The advantages of social platforms still offer a place to connect and share
Social media receives a lot of flak, and with good reason. It has sold our information, spread dangerously false facts, formed echo chambers, heightened narcissism, stolen our free time, provided masks for predators and built another platform for bullies.
Yet, I and millions of others continue to use social media applications on a daily basis. I can’t help but think that there must be a reason other than those gratifying notifications constantly dinging on our phones and grabbing our attention.
So now, during a week when one of social media’s awkward kings testified before Congress, let’s take a small moment to go back in time before Cambridge Analytica, fake news, Russian bots and Jake Paul were ever conjured to remember why we took to social media to begin with. Let’s remember why it’s worth salvaging—the good parts of it, at least—out of the mess we currently have.
Let’s start around a decade ago, when people were creating their first Facebook accounts. There was a reason the new site was catching on: people were discovering that they could reconnect with distant family, old friends and classmates from college. In fact, according to a 2015 Pew Research study, 93 percent of adults on Facebook use it to connect with family members.
Facebook was one of the first global directories. It has the ability of making people who are thousands of miles apart only a click and a tap away. And with an estimated 2.8 billion social media users worldwide, the odds of finding your high school English teacher or second cousin aren’t exactly slim.
I think we’ve begun to take such instantaneous access for granted. Or, at least, we’ve forgotten the valuable opportunities instant, long-distance connections bring.
Not only has social media brought pictures of nephews to their aunts worldwide, but it has also provided a platform for professionals to collaborate and exchange information. An academic in Sydney can share his findings with a man in Quebec, or law enforcement in one city can work with the public in another city. In fact, 85 percent of police departments use social media to solve crime.
Social media has allowed for people far apart to collaborate, brainstorm and invent.
Though this is a double-edged sword, social media can provide a quick and easy way to simultaneously disseminate and discuss information. It delivers the news and simultaneously provides an interactive place for people to have back-and-forth dialogue about current events.
Those pesky Twitter fights are democracy in action. They allow us to flex our First Amendment rights by publically voicing our opinions and beliefs. Additionally, they provide a platform for us to speak directly to our politicians, and for our politicians to speak directly to us (for better or for worse).
By allowing people to discuss ideas, social media has allowed them to rally around causes together. People are angry on social media, but they are angry together. And they use this anger to build movements and mobilize thousands of people to spread awareness on certain issues.
So while the ol’ Zuck is currently representing the banality of social media, let the Parkland students represent the beauty of social media. Ultimately, the good of social media outweighs the bad. We just need to work out the kinks—okay, the enormous knots—first.