Social networking created changes to the way we communicate with one another. It alters our idea of what it means to start a business. We can get our fix of current events through this medium, share our favorite websites with one another, and capture moments using pictures and video to share with family and friends.
There are many positives to consider when looking at the latest form of social networking, but it can also be a world filled with many negatives. You can use websites like Facebook to launch a new business idea, sell products or services, and extend the reach of your brand. These platforms can also become an inescapable place where peer pressure can push people toward choices they would never make without its influence.
We look at brands like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram for social networking today, but this communications tool has been everywhere since the early 2000s. Six Degrees earns recognition as being the first official site, founded in 1997 by Andrew Weinreich, with a peak of 1 million members. People were going into AOL chat rooms before then. Friendster then emerged in 2002, a year before LinkedIn, to set the stage for what we see today.
The pros and cons of social networking are often more about your priorities when using it and the pages and people with whom you choose to interact. How can you take advantage of these critical viewpoints today?
List of the Pros of Social Networking
1. Social networking gives you a chance to connect with people around the world.
One of the most obvious advantages of using social networking is the opportunity these websites provide you to reach people from anywhere in the world. As long as there is a connection to the Internet and a profile created, you can become “friends” or a “follower” of someone and check-in with them at any point in time.
Some people use Facebook to stay in touch with family, talk to old high school friends, and share their political feelings. Twitter is a micro-blogging platform that is used for comedy, current events, and general observation. You can even connect with people from places you’ve never seen or heard of before.
2. This technology gives us access to easy, instant communication tools.
Social networking gives us the chance to stay connected with one another wherever we happen to go. You don’t need to have access to a landline to call someone with this technology today. Sending a letter through the traditional mail seems like an eternity. Forget about answering machines or voicemail – just leave a comment on someone’s page and they’ll get a notification about it immediately.
When we stay connected to social networking, then all we need to do is pick up our smartphone, boot up the computer, or open the laptop to start communicating with someone. You can even use an app that connects to your profile to take advantage of these benefits no matter where you are in the world.
3. Information happens in real-time blocks on social networks.
Before the Internet came around, we all had to wait for the daily newspaper or the news broadcasts on television to know what was going on in the world that day. Even when cable news came around to give us 24/7 access to stories, we had to sit, watch, and wait for the stories we wanted to see. Thanks to social networking, one simple search is all that is necessary to access the current events notifications that we want to see.
You can even go a step further and set alerts through your social networking profile so that you receive notifications when a specific page has new information to review. This process allows you to customize your news feed, allowing the information discovery experience to follow the exact path you want.
4. Social networking creates brand exposure for businesses.
Any type of professional organization can use their social networking presence to connect with their current and future customers. Most platforms allow businesses to sell their products, either directly on the social media site or through a link to the company’s sales page. This process makes it easier to expand the reach of a company through the use of these one-to-one connections that are possible.
There are numerous small businesses and entrepreneurs who have thriving companies today which survive almost entirely on what they can create through a social network. Some of the brands would be unable to operate without it.
5. Being on a social network is a lot of fun.
The average person in the United States spends between 35 to 45 minutes every day on their favorite social networks. Some might call this behavior an addiction, but it wouldn’t be that way if people weren’t having fun checking in with others or staying up-to-date on the latest news and information. Humans are naturally social creatures, so it feels satisfying to have likes, hearts, or comments left on a posit. You can create friendly conversations in the comfort of home while seeing what everyone is doing without needing to ask them.
6. Social networks are a useful law enforcement tool.
73% of law enforcement officials in the United States say that they believe social networking sites help them to solve crimes with more speed. 85% of the police departments in the U.S. use social media to investigate local offenses. It is a tool that helps officers track down and arrest those who brag about their crimes online. This advantage has led to numerous prosecutions, including hate crimes, and identified multiple people in videos where inappropriate actions occur so that the proper charges can be brought against them.
7. This tool can help students perform better at school.
About 3 out of every 5 students say that they use social media to discuss educational topics if they have access to the Internet. Half of students say that they talk about their school assignments with their friends thanks to the tools offered by these platforms. George Middle School, which is located in Portland, OR, introduce social networking programs to engage their students and found a 50% increase in grades. There were also declines of chronic absences and an increase in the voluntary extra-credit.
8. Social networking helps people who are shy or socially isolated to connect with others.
About 1 in 4 teens say that their experiences on social media have helped them to feel less shy when interacting with others in real life. Almost 30% of the young people in that group say that these encounters help them to feel more outgoing, while 1 in 5 say that their confidence got a boost.
Some kids, teens, and young adults are not as socially adept as others, which is where the anonymity of social networking can help. This online resource gives them an opportunity to feel more comfortable, become vocal, and practice interactions with other people in a way that creates a safety net for them.
9. The elderly can feel more connected to society because of social media.
The Pew Research Center conducted a study in 2015 to see how senior citizens felt about the use of social media. For those in the 65 and older age demographic, which is one of the fastest growing groups on social networks, they felt happier because of the online contacts that were available to them because of this technology. They could talk to their family, see pictures and video of their grandchildren, or access the bulletin from their church.
Only 2% of senior citizens were using social networking in 2008. That figure climbed to 35% by 2015 because of this unique advantage.
List of the Cons of Social Networking
1. Social networking exposes us to a lot of information.
When social networks first started, the platforms became a place of meaningful connection. You would share videos, photographs, and letters with the essential people in your life. Now that there are millions (and sometimes billions) of people on a platform, there can be a lot of white noise that drowns out these conversations. Between the political arguments, posted selfies, shared links, and brand videos that enter the average news feed every day, it becomes pretty overwhelming to have all of this information at a glance.
Most people tend to create bloated news feeds with a collected group of friends and followers that contains irrelevant content. It becomes a challenge to stay connected with people because you might lose their conversations in the blizzard of data that social networks have become.
2. There are privacy issues to consider with social networks.
Because there is so much data sharing happening with the modern social network, the amount of privacy that we have for the average person is shrinking a little bit every day. The user agreements that you agree to follow when signing up for this service might even create a license which allows the platform to use your content without attribution – including your pictures.
You might become a target if you share your current location over social media. Your employer can choose to fire you if they disagree with something that you shared over your network. If you share too much with the public, there could be problems that develop which will never resolve as the information releases.
3. Cyberbullying and peer pressure are significant issues.
If you struggle to fit in with your group of peers, then you might feel some pressure to behave or communicate in specific ways to feel accepted. This disadvantage tends to impact teens and young adults the most, but it can also influence anyone. It is not unusual for the negative behaviors to be worse online than at school or work because bullies feel like they can be anonymous when sitting behind a screen or using a smartphone.
In extreme cases of this disadvantage, the bullying and negative comments that occur over social networking can lead to anxiety, depression-like symptoms, and high levels of stress. Cyberbullying makes teens and young adults twice as likely to attempt suicide or attempt to harm themselves in other ways.
“Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies, alongside broader concepts such as digital citizenship, online peer support for victims, and how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene,” Professor Ann John, of Swansea University Medical School, told The Telegraph. “Suicide prevention and intervention is essential within any comprehensive anti-bullying program and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness raising and training for staff and pupils.”
4. Some people substitute online interactions for their offline relationships.
Our constant connections with one another create a change in how we approach our relationships. You can pull up the social profile of a friend with a simple tap or click. Then you can message that person, leave a comment, or like one of their posts. We often substitute these actions for the face-to-face conversations we used to have, which reduces the number of social skills that we can use outside of the digital realm. Because of this disadvantage, some critics of social networking would say that our activities promote anti-social behavior more than it encourages new connections.
5. Social networking can become a severe distraction for some people.
When someone becomes distracted by the information available through social media, it can take them up to 25 minutes to become focused on their original task. Do you check your phone when you wake up in the morning? How often do you scroll through Facebook or Instagram? The time spent on these platforms, along with the time it takes to recover from the distraction, can cost you up to 70 hours of productive time per month.
There are some ways that you can limit this disadvantage. Start by turning off notifications on your phone and in your browser. Talk with people instead of pulling out a device to chat on an app. Then give yourself specific times during the day where you check on your profile and news feed instead of going to it multiple times per day.
6. It can disrupt your sleep cycle.
When you expose your brain to electronics, then it can change the emphasis of your mind from wanting to go to sleep to staying engaged with social media. The blue light spectrum from some devices can be stimulating as well, but the danger with this disadvantage is that you’ll start to think more about what other people are doing or the information on your profile instead of trying to get some rest.
7. Using social networking all of the time can lead to a sedentary lifestyle.
Because social networking typically happens on a mobile device or a computer, it can promote the habit of sitting down in a single spot for too long during the day. Some people check their feeds when they exercise, but it happens more often when there are quiet moments that feel boring. If you’re using social media for 70 minutes every day in a seated position, then this habit can start to create changes that lead you toward a sedentary lifestyle.
8. Social networking can spread false or unreliable information quickly.
When traditional media reporters were polled about their use of social media, over 78% of them said that they used their platforms to check for breaking news. The problem with this habit is that there tends to be a lack of fact verification before the sharing process happens. People tend to want news that conforms with their beliefs instead of the data being a direct observation of current events.
News items that contain inaccuracies spread six times faster on Twitter than articles that contain the truth. Fake news items receive more shares and retweets than true stories. It is up to each of us to verify the information that we share to avoid this disadvantage.
9. Students who use social networking too often have lower grades.
About one-third of students say that they are on social media while studying or doing their homework in ways that are not educationally productive. This activity reduces the quality of their work, which often leads to lower grades. Non-users of social networking averaged a GPA of 3.82 in the United States, while those who continued to use Facebook and similar sites had an average GPA of 3.06.
Students who use social media sites while studying score up to 20% lower on their tests compared to non-users. For young adults in college or at a university, their grades drop 0.12 points for every 90 minutes they spend on networking sites each day. Four hours of screen time is enough for a student to drop a full grade.
10. Social media creates more time wasting opportunities throughout the day.
Internet users between the ages of 16-64 said that they spend about 1.7 hours every day on their various social media sites. That accounts for about 30% of the total amount of time that they spend online each day. One-third of those who were surveyed said that their networking activities were the biggest waste of time in their day, ranking it above watching television, playing fantasy sports, and shopping.
11. The use of social networking is correlated with brain and personality disorders.
Research from the University of Pittsburgh finds that the use of social networking sites creates a significant increase in depression and depression-like symptoms for adults between the ages of 19-32. The addictive qualities of these platforms can lead to an enhancement or increase in narcissistic behaviors and personality traits. It may lead to hyperactivity behaviors, resistance to authority figures, and general inattention as well.
12. It can be more difficult to find a job with your social media presence.
Not only can you lose a job because of what you decide to share on social networks, but you can also find it more challenging to be offered a position in the first place. Job recruiters and human resource managers say that references to illegal drugs, sexualized content, poor grammar and spelling, and profanity all have a significantly negative impact on their perspective of a potential recruit. Firearms and alcohol are potential red flags on a profile as well.
Up to 55% of recruiters today say that they consider hiring an applicant based on what they can see of their social media activities.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Social Networking
Social networking gives us an opportunity to quickly disseminate essential information to the general public. The Department of Veterans Affairs uses this tool as a way to help prevent suicide attempts in veterans’ groups after they return from active combat. The World Health Organization used it to combat the spread of false information after the 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan where people were encouraging the ingestion of salt to fight off the effects of radiation.
We can use social media to disarm social stigmas. It helps us to stay connected with each other, learn about current events, and share the good things about our lives.
The pros and cons of social networking also show us that it can be used to spread hate and bully others. There are about 10,000 tweets every day which contain racial slurs. It can create echo chambers where followers reinforce extreme propaganda within their group, which can lead to radicalization over time. It can also lead to social isolation. That’s why we must make healthy choices when using this technology.
Social networking can be used for good just as easily as it can be used to harm others.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.