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Social Media : Friend or Foe?

LOG OFF guest writer, Vanessa Chiam, juxtaposes two prominent positions in the dialogue surrounding social media, making sense of what it means to be a social media user.

The sheer ubiquity of social media in our lives cannot be doubted. Today, it is not difficult at all to find someone who is on their phones, scrolling through the likes of Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat.

What is now taken for granted was once considered a miracle. The birth of the Internet was something that would change the course of history and the trajectory of so many individuals’ lives. Ask anyone these days, and chances are those little rectangular glowing boxes have become an inseparable part of our daily lives. I’ll admit myself that a little glowing rectangular box is part of my own life too, but recently, I’ve been thinking a lot more about the technology we use and consume, and how it affects our everyday life.

How the times have changed, how the tables have turned. But just how much are we gaining?

Or, rather, how much are we losing?

Argument #1: Social media is more useful than harmful

“Social media is the ultimate equaliser. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage.” - Amy Jo Martin

1. Social media has made connection easier

Some may argue that social media is a new age of connection, a neo-communicating form. And it’s not difficult to substantiate that either, since long gone are the days where you have to walk to someone’s door to deliver a message, or even have to pick up the phone. It’s as simple as typing a few letters on screen and clicking the ‘Send’ button. Anywhere in the world, your receiver would get a ping, they too repeat the same process and off the message goes. How many of us can imagine a world without email and texting? Certainly it would be vastly different, but our ancestors would frown upon our communication methods today.

Connection and communication have always been integral aspects of our human story, thousands of years of History has left us with hundreds or even thousands of communication methods, from the earliest stone tablets to hieroglyphs to ink pens and now to digital communication. Social media has made communication easier than it has ever been in the history of humankind. The enormous potential of digital communication far exceeds that of sending a simple correspondence to your friends or relatives. Businesses too, have been transformed by the advent of social media and networking.

Some stores don’t even exist in conventional ways anymore. Lots more online stores that sell products digitally only are springing up literally everywhere. It’s not difficult to see why either, since businesses save costs when it comes to paying for rent and space, which is often the main reason why brick-and-mortar businesses fail. Online stores have a distinct advantage over their brick-and-mortar store counterparts - they can quite literally last as long as they need to so long as their platform remains online.

Social media has provided a great avenue for these businesses and corporations to reinvent conventional marketing and networking. Something as traditional as shaking hands or negotiating details don’t even have to be in-person anymore. Businesses have fundamentally changed their operation structure, and for larger companies who can afford the digital infrastructure, networking is as simple as a click and a camera turned on.

That of course, the very nature of social media itself, allows information to propagate much faster and reach further than any medium ever has. This is, as I’ll talk about later, a double-edged sword. You can hear about what’s happening with a single click on screen, watching videos in HD resolution, as though you were there. No matter whether you’re in the United States, Estonia, Seychelles, so long as you have an Internet connection, the world is yours.

2. Social media has forged deeper connections

The Internet has grown into a perpetual, eternally working machine, seamlessly bridging the gap between the online space and the real world. So much of our lives are unimaginable offline, and social media has certainly contributed to forging deeper relationships with some people.

Think about a long-lost old friend who you haven’t spoken to who you have found through the miracle of Technology, maybe you might not have had an identical experience, but it is pretty wonderful (or slightly creepy) to think that you are just one text or call away from making new friends, or rekindling old bonds.

While some might argue that social media takes away from the joy of connection, it has, undoubtedly, allowed everyone to forge deeper connections, not just with friends, but with relatives and other people too.

What is foreseeable is that social media is a vast catalyst of forging connections across our social sphere, and they may even have the potential to develop into deeper and longer lasting relationships that go beyond our initial expectations.

3. Social media allows everyone to be a creator

Such is the power of a social network that it allows its users to be their own brand of creator, their own boss of a brand.