While the telegraph, the telephone, and the radio blew our ancestor’s minds in the 18th and 19th centuries, now we are in the midst of the “Golden Era” of social media. It’s difficult for us to imagine a time where we were not so connected as it has well and truly trickled into every aspect of our life – both work and play.
According to an infographic on the history of social media, the “Primitive Era” began with newsgroups and online chatrooms in the 1980s, and the “Golden Era” kicked off with the likes of Wikipedia, Friendster, and MySpace. It wasn’t until Facebook and Twitter were unleashed worldwide in 2006 that social media started to shoot skyward. We now enjoy a huge variety of microblogging networks (Tumblr), chat applications (Snapchat), online dating apps (Tinder), image sharing (Instagram), and online review platforms (Yelp).
There is a fine line between using social media for work and for leisure, and the ironic thing about this is that some social networks exist exactly for this purpose: to differentiate between free time and work and to plan ahead with social media accounts so that it doesn’t seep into our personal time. As this article explains, useful social media tools like Buffer and Hootsuite make it possible to schedule social media posts ahead of time, therefore improving our private time.
Connectivity is something that we can never take for granted. The fact that you can live thousands of miles away from your loved ones and maintain a meaningful and valuable relationship with them through whichever network you deem fit, has great significance to all of us.
The fact that we absorb so much information through social media is undeniable. Whether it be the latest on the U.S. presidential campaign, a natural disaster in an unknown corner of the world, or simply some good shared news, there is no limit to the amount of valuable information we can gain from social media.
The world can be a lonely place at times, and with social media it is now easier than ever to meet like-minded people, to independently seek out groups or activities that follow your interests, and to value your new relationships.
In terms of a broader, more worldly perspective, in a recent article, we discovered that “18% of consumers turn to social media to voice complaints” and 14% of people in a crisis turn to social media first. During such a pivotal time as now, when the search for truth and the strive for transparency are never-ending, the need for real opinions to be voiced on social media is greater than ever.
And The Downside
As mentioned above, social media can instill a sense of comfort amongst you and your peers but this can also have the adverse effect. Some users feel too confident behind their computer screen and their online presence may quench the need to be social in real life. Creating such an impressive online lifestyle may also have a negative impact on real life situations – perhaps we don’t come across as humorous as we do online, or as attractive and outgoing. In line with all of this, there have been many cases of cyber-bullying via social networks largely due to this online confidence and anonymity.
The thrill of social networks has of course also had a toll on productivity both within the workplace and outside. With the ability to spend hours aimlessly scrolling through social network feeds, there is a need for concentration and determination in order to stay present.
The invasion of privacy is one of the hot topics of social media and although each platform gives its own privacy settings that each of us is free to customize, there is still a lot to learn about navigating our way through such a minefield. While there are advantages and disadvantages to the exponential growth of social media, it still allows us to stay updated and informed, and information is always power.