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‘Media’-ting social network use

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Courtesy of shutterstock.com

by EVELYN WONG 

Hours after the 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy Aug. 24, Facebook created a Safety Check feature for people in the area to let friends and family know they were safe.

In addition, the phone company AT&T announced that all fees for calls and text messages between the U.S. and Italy would be waived or credited, according to about.att.com.

The speed of communication between Italy and other countries following the recent earthquake would not have been possible without the advent of social media, which has tremendously impacted modern culture, business and global interaction as a whole. According to business2community.com, social networking sites are commonly believed to have revolutionized the way people connect using the Internet.

The number of mobile social users grew by 17 percent from January 2015 to January 2016, according to smartinsights.com. In addition to the newest Snapchat stories and Twitter crazes, a closer analysis of the social media effect on society yields mixed results. Though some believe Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites are spearheading the movement towards greater global unity, others believe its growth in popularity is an entrance to another Pandora’s box of legal and political issues.

According to seochat.com, social media has allowed for greater communication and sharing of the different elements of individuals’ lives, from “tweeting” users’ emotions, sharing inspirational Facebook statuses or posting photos on Instagram of time spent with friends.

In addition, social media has paved a new way for interaction between businesses and customers. Not only has it allowed businesses to advertise their goods and services to a wider audience, it has also given consumers the opportunity to provide feedback about specific products. According to marketingtechblog.com, 46 percent of web users look to social media, such as Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, before making a purchase; eight out of 10 small to midsize businesses (SMBs) use social media for their business to drive growth, and three out of five SMBs have gained customers through social media.

In addition, social media has been a forum for news, political and religious debate. According to business-opportunities.com, 27.8 percent of Americans prefer social networking sites over print and broadcast news. Public figures also use these sites as a means of connecting with the public community, as 84 percent of U.S. governors and 40 percent of the top religious leaders of the world—including Pope Francis and President Barack Obama—are represented on Twitter, according to business-opportunities.com.

Awareness of global issues is frequently raised through websites such as Youtube and Twitter; the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Ice Bucket Challenge in August 2014, for example, raised $115 million over an eight-week period  to fund research and treatment of ALS patients, according to als.org.

However, social media, like many new advances, has negative effects as well. According to business-opportunities.com, the use of social media has caused people to limit interactions with those in their immediate surroundings, as more people prefer to communicate over text or networking sites rather that talk face-to-face.

Social media can also lead to decreased productivity, as students and employees may be distracted from their tasks by new updates or posts. According to studies posted on wired.com, Nucleus Research reported that British companies lost an estimated $2.2 billion a year due to employees who used Facebook rather than working.

Lastly, because details from users’ personal lives can be easily posted and difficult to remove, privacy may be an issue connected with the use of social networking sites. According to smallbusiness.chron.com, employers who conduct background checks may easily find and evaluate potential employees over the Internet. Their impression may be based on content of a social media account, which could influence their decisions when hiring employees. These sites may be created by others, unknown to the applicant, who use them to “smear” or falsely accuse by posting questionable material about the applicants’ life.

The relative freedom offered by social media to post one’s opinions is also a gateway for cyber bullying and online harassment. According to nobullying.com, a 2014 survey indicated that 50 percent of teenagers reported that they have experienced some forms of cyberbullying via their cell phone or on the Internet.

Whether it is posting a picture on Instagram for friends to view or voicing an opinion in a 40-character tweet, the key to understanding social media is knowing its positive and negative consequences, ultimately recognizing its value as a positive tool while keeping in mind its potentially adverse effects.

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