A social media reality check
By Amanda Thomas, Staff Writer
Although I don’t usually rely on Facebook to tell me more than what my friends and acquaintances are up to, statistics show that a whopping 48% of youth get their news from Facebook. Other social media sites such as Twitter and YouTube are also increasingly becoming disseminators of news stories, with media tycoons such as CNN, BBC and ABC News using such platforms to broadcast from.
This only speaks to the idea that the ‘Social Media Phenomenon’ is here to stay. In fact, approximately 300,000 new users sign up on Twitter per day and Facebook has an estimated 800 million users with about half of them logged in on any given day.
… it seems that social media is taking over our social lives, leaving less time for students to focus on studies or physically interact with others.
Social media websites allow rapid flow of information to a large group of people, which, in the case of sharing information and coordinating an event (social or political), may be practical but one question we should ask ourselves is this: at what cost are we simplifying our lives by using social media to communicate?
Research shows that 57% of people talk to more people online than in real life. The same study says 48% of 18-34 year olds check Facebook when they wake up, with 28% doing so before even getting out of bed. You know who you are. With chat and messaging features on these sites people can communicate with friends all around the world in real time, encouraging them to spend more time online.
Social media websites are a major distraction in university classrooms. In an article published in The Sputnik, Wilfrid Laurier’s student paper, one student wrote that he has “on several occasions, seen every computer in a classroom occupied by one or the other [Facebook or celebrity gossip websites].”
With 700 billion minutes a month spent on Facebook, it seems that social media is taking over our social lives, leaving less time for students to focus on studies or physically interact with others.
Social media networks break down the normal barriers of connecting with people, making it easier to start friendships online as opposed to in real life. Although striking up a conversation with someone on the street about the economy in Greece may seem socially awkward, on Facebook or Twitter it is relatively easy to find a lot of like-minded people; you can join groups, ‘like’ the same things or follow them. It is even acceptable to ‘friend’ someone you just met without it being construed as creepy.
A major concern for users of social media networks is privacy. In 2007, Facebook revised its privacy settings in response to the Privacy Commissioner’s investigation into a complaint by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic. More recently, social networking sites also came out with secure https settings (the privacy settings used to do online banking and shopping) to ensure that their users have maximum security on their websites.
Despite these measures, the whole point of a social media network is to make connections with other people, so there is still some extent of profile visibility. CareerBuilder survey finds that 45% of employers use social networking sites to screen potential employees. Organizations also scan social networking websites to look for any negative feedback about them floating around the internet. A Connecticut ambulance company even fired an employee for making derogatory statements about them on Facebook.
There will always be positive and negative opinions on social networking websites. The key is not to let it take over our lives, and to ask ourselves “what would I want a friend of a friend, or a potential employer to know about me when they look at my profile?”
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