The social media is associated with the emergence of computer and internet technology.
It differs from mass media because in the mass media, information can be delivered to billions, millions or thousands of individuals but the owner or owners of the organization who deliver the information may be a rich media mogul or a corporation. In other words, the mass media is strongly unidirectional (one direction or a direction from the mass media source to target readers or audience) while the social media is multi-directional and target of the media is also an active information source of the media. In social media, the production of media is social while it is public or social in social media.
The owner of the social media is society or that millions if not billions of individuals basically own the outlet because everybody have access to it even if the real owners are Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In and similar networks. Social media is affecting people’s well-being in several ways. Some of the ways in which social media is affecting people’s well-being is that it promotes access to information and information, it supplies a channel for expression (opinion and self-expression), it creates a route for accessing assistance, it provides a bridge for extending assistance, it advances a person’s contact with individuals and groups who shares a person’s perspectives, and most important, social media is increasingly becoming a repository of knowledge and tool for building knowledge. Social media has negative sides but, overall, social media is positively affecting people’s well-being even as there are risks of negatives which can be addressed through better use management of social media. Social media promote people’s access to information. In many social media, depending on a person’s privacy and other settings, a person has opportunities to access information on other users, newspapers and magazines, scientific information and causes. Users have the option to click links which will provide users the opportunity, provided allowed by other users, to know another user’s phone number, email address, age, contacts, friends, personal and professional data, whether the other user is online or not, at what time the other user was last online, the activities of other users, his or her professional life, his or her interactions with his or her relatives, death in his or her family and the like. A social media user has the option to “like” the pages of newspapers like The New York Times or magazines like The Boston Business Journal and academic journals like World Affairs.
If the pages are liked, the user’s page can be flooded with information related to topics of focus of the newspaper, magazine or journal. Other than information that a user accesses through the social media, other types of information are made by the social media to users. There are sponsored pages that provide information. There are also ads that function not only as advertising but as conduits for information. Social media are usually creative in providing extra information that user may not have been expressed by user as their need but which social media provides just the same. Access to information itself improves or promotes people’s well-being. Unfortunately, false information is also being propagated in the social media. However, they are also being promoted in the mass media as well.
In any case, the false can be weeded out from the true by simply checking into the credentials of the page. The pages which have good credentials (registered, have real and not a pony addresses, and the like), have a history of integrity, and existing for a good number of years are those which are most unlikely to spread false news or their reputation will negatively affected. Through the years, netizens are becoming aware that messiahs of false information have emerged and are now developing ways and means on how to fight false information. Thus, overall, the social media has been upholding public well-being in the area of information. Social media supplies a channel for expression.
You belong to a specific cause or you simply want to express your opinion on issues? Social media is the thing for that! Everyday social media egg you to make a post. You may want to express your opinion on certain things. Go ahead, declare anything over social media. You can criticize, make suggestions, and express your anger, disgust happiness, satisfaction or lack of satisfaction in social media. You can even express your hopes and fears.
You may want that opinion expressed only to your friends and you can find a setting for that. However, if you want your opinion to be shared to anyone or regardless whether or not the other user belongs or not to your circle of friends, then setting your post at public would do just that. Or maybe you want your post to be readable only by your close friends and relatives.
Again, there is a setting for that although you have to classify your friends and contacts into close friend and/or relatives first. Once you have shared your opinion or expressed anything, the person or authorities concerned may positively act your way or you may have a response. Thus, social media can to be a tool for reforms or having your feedback elevated to proper authorities. Through this social media improves public well-being. It improves a person’s individual or private well-being as well with the thought that he or she was able to express what he or she feels. Social media creates routes for accessing assistance.
This is another very important way in which social media affects people’s well-being. Social media used to be the utilized by individuals but, recently, more and more government agencies, international groups and service organizations are enrolling themselves in social media and have been utilizing the latter to disseminate information and even as routes through which they can reach people and deliver services. For example, many of the of the Police Department of states and cities of the United States have their own pages in the social media through which the police can be contacted or through which information can be requested. Similarly this is true for the departments related to health or even mental health of many of states and cities of the United States. Likewise, the same is true for some counties of the United States. Government services organizations of some counties have their own pages in the social media through which information and other services can be tapped.
Of course, this is not substitute for calling the agencies by phone or dropping by their offices but certainly the social media pages of the government service organizations are conduits through which services or information from them can be obtained. Even some of the 911 units in the United States are now building their pages in the social media. The United States Veteran Affairs has a page in the social media with a following of more than million.
Other than the government service organizations, private organizations providing services to the public have pages in the social media through which information and services can be tapped. There are groups and pages catering to the disabled, abused women and children, offering lending or capital build-up services, assisting people get a job, and various types of organizations. Unfortunately, there are also porno sites even if these groups are supposedly banned or that their existence are not supposedly tolerated in the “community standards” adopted by the social media group. Nevertheless, the bad groups while they exist, appears a small minority in many social media organization. Thus, on a net basis, social media promotes the well-being of the public. Social media builds bridges for extending assistance. This is one area wherein social media is probably better compared to the mass media or even any social organization: the social media provides very important bridges for people to recruit volunteers and extend assistance.
The areas in which the social media provide bridges for people to extend assistance are many. The areas for private individual assistance to social and government causes can be in blood donations, the environment, saving the children, assistance to battered women, political organizations, human welfare organizations and other types of organizations. One may belong to groups like Plan International, Save the Children, the Red Cross, and the Red Crescent, but the social media allow one person to be mobilized and extend to several groups simultaneously, unlike a specific organization wherein an individual can only extend support to one organization only. The social media is conduit for several charitable, cause-oriented, service, and civic organizations. It functions as a space where individuals can be recruited as volunteers or as donors for various causes and endeavors. In so far as the social media build bridges for extending various types of assistance that promotes society’s welfare, social media promotes the well-being of society.
Social media advances personal contacts and interaction with individuals and groups who shares an individual’s perspective. Google has identified at least 620 million groups in Facebook. Other social media organizations have their own groupings and it will not be surprising if there are at least a billion groupings in social media. While some of the groups are not functional, many social media groups are definitely functional and have been organizing petition-campaigns, letter-writing, advocacy, and lobby activities. The functional groups are probably several million if not a few hundred million especially because an individual can belong to many groups at a time.
The groups that one can belong are several for each individual and because one or a few billion people are covered by the social media in which at least a billion people are believed to be active, the groups in the social media can even be one or two billion. Each of the group has a particular set of objectives to which they are devoted. Social media allow us each individual to align themselves with other individuals who share their opinions and perspectives about issues, causes and problems. Thus, they enable individual to bind themselves with people and groups who share their perspective. When the goals of social media groups are beneficial for society then we can say that social media promote people’s well. Of course, there are also groups that can be considered groups with harmful objectives. Probably, there are terrorist groups who use the social media for terrorist objectives but these groups are probably few even if they are extremely harmful. In addition, terrorists lurking in the social media can be handled in the long-term because as they deepen their use of the social media, the police can monitor them.
It is probably not possible to use the social media and be free from police or intelligence surveillance. Finally, but not least important, the social media is increasingly becoming a repository of knowledge and a tool for building knowledge. For example, several newspapers and other publications are using the social media to index their publications or place them in sequence. Several academic pages are being established in which academic articles are indexed (links are provided to them). Academic classes or informal groups within an academic class are using the group building facilities of the social media to discuss class topics, organize class presentations and for other academic activities. In other words, the social media promotes public well-being in the area of enriching educational experience. In other words, social media affects or promotes people’s well-being in at least six ways. First, social media facilitates people’s access to information.
Second, social media enables members of society to have a good channel for expressing themselves. Third, social media creates routes for accessing social assistance. Fourth, social media provides a channel for members of society to assist others. Fifth, social media promotes contacts among like-minded individuals and groups thereby promoting joint action or initiatives among like-minded individuals and groups. Finally or sixth, the social media is increasingly becoming a repository of knowledge and tool for acquiring knowledge as various publications increasingly use social media to store or index academic literature and news reports. In addition, social media is currently being utilized to enrich educational experience.
Although there are aspects of social media that work against society’s well-being like false news, cyber-bullying, pornography and contacts among criminals and crime groups, these aspects of the social media are minor and manageable. The bad sides of social media can be addressed, for example, through law enforcement. The situation of social media is similar to the situation of schools, churches or mosques.
Although they may be intended for good, the school and churches/mosques can be used for evil. Against the critique on social media articulated by McDool et al. that “spending more time on social network reduces the satisfaction that children feel with all aspects of their lives,” it can be pointed out that the way forward is not to shutdown children’s access to social media but simply regulate children’s access (1). To argue otherwise would be equivalent to saying that access to children’s books should be stopped because there are bad books that have the potential to reduce a person’s satisfaction on his or her life especially as a person get addicted to reading books. The critique of on social media by Best et al.
is more comprehensive as they recognize the good and bad effects of social media on adolescents. Best et al. pointed out that the negative effects of social media include “increased exposure to harm, isolation, depression and cyber-bullying” (1). The Best et al. discussion on the negative sides of social media is similar to the Gaitho’s discussion.
Nevertheless, the positive effects social media on adolescent well-being are “increased self-esteem, perceived social support, increased social capital, safe identity experimentation, and increased opportunity for self-disclosure” (Best et al. 1). Khaleej Times Al Kuttab confirms that although addiction to social media can lead to depression, the use of social media can be managed to prevent depression. The same thing is true pertaining to the management of weight loss which may result from addiction from social media as pointed out by Komaroff.
In other words, while there are negative effects of social media, the list of positive effects of social media is longer and the negative effects can be managed through better measures, better use of social media and better parental monitoring of children and adolescents. Thus, the overall positive effects of social media on people’s well-being are affirmed despite the negative sides of social media, a point which is also consistent with the argument raised by Shellabarger. Works CitedAl Kuttab, Jasmine. “Social Media Addiction Can Lead to Depression, Warn Experts.” Khaleej Times Abu Dhabi, 8 July 2017, https://www.khaleejtimes.
com/nation/abu-dhabi/social-media-addiction-can-lead-to-depression-warn-experts. Accessed 8 July 2017. Best, P., et al. “Online Communication, Social Media and Adolescent Wellbeing: A Systematic Narrative Review.” Children and Youth Services Review 41 (2014): 27-36, www.sciencedirect.
com/science/article/pii/S0190740914000693?via%3Dihub. Gaitho, Maryanne. “What Is the Real Impact of Social Media?” Simplilearn, 24 Oct. 2017, www.simplilearn.com/real-impact-social-media-article.Komaroff, Anthony.
“Social Networks Can Affect Weight, Happiness.” Harvard Health Publishing, 16 Dec. 2011, https://www.
health.harvard.edu/blog/social-networks-can-affect-weight-happiness-201112163983. McDool, Emily, et al.
“Social Media Use and Children’s Well-Being.” IZA DP No. 10412. Bonn: IZA Institute of Labor Economics, Dec. 2016, http://ftp.iza.org/dp10412.
pdf. Accessed 17 Dec. 2017.
Shellabarger, RuthAnne. “Social Media’s Impact on Society.” Odyssey, 16 Aug. 2016, www.theodysseyonline.