- Internet & the Web
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Social Networking Websites
Over recent years, there has been an explosion in the number of people and organizations using social networking websites, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The user numbers for sites are staggering. Facebook, for instance, had and estimated 2 billion users in June 2017.
Social networking is used by individuals to keep contact with friends and relatives, and for entertainment. It is also used by businesses and various other organizations to promote products, brands, people, events, as well as to disseminate information and update groups of followers with shared interests.
Social networking sites have brought with them many benefits, but also downsides. The advantages and disadvantages are listed below.
Social media spark a revelation that we, the people, have a voice, and through the democratization of content and ideas we can once again unite around common passions, inspire movements, and ignite change.— Brian Solis
Advantages of Using Social Networking Websites
- Individual users can keep in touch with friends and relatives easily. You can stay up to date with what people are doing, and also let them know what is happening in your life, using words, photos, and other media.
- Users can connect with like-minded people. Social networking makes it easy to join groups and make friends online with others who share your particular interests, even if it is relatively obscure.
- Connections with others can be made long distance and across international boundaries.
- Social networking can increase voting rates and facilitate political change. Political campaigns such as elections, boycotts, rallies, and marches can all be set up and run via social media.
- Large amounts of people can be contacted quickly in the event of an emergency event, such as a hurricane, wildfire, or terrorist attack.
- Certain groups, such as senior citizens, or the physically disabled, are able to maintain relationships and feel connected to society more easily.
- Social networking sites can be a source of entertainment. Many people use websites like Facebook for a little light relief during a break from work, or when they are unwinding at home.
- Social media offers excellent opportunities for musicians and artists to promote themselves without the need for a corporate contract. The pop star Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube.
- Users can catch up with news and find out about local events. Provided the source is trustworthy, social networking sites can be a great source of information, whether it is international news, details of the latest bargains at the local store, or reviews of restaurants.
- The police increasingly use social media to catch criminals.
- It is generally free of charge to set up a social networking account and use it.
- Businesses and organizations can use social networking sites to promote their brand, update customers, promote products and events. They can employ direct marketing, traditional advertising, or other sales methods.
- "Crowdsourcing" and "crowdfunding" are great ways for people to participate in the collective funding of a project.
- Social networking online can be a great way to find a new job. Sites like LinkedIn are particularly suited for this purpose.
- The interactivity of social media allows for public discussions online, such as local issues, politics, and current events.
When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears.— Zadie Smith
Disadvantages of Using Social Networking Websites
- Users cannot be sure that their personal data will be safe. It may be stolen, or even sold by the site itself in some instances.
- Scams, computer viruses, fraud, and identity theft all occur on social networking sites.
- Children use social networking sites to cheat and copy their assignments.
- People can waste a lot of time on social networking sites without any obvious benefits. Their work career, studies, social life, and even physical health can suffer as a result.
- Businesses using networking run the risk of making a faux pas or worse, and undermining the brand.
- Terrorism and hate groups use the sites to promote their views and recruit new members.
- There are privacy issues associated with social networking. It is not always clear who is able to read your profile and personal information. An embarrassing photo of you drunk at a party might be seen by a family member, or critical comments made about your workplace might be seen by your boss.
- Once information is posted on a site and shared, it can be difficult or impossible to delete or retrieve it.
- Excessive social media use can result in stress with offline relationships: family; friends; and romantic partners.
- Bullying, stalking and harassment all happen on these sites. Threatening messages can be sent anonymously. Stalkers can often glean personal information or work out a user’s location and movements. Embarrassing photographs and other media can be used to harass or blackmail.
- Unauthorized sharing can take earnings away from artists and musicians, as copyright laws are often flouted.
- Aggressive advertisements can undermine the user experience.
- Information overload causes stress and a sense of being overwhelmed for some. Much of the information is completely frivolous.
- Much of the information on social networks comes from poor sources or is just plain incorrect. Some of the information is calculated to mislead for political or other purposes.
- Some psychologists have expressed concerns about the social disconnect that happens when people swap real life relationships for virtual ones. This especially applies to young people, who are still developing social skills.
These days young kids don't have any place to form an epic adventure. It's more often in front of the TV screen or a laptop. That's very hard on them. They're being taught daily unsocial skills. Facebook is an unsocial skill. It's so sad.— John Lydon
The viral power of online media has proven how fast creative ideas can be spread and adopted, using tools like cellphones, digital cameras, micro-credit, mobile banking, Facebook, and Twitter. A perfect example? The way the Green Movement in Iran caught fire thanks to social media.— Tina Brown
What is your favorite social networking site?
© 2011 Paul Goodman