Advocates of the Social Media say that these communities facilitate social and political change; offer teachers, librarians, and students valuable access to educational support and materials; promote increased interaction with friends and family and broadcast useful information rapidly. Opponents say that these sites alter children’s brains and behavior; waste time on frivolous activity; prevent face-to-face communication; expose users to predators like pedophiles and burglars and spread false and potentially dangerous information.
In this paper I will give a brief history of the Social Media and will also enumerate in an unbiased way some pros and cons of the Social Media. History of the Social Media SixDegrees.com, which existed from 1997-2001, is considered the first social networking site because it allowed users to create personal spaces and connect to friends online. Friendster, created in 2002, popularized social networking in the United States but was quickly outpaced by other social networking sites like: MySpace (2003), Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006), Pinterest (2009), and Google+ (2012). Facebook reported one billion monthly users worldwide on October 4, 2012, making it the most popular social networking site with one in seven people on the planet using the site.
Every day, Facebook manages 2.7 billion “Likes,” 300 million photo uploads, and 2.5 billion status updates and check-ins. Twitter, the second largest social networking site, had an estimated 107.7 million users in the United States (as of Jan. 31, 2012) and 500 million worldwide users (as of Sep. 28, 2012). Pinterest is the third largest social network with 23 million unique visitors in July 2012, followed by LinkedIn, Tagged, Google+, and MySpace. 59% of all Internet users use at least one social networking site and 56% of social networking users are female.
Social Media Pros
Social networking sites spread information faster than any other media. Over 50% of people learn about breaking news on social media. 65% of traditional media reporters and editors use sites like Facebook and LinkedIn for story research, and 52% use Twitter. Social networking sites are the top news source for 27.8% of Americans, ranking close to newspapers (28.8%) and above radio (18.8%) and other print publications (6%). Twitter and YouTube users reported the July 20, 2012 Aurora, CO theater shooting before news crews could arrive on the scene, and the Red Cross urged witnesses to tell family members they were safe via social media outlets. (Hughes & Pesce, 2012).
Law enforcement uses social networking sites to catch and prosecute criminals. 67% of federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals surveyed think “social media helps solve crimes more quickly.” In 2011 the NYPD added a Twitter tracking unit and has used social networking to arrest criminals who have bragged of their crimes online. When the Vancouver Canucks lost the 2011 Stanley Cup in Vancouver, the city erupted into riots. Social media was used to catch vandals and rioters as social networking site users tagged the people they knew in over 2,000 photos posted to the sites. (Global Post, 2012).
Social networking sites help students do better at school. 59% of students with access to the Internet report that they use social networking sites to discuss educational topics and 50% use the sites to talk about school assignments. After George Middle School in Portland, OR introduced a social media program to engage students grades went up by 50%, chronic absenteeism went down by 33%, and 20% of students school-wide voluntarily completed extra-credit assignments. (Delmatoff, 2010).
Social networking sites allow people to improve their relationships and make new friends. 70% of adult social networking users visit the sites to connect with friends and family, and increased online communication strengthens relationships. 52% of teens using social media report that using the sites has helped their relationships with friends, 88% report that social media helps them stay in touch with friends they cannot see regularly, 69% report getting to know students at their school better, and 57% make new friends. (Common Sense Media, 2012).
Social media helps empower business women. Being able to connect on social networking sites gives business women a support group not readily found offline where female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are outnumbered by male CEOs 15 to 485. Many social media sites are dominated by women: 72% of Pinterest users are women, 58% of Facebook users, 62% of MySpace users, 60% of Yelp users, and 53% of Instagram users. Business women useTwitter chats to support each other, give and receive peer knowledge, and have guest “speakers” share expert knowledge. One.org helps African women entrepreneurs connect on social media to grow their businesses. (One.org, 2012).
Social media sites help employers find employees and job-seekers find work. 64% of companies are on two or more social networks for recruiting because of the wider pool of applicants, more efficient searches, and no need for an outside recruiter. 89% of employers have hired employees through LinkedIn, 26% through Facebook, and 15% through Twitter. One in six job-seekers credit social media for helping find their current job. 52% of job-seekers use Facebook for the job search, 38% use LinkedIn, and 34% use Twitter. (Jobvite, 2012).
Social Media Cons
Social media enables the spread of unreliable and false information. 49.1% of people have heard false news via social media. On Sep. 5, 2012 false rumors of fires, shootouts, and caravans of gunmen in a Mexico City suburb spread via Twitter and Facebook caused panic, flooded the local police department with over 3,000 phone calls, and temporarily closed schools. Shashank Tripathi, tweeting as @ComfortablySmug, spread false information in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy by posting on Twitter that the New York Stock Exchange was flooding and that the power company would cut off electricity to all of Manhattan; the bogus information was picked up by national news outlets including CNN and the Weather Channel. (Laird, 2012).
Social networking sites lack privacy and expose users to government and corporate intrusions. 13 million users said they had not set or did not know about Facebook’s privacy settings and 28% shared all or nearly all of their posts publicly. The US Justice Department intercepted 1,661 pieces of information from social networking sites and e-mails in 2011. The 2009 IRS training manual teaches agents to scan Facebook pages for information that might “assist in resolving a taxpayer case.” 4.7 million Facebook users have “liked” a health condition or medical treatment page, information that is sometimes used by insurance companies to raise rates. (Nance-Nash, 2011).
Students who are heavy social media users tend to have lower grades. Students who use social media had an average GPA of 3.06 while non-users had an average GPA of 3.82 and students who used social networking sites while studying scored 20% lower on tests. College students’ grades dropped 0.12 points for every 93 minutes above the average 106 minutes spent on Facebook per day. Two-thirds of teachers believe that social media does more to distract students than to help academically. (Lanir, 2012).
Social networking sites can lead to stress and offline relationship problems. A University of Edinburgh Business School study found the more Facebook friends a person has, the more stressful the person finds Facebook to use. According to a Feb. 9, 2012 Pew Internet report, 15% of adult social network users had an experience on a social networking site that caused a friendship to end, 12% of adult users had an experience online that resulted in a face-to-face argument, and 3% of adults reported a physical confrontation as the result of an experience on a social networking site. (Rainie, Lenhart & Smith, 2012).
Social networking sites entice people to waste time. 40% of 8 to 18 year olds spend 54 minutes a day on social media sites. 36% of people surveyed listed social networking as the “biggest waste of time,” above fantasy sports (25%), watching TV (23%), and shopping (9%). When alerted to a new social networking site activity, like a new tweet or Facebook message, users take 20 to 25 minutes on average to return to the original task. In 30% of cases, it took two hours to fully return attention to the original task. 42% of American Internet users play games like Farmville or Mafia Wars on social networking sites. (Willis, 2012).
Using social media can harm job stability and employment prospects. Job recruiters reported negative reactions to finding profanity (61%), poor spelling or grammar (54%), illegal drugs (78%), sexual content (66%), pictures of or with alcohol (47%), and religious content (26%) on potential employees’ social media pages. Anthony Weiner, former US Representative, was forced to resign after a Twitter sexting scandal in 2011. Several athletes were banned from the 2012 Olympics because of their racist social media posts. (Recuero, 2012).
After reviewing this information, do you see yourself as an advocate or opponent of the Social Media? Do you believe that the Social Media facilitates social and political change, is valuable to education, promotes relationships and broadcasts useful information rapidly? Do you believe the Social Media alters children’s behavior, is a waste of time, prevents personal communication, is a useful tool for predators and burglars and spreads false information?
I see myself as neutral in regards to either advocating or opposing the Social Media. I do see positive things coming from the Social Media, but also see negative things. I believe is a matter of doing research and not taking all information the Social Media bombards us with as factual information. It’s a personal choice, either we advocate the Social Media or oppose it. The decision is up to you.
Bosker, B. (2012) Fortune 500 List Boasts More Female CEOs Than Ever Before. Retrieved January 6, 2013 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/07/fortune-500-female-ceos_n_1495734.html. Common Sense Media. (2012). Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives. Retrieved January 6, 2013 from http://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/social-media-social-life. Dalke, R. (2011). Social Media Case Study: The Stanley Cup Hockey Riots. Retrieved January 6, 2013 from http://www.freshnetworks.com/blog/2011/06/social-media-case-study-the-stanley-cup-hockey-riots/. Delmatoff, E. (2010). How Social Media Transformed Our