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The (Dis)Connecting Nature of Social Media

Thank you for the draft. The strengths of this post could be better showcased than they are here – surrounded as they are with platitudes that should be taken for granted in writing at this level, to say nothing of the context of this course. E.g.: “Just like with everything, social media can be looked at and analyzed from multiple perspectives. One can choose whether to focus on its positive sides, or rather highlight the negative aspects, yet we all can agree that social media undoubtedly”; also note the repetition of ‘uniting the like-minded’ in the BLM section.

Note that the excerpt has nothing to do with anything in the content; note that the title is only dealt with in the conclusion – and at that, not fully developed. What does this have to do with FOMO? BLM?
So, going back to the drawing board, what is the common point behind the ideas in this post? Is the answer here: “Now, a bit of comparison never hurt anybody, and let’s be honest, we are all guilty of this, to a certain extent, and it can be beneficial”
And here: Is social media presence really worth our overall health?
Or is it here: But, what is the nature of this influence?

This essay is essentially considering social media from a user perspective, without considering the mechanisms of the media itself. What does it mean to be connected healthfully? Do we really want to be connected to everything (including fake news)? How do we connect in ways that will bring out the best in us? Etc. – Think about what this post is really about: that will help you frame the ideas better (reshape the title, intro, conclusion, excerpt), replace the platitudes.
Please keep these notes here.

This is a final individual post on the risks of and ingenuity in social media.

With the creation of first social media platforms, such as MySpace and Facebook, in the early years of the 21st century, no one was quite aware how huge of an impact these would have on the way we live our lives. Before people were even able to realize it was happening, virtual communication has slowly but surely made its way into becoming a necessity. As Kevin Werbach is quoted in this article: “Social media has become really fundamental to the way that billions of people get information about the world and connect with each other, which raises the stakes enormously.” (Wharton University of Pennsylvania, 2019) With more than half of the global population, namely 4.14 billion people, having a profile on at least one of these platforms, it is safe to assume that social media will only expand in its influence and impact on the various aspects of our lives. (DataReportal, 2020) So, what can we take from social media, and how can we use it to our advantage?
Whether one chooses to look at it from a “glass is always half full perspective“, or see social media as an overall negative phenomenon, its positives cannot be brushed aside that easily. First things first, it is a way of connecting people, serving as a means of virtual communication, as has been its primary role since its inception. (Maryville University) This has especially been beneficial in the year of 2020, with the corona virus making it almost impossible for people to maintain real-life relationships, due to the implementation of measures such as social distancing and working from home. Thus, naturally, we have resorted to Facebook, Instagram and various other apps as a way of interacting with the world, more so than we usually do. What’s more, social networks serve as a way to create online communities for like-minded individuals, those who might otherwise feel marginalized or alone in their real lives. In that sense, it has proven to be quite impactful in gathering people from all over the world who are passionate about a single, unique cause. A recent example of this is Black Lives Matter movement which emerged earlier this year with the rise of awareness of racism and police brutality in the US. As stated in this BBC article: “A slogan chanted by tens of thousands around the world, Black Lives Matter has sparked a hashtag, a network of grass-roots organisations, and a moral collective of activists.“ (Maqbool, 2020) This movement serves as a prime example of how through social media people who might not have been exposed to a topic as relevant as this one, can become familiarized with and personally impact such a worthy cause. Otherwise, could such a movement have become global news were it not for the uniting nature of social media?
Of course, no one can deny that social networks provide for a source of information about anything and everything that might be of particular interest to us. All the knowledge we wish (and don’t wish) to possess is at our fingertips’ disposal. Social networks have become a modern-day news outlet. With breaking news popping up every couple of seconds, as we keep refreshing out newsfeed page, it is safe to assume that not every piece of information that appears on social media is factual. As stated by this article by Scientific American: “ Social media are among the primary sources of news in the U.S. and across the world. Yet users are exposed to content of questionable accuracy, including conspiracy theories, clickbait, hyperpartisan content, pseudo science and even fabricated “fake news” reports.“ (Ciampaglia, Menczer, 2018) Our group (Tesla) also touched up on this, explaining in one of our forum posts, that the Internet cannot only be seen as a source of information, but of misinformation as well, for many people simply accept point blank whatever they read online, without resorting to fact-checking. (Tesla, 2020) Because everyone on the Internet is free to share and post whatever their hearts desire, sometimes the truth becomes lost, or brushed aside as rather irrelevant. This article sums up my point perfectly: “ As more and more people could broadcast their words and opinions, there would be an ever-fiercer battle of ideas—with truth emerging as the winner, stronger from the fight… The glut of information we now face, made possible by digital tools and social media platforms, can bury what is true, greatly elevate and amplify misinformation and distract from what is important.“ (Tufekci, 2018) Despite there being a “connecting us to all” aspect ascribed to social media, as discussed above, the amount of fabrication on these platforms can sometimes bring out quite the opposite, as we get lost in all the (mis)information present online. Relating to “not-so-real“ aspect of social networks, the news is not all that can be falsely represented online. Users themselves create alternate personas, twisted images of their real selves, thus directly impacting others’ perception of themselves, whether they consciously choose to do so or not. Several groups have discussed this topic on the forum, with djaks specifically raising the question of FOMO (fear of missing out), saying: “ We mostly aren’t aware of this but we are constantly trying to keep up with the world and other people, trying to stay informed and up to date, which results in us being on our phones and checking them all the time again ignoring our surroundings. This could also make us feel like we are constantly missing out and not doing enough which puts pressure on us and affects our mental health as well.“ (djaks, 2020) Let us be honest here, we are all guilty of this, to a certain extent, and it can be beneficial sometimes to push ourselves and strive towards being the best version of ourselves as humanly possible. But what can that cost us? The addictive nature of social media, and the need to constantly feel available, can severely impact our view of ourselves and our mental health, as stated in this article. This raises the question of are willing to sacrifice our sanity and health in order to keep being constantly connected with the world and maintain a certain imaginary persona we’ve created of ourselves online?
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer as to whether social media is inherently a positive addition to our lives, or troublesome new-age phenomenon. It all depends on the how much we choose to put ourselves out there and be exposed to all social media has to offer. Its connecting nature cannot, and should not, be ignored, but what is of importance here is that we ourselves are individually responsible for learning how to connect with the online world in a way that will not disconnect us from ourselves, but bring out the best in us. It is on us how willing we are to accept and process the information online, and use it best to our advantage.
H.D.

This post, as well as any other of my posts on this site, may be used for research purposes
I hereby confirm that this work is solely the result of my own independent scholarly work and that if any ideas, text passages, or diagrams from books, papers, the Web or other sources have been copied, paraphrased, or in any other way used, all references – including those found in electronic media – have been clearly acknowledged and fully cited.
Resources:
1. DataReportal. (2020). Global Social Media Overview.
https://datareportal.com/social-media-users#:~:text=More%20than%20half%20of%20all,of%20the%20total%20global%20population.
2. Maqbool, A. (2020, July 9). Black Lives Matter: From social media post to global movement. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53273381
3. Maryville University. The Evolution of Social Media: How Did It Begin, and Where Could It Go Next?
https://online.maryville.edu/blog/evolution-social-media/
4. Wharton, University of Pennsylvania. (2019, July 26). The Impact of Social Media: Is it Irreplaceable?
https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/impact-of-social-media/#
5. McLean Harvard Medical School Affiliate. (2020, November 10). The Social Dilemma: Social Media and Your Mental Health.
https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/it-or-not-social-medias-affecting-your-mental-health
6. Tufekci, Z. (2018, September/October). An Avalanche of Speech Can Bury Democracy. Politico Magazine. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/09/05/too-much-free-speech-bad-democracy-219587
7. Ciampaglia, G.L. & Menczer, F. (2018, June 21). Biases Make People Vulnerable to Misinformation Spread by Social Media. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/biases-make-people-vulnerable-to-misinformation-spread-by-social-media/
8. Tesla. (2020, November 28). Can you notice the bot/fake news? Intercultural Extraneity. http://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=156#p156
9. Djaks. (2020, November 23). Social media and mental healthx. Intercultural Extraneity. http://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=25

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