Maia Gummer instead highlights the benefits that social media and technology can have on society
“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it” – Eric Qualman, bestselling author of the lifestyle book Socialnomics.
A poignant quote, likely to provoke indignation amongst some of us who refuse to accept our social media obsession. But be honest; how did you find this article in the first place?
Yes it’s true, social media and the technology used to access it have a greater influence over your life than you even realise, but stop and consider the benefits of such a lifestyle. It has become easy to slander popular culture and condemn the people around us as ‘slaves to a screen’, not realising what we take for granted. I’m referring to the 4.4 billion people without internet access in the world, who would cherish the opportunity to be fingertips away from friends and family.
Our generation is fortunate enough to be able to connect simultaneously with friends from the past, present and future. Generations before us were compelled to communicate via the mail service, and although this service remains, it is seen as a tedious form of correspondence. Social media instead makes it easier than ever to forge a relationship with like-minded people and form communities of shared interests, because self-expression is the key concept.
With the new year having just begun, and fitness guide sales going through the roof, it has become a trend for ‘Fitness Gurus’ to create online Facebook groups for participants. GraceFitUK, for example, created a group for people starting her guides on 8th January, forming a community that provides encouragement for individuals with the same goal. When social media is used in such a capacity that people are motivated to seek advice and better themselves, it cannot be a bad thing.
A platform has also been created for people to gain skills and seek new opportunities; something we may dismiss but would not be able to cope without. Online dating has really kicked off as well, with 1 in 5 relationships now starting online, many originating from the range of apps that are available, and that cater for all personal preferences.
However, more than just romantic relationships are formed online. Thanks to social media, finding jobs and networking is easier than ever. Companies post jobs onto website media, to which individuals can apply to by uploading their CV. Further, it has become regular practice for accounts catering for unemployed individuals to take these listings and post them on to more accessible sites. For example, Mediargh on Twitter posts regularly about jobs in the media sector.
Moreover, we can post about music, food, fashion and state opinions instantly. Beyond this, we can receive information instantaneously, with many of us setting up alerts for breaking news, and hashtags to help users locate relevant stories and gain international attention. In particular, such technology is essential when generating support after natural disasters, so that other countries are made aware of the incident and can provide aid. Families around the world can also be connected again, and ensure that relatives are safe
Young people in particular are key to creating change, and the use of social media is essential for making a real difference. It can be utilised for education, an aspect of social media coupled with technology which is becoming increasingly popular and spouting unbelievable benefits. Now, over 50% of professors use social media to share research with their students, proving that many academics see it as a valuable learning resource.
This includes UCL’s own Prof Lewis Dartnell, who uses his Twitter page to communicate with students interested in astrobiology (his own field of research). Beyond this, UCL itself has gone a step further to educate and discuss the very nature of social media itself with its students and the general public, through a free online course entitled ‘Anthropology of Social Media: Why We Post’. This is in line with a new emerging perception of social media, which concentrates on the content of posts rather than simply platform capability.
Furthermore, apps which combine social media, competition and learning are emerging, such as Duolingo. Duolingo is an app that challenges friends and family on time spent studying a new language. This teaching revolution is a worldwide asset, and a potential answer to the Third World education deficit. Who can disparage social media now?
This isn’t the only global issue social media can combat, for it gives people a voice. In a democratic political landscape, it allows for freedom of speech. Having the freedom and protection to say what you want should be awarded to everyone, and social media is the ideal outlet for opinions and thoughts. It allows instant, direct communication between the public and individuals in positions of power, particularly in the case of Twitter. If you want to be heard, this platform provides a space where users are able to express their opinions within guidelines that prevent threat and discrimination.
For example, The Labour Party’s use of social media in the run up to the general election was considered a triumph, despite their ultimate loss, for it encouraged young people to get involved and speak about politics. Between 29th April 2017 and 4th June 2017, 1,062,908 Tweets were posted using the hashtags #VoteLabour, #Labour and #ImVotingLabour, compared to just 381,647 tweets posted expressing an intention to vote for The Conservative Party, according to election statistics from last year.
Overall, with a multitude of benefits on both a personal and international level, it’s baffling to think most of what we hear about regarding social media and the technology used to access it is negative. When comparing how far society has come since its development, I doubt anyone would give it up, and in the modern day, how would they cope if they did?
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