alter their social skills, so when they meet each other in the real world, they feel anxious, they are shy and they don’t know how exactly to carry on a conversation.
Some people, especially teenagers, see social networking sites as a fast way to make friends and reach that level of popularity they have been dreaming of and seen in movies. They are using the Internet to show others how perfect their lives can be and what interesting persons they are. They believe that the number of friends and likes they have on their profile is what defines them and, to some extent, it’s what gives them the high level of self-esteem they are craving for. Things start to get rather complicated when cyberbullying appears.
Cyberbullying is a form of aggression that occurs on social networking sites and that can seriously affect one’s self-esteem and confidence in their own strengths. In many cases, those who are cyberbullying others don’t have the courage to do the same thing in the real world as well, but as it was stated earlier, what happens on the Internet has become of the utmost importance, even more, important than what happens in the real world. The highest numbers of cases of cyberbullying were seen on social networking sites, which brings up another concern adults have with respect to social media.
Some people may not admit it, but social media has a significant influence on their personal lives, in the sense that it can split people up into categories, based on different kinds of criteria, such as popularity, beauty, age and so on. Ultimately, social media will affect life they have at school or at work, the relationships they have with other people and basically invading any aspect of their lives.
Social media has a significant influence on one’s life as a whole. First of all, as it was previously mentioned, these networking sites have a huge impact on the relationships that are built between people. It’s an effortless thing today to create an account on one of the many social media sites and connect with people from all over the world. On the one hand, social media is beneficial to people who are trying to make connections. They are making friends from different parts of the world, exchange information related to culture, language, share ideas and opinions with respect to various topics and they learn more about each other. This is actually a positive way in which social media gets to influence one’s life. However, there’s the other flip of the coin, in which some people are trying to make a point on how bad this can be for their lives. Imagine the following scenario: you’re home with your husband/wife and you connect with a person from your neighbourhood/city/country or even from another country, and you start talking with each other on a daily basis. At first, your partner understands that you’re simply having discussions, but there might come a day when they won’t see these discussions as inoffensive and innocent as before. That’s when you start breaking the bond with your partner and strengthen the bond with the person you were talking to via the Internet, even though you know there are chances you’ll never meet in real life.
Another situation in which social media can influence one’s life is at school. There’s this term ‘millennials’ that refer to children born in the era of technology and that have spent a great deal of time on the Internet already. For them, their social status on the Internet is much more important than the one in the real world. They make use of social media to attain that high level of popularity, to increase their self-esteem and to become more confident, but what they don’t understand is that these are only valid in the virtual world. The moment they get out in the real world and are trying to apply the same tactics they did on the Internet, they will be surprised to see that they don’t work the same way. The same counts for the work environment. The thing is that before social media appeared, people used telephones to communicate with each other and even though this still wasn’t as good as face-to-face discussions, some say it was better than communication via the Internet.
After talking about so many disadvantages on social media, it’s time to hold our horses and talk about the numerous advantages that social media has brought to our lives in the past couple of years.
First of all, despite all the things that were being said before about communication, social media has truly made things easier in this field. It doesn’t matter if your home and the person you’re talking to via the Internet is on a remote island or on another continent, as you can still communicate with each other in real time as if you were next to each other. You can share photos or even see each other via video calling and do all of this for free. This was not possible a few decades ago, as whenever you had to make a phone call to another country, for instance, the price you had to pay was huge.
Secondly, social media has become probably the most powerful tool in marketing and advertising. Considering that such a high number of people can be found today on at least one social networking site, marketing agencies have taken benefit of technology and have turned it to their own advantage. They are using social media to get to people, to promote their products or services, to make their names known in the industry. Promoting a product has never been easier thanks to social media. Agencies establish their target audience, people from a certain segment or that have a certain age, and they create marketing campaigns, pay adds and make their product known to the public. Back in the 1990s for instance, it was quite challenging for small companies to compete against the big fish in the pond and to make themselves known on the global market. In most cases, these small companies managed to reach a certain level of success on the local market only. Well, things have drastically changed since people started to actually understand and value the power of social media and what they can do with these sites.
Believe it or not, there are some people that say social media can be used as a form of therapy in order to cure depression, anxiety or to help one get over a difficult period in life. This idea might seem odd and you might say that it’s in contradiction with whatever was said above but try to think it from another perspective. Not social media itself is the one that influences your life in a bad way, it’s the way to choose to use it, the amount of time you spend using it and how much you let it affect your life.
In conclusion, social media and social networking can have both advantages and disadvantages. It depends on us how we choose to use social media and how much do we make it an important part of our lives. If you use it only to keep in touch with your friends or family from another country or to reconnect with old friends, social media will definitely not affect you in any way. On the other hand, if you are the type of person who lives more in the virtual world than in the real one and feels the need to become a different person while sitting behind the computer, then social media might eventually affect your life.
However, social media is here to stay and it’s an important part of today’s technology. This means that we have to learn how to use it to our own advantage and how to avoid letting social media take control over our lives. Education is the key to success and to a happy and stress-free life. Learning to make the difference between good and wrong, admitting when you have a problem and accepting that you have to solve it, whether it’s related to social media or not, it’s what will keep you safe. It’s important to teach children from an early age what social media is, what positive and negative effects it can have on their lives and how they can cope with a world that begins to be ruled more and more by technology. It’s not a bad thing to include social media in our lives, but it’s essential to know the limits and to avoid living our lives more in the virtual world rather than in the real world.