- Internet & the Web
How Not to Use Social Networking
The cons of social media are particularly difficult to determine, primarily because they depend on the ways in which social media is being used. Given that it can be used in an infinite number of ways and seeing as everybody’s time on Social Media varies dramatically, attempting to determine a general method of use is virtually impossible. However, I am eager to explore what I consider to be the major troughs of the ways in which some of us use the virtual world to which the vast majority of us have now subscribed.
Social media manifests itself in sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, with more and more people, particularly the younger generations, flocking to these networks, creating a profile and uploading a picture, before sharing their life, one status or tweet or blog post at a time. The trend seems to be a desire to share even the most trivial of information with the broadest audience possible, as, with faster internet connections and easy computer or mobile access, one’s current look, location, and activity can be uploaded in words, photos and maps in a matter of seconds. There can be no doubt that these sites provide a good method of self promotion and expression, not to mention the social benefits of communicating with long-distance family and friends, but the main issue I have with Social Media is this tendency for its users to share too much with a public with which they are largely unfamiliar. Facebook ‘friends’ are not all real. Twitter ‘followers’ are not all genuine, yet users frequently seem to forget this. That random girl you met for twenty minutes at a party doesn’t want to see a photo of you vomiting up all the alcohol you drank last night, or to read the unnecessary accompanying tag that you got ‘so wasted’. Similarly, she has little interest in the fact that the vomiting was taking place at ‘such-and-such’s House of Fun’. Whilst the girl may read this and scroll immediately on, prospective employers, who frequently assess Social Media for ideas on the behaviour of potential employees, will not be so kind. Use Social Networking sites to supplement your life, to record good memories, and for what they were originally intended: socialising. Anything else could render you unemployed, embarrassed, and judged by your peers.
Additionally, people who go around posting their address or phone number are setting themselves up for trouble, as are those who fail to review their privacy settings, enabling any stranger to view their updates and images. Meeting up in person with people found over Social Media is never going to be a safe business, and, whilst I’m not implying that everyone who uses the Internet to meet people is sharpening their knives as they deliver the invitation, I would encourage those who meet up, if they’re determined to see the engagement through, to do so in a very public arena.
When Social Networking is used by members of society under the age of thirteen, I involuntarily cringe just a little. I do think that sharing part of your life online is something that ought to be capped with an age limit, and whilst I can't and don't blame parents who might fail to monitor their child's Social Networking behaviour (as in today's world it's only too easy for children to develop an account themselves) I don't think that children, who surely can't have much to discuss besides their daily school life, should be allowed to knowingly enter the world of Social Networking. Obviously the prominence of the Internet, the domination of online learning, and the use of Social Networking groups within classes, can make this idea difficult to enforce, but exposing children too early to the world of strangers and poor grammar seems to me rather counter-intuitive.
Whilst I don't subscribe to the notion that Social Networking is destroying our actual social lives (as I feel that human beings are fundamentally social creatures who yearn for contact, interaction, and proximity to others) I do think that it can pose a threat to our spelling and grammar, particularly amongst younger users who have had less time to consolidate these skills. Although text messaging offers the same issue, it, unlike Social Media, is a relatively narrow spectrum, and therefore does not appear to promote 'text-talk' and abbreviations in the same manner as the Internet. Whilst I don't mind the odd abbreviation, I do think that the complete lack of grammar and atrocious spelling often found on Social Media is potentially detrimental to our own writing, and serves only to lower our own educative image.
Social Media is an opportunity for members of the public to express themselves creatively, and to feel as though they’re involved in an ever-expanding world, which is becoming more and more difficult to make a name in. It only becomes an issue when it is accessed at too young an age, when privacy options are not reviewed and enforced, and when the private sphere of life begins to merge with the public one. If social media is used properly, there is no reason why it should be dangerous or encroach on our actual social abilities. The faults, therefore, appear to lie not with us losing our social lives, as is frequently discussed, but rather with our desire to share too much of them, and to express what we do share in a rudimentary format.