Exploring Social Media: A World Beyond the Screens

Photo Credit: Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
Photo Credit: Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

Ever since I discovered what an online forum was in seventh grade, I’ve been fascinated with the internet and the idea of social media. This may not come as much of a shock to anyone living in today’s world, seeing as how even grandparents have managed to find their way into the realm of Facebook for the sake of keeping tabs on children and grandchildren that live out of state. Social media is everywhere, but how many of us have actually stopped to think “how does this affect my life and who I am as a person?”

For many people living within this world of technology and the internet, social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are not simply websites that we use to pass the time when we are bored, but are often a part of our everyday lives: constantly updating statuses, posting pictures, and scrolling through the seemingly endless list of streaming content that flows forth from our long list of “friends.” Most of us are in a constant state of connection, constantly surrounded by the noise of our devices.

Photo Credit: KROMKRATHOG at freedigitalphotos.net
Photo Credit: KROMKRATHOG at freedigitalphotos.net

Now before I go any further, I want to emphasize that I am no exception to the rule; in addition to spending a generous amount of time here on WordPress to work on this blog and read other people’s blogs, I also spend a lot of my time on other social networking sites. I’m connected to my computer just as much as the next person, but I often question how large of a role these sites play in the overarching storyline of my life.

Like anything else, social media and the world of the internet is bound to have things about it that are both positive and negative. Oftentimes it can seem easier to pick one side of an argument or idea, but what happens when we try to gain a more rounded view of the topic? Maybe by looking at social media with a critical eye we might be able to better understand how it functions on an individual as well as a societal level:

Pros:

  • Ability to stay connected with people that are no longer physically close
  • Access to seemingly endless stream of information (could be seen as both pro and con, but I tend to lean towards the pro side)
  • Opens up opportunities to share ideas and creative content with larger audiences
  • Can help foster global interaction that moves past political relations

Cons:

  • Possible lack in authenticity within relationships/redefining the concept of “friend”
  • Diminished levels of privacy – there are many arguments surrounding this point, and a lot of it often comes down to how much people willingly put on the internet for the world to see, but there are also concerns surrounding advertising practices and even the role of the government
  • Negative effect on attention span and ability to concentrate (when was the last time you read a news article that you had to scroll down more than twice?)

So now that we’ve looked at this fancy list of the flaws and strengths of social media, what can we conclude, if anything? I believe that the internet and social media is a powerful thing, and I honestly believe that it has a potential to change the world, even more than it already has within the last ten years. I am beyond grateful for the community that I have found online and the sources of inspiration and motivationĀ  that have helped push me to try to grow and be a better person. We have something special here, which is why I think it’s important that we treat it with respect rather than letting it fade into the background.

That being said, I think there is something else that we need to keep in mind: the world right outside our doors is just as important, if not more, than the world within our computer screen. People matter. Relationships matter. Taking care of our bodies matters. Just like we need to get away from work and school after a while, maybe sometimes we should take a break from this online world, even if only for a little while. It might surprise you how rewarding a break from the digital noise can actually be.

Comment Question: How large of a role does social media play in your life? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of content, or has it become just a part of everyday life? Let me know in the comment section below!

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