Is Social Media Good or Bad for Society?
The headline is straightforward on what today’s blog will pertain to. Before getting started, everything I will talk about moving forward can honestly be broken down into 10-page research papers in their own right. This a complicated topic and loaded question in and of itself, but I intend to put my best foot forward and tackle this as briefly as possible considering I am attacking the broad scope of this.
My first step in discussing this topic was getting a pulse from people on how they feel about social media. To everyone who took time to answer via social media (lol oh the irony) or text, thank you! I’d like to point out that this doesn’t reflect the numbers of our society as a whole and how they feel. I simply asked through social media and sent a text to friends and family. The sample size was about 65-70 people. I did that to get a pulse from some of my readers. Take these numbers for what they are. Do not make them out to be the end all be all of how people feel about social media. They are not.
Overwhelmingly, most of the responses originally said both. I pressed further and asked if social media is more of a net positive or net negative. These were the results.
- 47% Said Net Positive
- 44% Said Net Negative
- 9% Said Undecided
I was honestly surprised regarding the number of people who said net positive. I expected more to say negative and overwhelmingly so. In the responses which were more than just one and two word answers, people touched on some of the things I intend to touch on regarding both positive and negative.
I only had 5-6 answers from people who were definitively saying one or the other.
Again, this is painting social media with a broad brush so keep that in mind. This topic could be broken down by platform, by topic, by positive, by negative and many other factors. I’m essentially peaking down the rabbit hole.
Social Media impacts our thoughts, feelings, mood and connectivity to the world around us.
Before addressing whether or not I believe social media is a net positive or negative, I want to talk about some of the good I see and some of the bad. For the record, this isn’t ALL of the good and ALL of the same bad. Just some. Again, not doing a research paper.
Let’s start with the good.
Positive Influences of Social Media
- Marketing for Business
I will start with the most obvious one for people who know me and what my day job is. I run a social media marketing company called Do It All Marketing. We do it all so you don’t have to. (Insert Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration joke).
I have seen this help businesses make money which in turn stimulates the economy. I have a client who obtained 33 new members during their slowest season, boom goes the dynamite.
Using a platform such as Facebook to target audiences that are most likely to do business with a company is a MASSIVE tool. When used properly, it is ultimately effective. I am not saying that because it is my business. I am saying that because our numbers and data back that up. We have been open for a hair over a year. Our two clients that have seen the highest return on their investment have allowed us to deploy a consistent marketing strategy since day one and gave us the time to do it. They understood it wasn’t a magic button.
- Connection with More People
This is the overwhelmingly positive that most won’t deny. Facebook allows us to connect with people from our past, present and future. In fact, most of the people who leaned positive mentioned this first. Most of the people who leaned negative mentioned this as one of the positives.
For the sake of this blog, this has been one of the coolest parts about running this for four years. I connect with people I otherwise would not have. Of course I still have my circle of friends I had before. But, I have only grown that circle exponentially because of this blog and how I use it through social.
Some of best friends today were strangers two years ago.
Social allows us to connect with old teachers, relatives we don’t see often, friends we don’t see often and many others. We also get to see stories of success, happiness and triumphs.
That can’t be a bad thing, right?
- A World of Information
Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media have grown exponentially as sourcing for news over the years. Let’s keep in mind how fast things move, see Twitter feed. Social media is still very much in it’s infancy stage. Yet, it has become one of the most popular sources for news.
If I am being totally honest with you, most of my breaking news comes from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Once I see what’s happening or trending, I then start researching for myself.
- Echo Chamber of Thoughts and Opinions
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” That quote speaks volumes to me personally. I don’t believe in suppressing speech of any kind. That includes hate speech.
In order to move the needle in society, conversations need to be had. People need to address important issues. Social media is a beacon for that. It obviously shouldn’t stop there.
If you don’t agree with your crazy uncle at Thanksgiving, call that fucker out.
- Let Your Creativity Flow
Social Media allows us to share our creativity and shape a lens on how we view the world. From pictures to writing to graphics to music, we showcase who we are and how we think creatively.
There are people I know who post videos or pictures showcasing it. I love seeing that creativity come to the surface and people showcasing it. It’s not easy to do.
Every time I post a blog on here (especially lifestyle and personal pieces), I leave myself vulnerable with that information. It’s bold, but it’s exciting. I love when people do those things and let the world in.
In fact, I have had a handful of people reach out since I began this blog talking about creating their own YouTube pages, blogs, etc. to showcase their creativity. However, some are scared because of work being critiqued. Like I tell them, I don’t like every single podcast I record. I don’t like every graphic I make. I don’t like every column I write. But fuck it. I enjoy doing it. Do it for that.
For those doing it, keep doing it and don’t let others bring you down.
Negatives of Social Media
- Marketing for Business
If we are stimulating the economy, how can this possibly be a bad thing? The short answer, it depends on what is being marketed.
The reality is Facebook Ads are specifically targeted to people based on demographic information and what they search. Let’s say someone just recently bought some home workout equipment or searched something to lose weight, now they are seeing ads for weight loss.
I am using this as an example because the fitness industry is a cesspool for smoke and mirrors (not saying everyone or everything). People want easy fixes and they will jump on them if they’re desperate enough. Maybe it is a pill or diet that effects them negatively. Take the keto diet for example. First off, you can’t actually go into ketosis. Second, it will tell you about the weight loss, but not the side effects like fatigue.
On top of that, you probably have a picture of someone who looks perfect in every way on the ad. Meanwhile, they have the perfect lighting, clothing and angle to cast that message.
Sometimes advertising is very disingenuous.
- Connection with More People
Apply the quantity over quality approach. We connect with some many people, but how much do you actually know the people who follow you and/or your friends list? How much do they know about you?
Are you having meaningful connections or empty ones? It’s easy to scroll through and just like…like…like…like…like…like…laugh…love…care (lol on that one).
In all seriousness, it is empty connections that impact our dopamine levels to make us feel important. Every time we check and see _____ liked our post, here comes the dopamine hit of emptiness.
One thing I started doing several years ago was stop posting on people’s walls for their birthday. I also try to respond to every single person who posts on mine versus just liking it. The reason is because mindless posting to someone is pointless to me. Even in comment sections for life events and things like that, I normally send private messages to express gratitude, sympathy or elation for whatever is happening.
It takes minimal effort and goes a long way for some people. It often to leads to real connection and conversation thus friendships.
- A World of Information
While we have access to plenty of information, you know how much of it I take at face value because it’s on social media…none.
Every statistic, every quote, every meme (fucking stupid I have to say that), every little piece of information…do a small google search. You can get a good pulse on the bullshit meter rather quickly.
Think and research before you share, period.
- Echo Chamber of Thoughts and Opinions
Social media is a cesspool of misinformation because of confirmation bias among the people using it.
Just recently, I posted a sarcastic status saying covid is basically the flu. Someone commented data showing the disparity of how it affects old and young in terms of death. Accurate. However, I responded saying I understand that, but we also have many factors like long term impact that are unknown. The other factor is overcrowding in hospitals because of it.
He responded by posting a blog quoting three doctors from three cities basically saying overcrowding is not that bad. Of course I read it despite the failed attempt at a meaningful conversation about it. He simply just shared the post. That was it.
Thanks for the blog post homie. I responded with this and got nothing back.
1. Once again, that post has comparisons to the flu. One has been around for a century, the other has been around for less than a year. It doesn’t even compare in terms of certain things like…
Here in lies one of the many problems with the echo chamber.
Confirmation bias is a bitch. When confronted with data or facts that say otherwise, people respond in a number of ways. All of which are detrimental to conversation. I posted a gif saying “great talk” the day after, which the person “liked.”
Again, things that are detrimental to meaningful conversation.
You have those who begin name calling and lashing out before even having a chance to converse. You have those who deflect questioning because they can’t answer them.
I experienced that recently when someone shared a video of Candice Owens staking claim that Black Unemployment is worse under democratic leadership.
Meanwhile, those numbers were better under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama than they were under either of the Bush administrations.
Unfortunately, you have to navigate through misinformation, conspiracy theories, faux outrage and mouth breathers to have conversations. But, it’s fun for me honestly.
Is Social Media Good or Bad for Society?
I view it as a swinging gate that sometimes becomes miserably bad and sometimes becomes a great tool with endless advantages.
One example of a great advantage is the power of video. Without video evidence of Ahmad Arbery and George Floyd, there is a good chance we see a similar situation to Emmett Till.
As the saying goes with great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, many are too irresponsible to use it correctly.
Within the last several months, I have found myself becoming more active in comment sections on friends’ posts. I am honestly sick of the misinformation being shared and I want to vocalize that.
I honestly believe misinformation is the number one problem with social media as a whole. I hate that so many misinformed people have votes that carry weight. I hate that so many people put politics above people…the same thing they hate the government for.
I am also sick of people lambasting the media for it’s shortcomings, when our society has the same damn shortcomings based on their social media activity. I constantly see people talk about media bias and then you look around at the sources they share from and it’s notoriously right or left wing sourcing.
It’s completely asinine. I have come to the realization that many people are nothing more than a walking paradox.
The positive side to this is you find out so much more about people through social media. The conversations once had behind closed doors or at the proverbial “Thanksgiving table” are being leaked in a public forum. Thus giving us more transparency with people, which I am all for.
It’s inherently easier to say things behind a screen for most people. Even though I loathe the misinformation and some of the narratives being spread, they have their right to say it. I have a right to think they’re idiots for it. I will call them out on any misinformation.
I find it particularly funny when people say things like “if you don’t agree, then delete me.” Nahhhh. I will just keep doing what I am doing just because I feel like it.
Overall, I think social media swings in both directions for most factors. One area where I think social media is a cold blooded killer is mental health. There are tons of studies regarding the impact on mental health.
One of my biggest worries is my children with social media. I don’t want them to become mindlessly obsessed with likes, which is something I see among people I am friends with or follow.
People will post a picture and if doesn’t gain the attention they want…delete. I have people I follow on IG who have posted way more than the 15 pictures they have on their profile.
Part of that is from the negative impact in craving for attention and the dopamine. Another part is the insecurities.
It has become a place to highlight the best parts of our life and ignore the worst parts.
That comes with the one of the biggest plagues of social as a whole…”fake it til you make it.” People want to feel important or seem happier than they actually are.
Social media can be the perfect outlet for that. It becomes like a drug. While they seem to be fulfilled on social, they may not be smiling or having meaningful relationships with people behind closed doors. Thus lowering self esteem and self image.
Because of the addiction for attention, we often miss out on great experiences because of social media. Think about when you go to a concert and the number of people who record nearly the entire thing watching from their phones…yikes. You paid money for something you can watch on YouTube.
Although I am confident in who I am and I have learned to desensitize myself for “likes” and a false premise of feeling important, I struggle personally with the addiction to social media and reaching for my phone.
The number one argument with my wife (it really doesn’t happen that often) is me being on my phone. I spend most of the work day on it or my computer because I run social media pages for businesses and work on this blog. By that point, I get warped in. I may comment on something or post something and then I am in a conversation that lasts throughout the day. If I am not talking on social, I am texting.
It is hard to put my phone down at times. While it may not impact my mental health as much as some, it impacts those around me. There are times I haven’t paid attention to my family because I am looking at my phone. Whether people want to admit it or not, it is likely a problem for you in some capacity.
How often do we hear people say, “I would delete _____ if it wasn’t for _____.” Most of the time it is a lame duck excuse.
Much like anything, too much of social media can be damaging. We need to learn to use it properly, myself included in some ways.
It is statistically the best tool for marketing business. It is the most cost effective so it can help small local business bring in more business without breaking the bank.
If used correctly, you can use it to cultivate meaningful relationships with people that you otherwise wouldn’t have.
If used correctly, you can share ideas and spread factual information accordingly.
If used correctly, it can serve as a watchdog for a more fair and just society.
Social media is just beginning to scratch the surface on what it can be. The first social media site (Six Degrees) was created in 1997, just 23 years ago. Facebook is the most popular social media site in the world by a mile. It was created in 2004, less than two decades ago.
The reality is social media is still very much in the infancy stage of it’s life. Overall, I believe social is more a net positive for society than it is a negative. As close as the statistics I shared for how the people I know view it, that’s about how close I view in terms of the net positive.
If you find yourself more angry being on it, channel your inner Bill Belichick and just get off Snapface or Instachat.