The internet has become one of the most transformative innovations in the 21st century. It has changed how people work, communicate, shop, and play. The epitome of the internet innovation is social media, which has gained a wide prominence in the few years of its existence. According to statistics by Statista, there were 4.4 billion active internet users as of January 2019, with 3.5 billion of them being social media users. Most of these social media users are young people who cannot imagine communication without thinking of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, google+, Instagram, WhatsApp, and YouTube. Facebook boasted over 2 billion users as of December 2018. Social media significantly influences communication. Through social media platforms, people exchange ideas, connect with friends and family around the globe, seek advice, and offer guidance. Social media also fosters creativity and conversations with global communities on issues such a politics, race, health, relationships, and religion. Although it has numerous benefits, social media has also come at a price. It has robbed people of the trust and comfort they once placed in one another and replaced human companionship and support with virtual connections. People prefer texting to phone conversations and online chats to one-on-one conversations and this erodes interpersonal skills and leads to antisocial behavior. The main purpose of this essay is to examine how social media affects communication both positively and negatively.
One of the major concerns of social media use is technology addiction. This occurs when people spend most of their time online instead of interacting physically with people around them. These people end up feeling a strong sense of identity online making them unable to separate their virtual actions from their real ones. The addiction has become so serious that it is now listed as a mental illness with victims exhibiting symptoms such as emotional shutdown, withdrawal symptoms, poor or lack of concentration, and anxiety and depression. The anxiety is caused by being constantly alert for social media messages or comments. Trying to project a fake and unrealistic perfection within one’s social network can also cause depression. Many people embrace this happy and successful illusion while covering up their sad and miserable real-life situations. Such people end up carrying long-term emotional and psychological burdens because all their virtual online friends cannot help since they believe that they are happy. The consequences of online addiction and consequent anxiety and depression eventually manifest themselves at the workplace. Workers are obsessed with checking their social media sites regularly, making their concentration span too low. In addition, the emotional and psychological burden that they try to hide is reflected in their poor quality work.
There are also far-reaching effects of social media such as cyberbullying. According to David Bowman, a West Virginia University Professor, the actions that trigger online feuds are the same ones that trigger real-life feuds, the only difference being the modality (Subramanian, 2017). A person may be mocked both online and offline due to his/her weight and in both instances, he/she will be affected both emotionally and behaviorally. However, when it is on social media, it gives room for more contact and communication and a larger audience. The bullying messages and comments on social media follow the person everywhere, and they are seen by all his/her online friends. Moreover, the lack of privacy is a key contributor to online bullying. Sharing personal issues online gives people access to so much information about others. These people feel the need to process and reply to such information and sometimes not so kindly. This increasing contact between the bullies and their targets online further aggravates the situation. This can lower the victim’s self-esteem at the workplace and he/she may find it hard to interact with his/her workmates or participate in teamwork.
The negativity surrounding social media is countered by the positive effects of social media such as faster global communication. Messages are spread faster and wider than ever before bringing with it an abundance of advantages. People interact with people from all over the world, and in the process, new cultures are learned, people appreciate each other more, and the world becomes a friendlier place (Glaser, Lui, Hakim, Vilar, & Zhang, 2018). Students also benefit widely from social media use. They can learn using blogs and podcasts (Cagla, 2014). Another major positive change is how communication has become uncensored. People pass across their message with no filters and when words fail there are emoji and smileys. Numerous social media platforms such as Facebook also have translation services, hence the language barrier is eliminated. Moreover, people can now make video calls on social media. Due to the ease in communication, professionals from all over the world can now network more easily through social media platforms.
Social media has also greatly transformed the business world in a variety of ways. It has eroded the traditional mediums of marketing such as television and radio commercials. Organizations now use social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram to communicate with their customers, promote their products and services, and announce job vacancies (Muñoz-Expósito, Oviedo-García, & Castellanos-Verdugo, 2017). Social media is also widely used by bloggers, content creators, and article writers who share their articles with their clients who, in turn, share on their social media sites, hence enhancing the number of followers.
Social media has changed the way people communicate tremendously bringing with it a number of positive and negative outcomes. Since the innovation of the internet and social media is irreversible, it is up to the users to handle the platforms usefully and responsibly.
Cagla, A. (2014). IJAS 2014. Retrieved from http://www.universitypublications.net/ijas/0701/html/rpsearch.html
Glaser, P., Liu, J., Villar, R., & Hakim, M. (2018). New Zealand Journal of psychology. Is Social Media Use for Networking Positive or Negative? Offline Social Capital and Internet Addiction as Mediators for The Relationship Between Social Media Use and Mental Health, 47(3). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329403798_Is_Social_Media_Use_for_Networking_Positive_or_Negative_Offline_Social_Capital_and_Internet_Addiction_as_Mediators_for_the_Relationship_between_Social_Media_Use_and_Mental_HealthMuñoz-Expósito, M., Oviedo-Garcia, M., & Castellanos-Verdugo, M. (2017). How to measure engagement in Twitter: advancing a metric. Internet Research, 27(5), 1122-1148. doi: 10.1108/intr-06-2016-0170
Subramanian, D. (2017). Influence of Social Media in Interpersonal Communication. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS AND RESEARCH(IJSPR), 38(109). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319422885_Influence_of_Social_Media_in_Interpersonal_Communication