Let’s consider an imaginary scenario.
You wake up one day and realize that all social media platforms are non-functional that day. Bewildered, you check your phone and open the Instagram app. It shows a blank white screen. You try opening facebook.com on your browser and nothing happens. Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are down too.
People around you cannot communicate with one another like they used to. The younger population that grew up with the internet is losing their minds. The most followed influencers are unable to reach their audience. Marketing teams are struggling to find a replacement for their online ads.
All in all, chaos would ensue and the market would collapse. And it would only take 1 day of no social media to cause such hue and cry.
A little over a decade ago, social media was only getting started. Today, we cannot live without it. Crazy, right?
Every disruptive invention follows the same trajectory. Take for example, cars, electricity, or cellphones. For hundreds of years, humanity managed to live one way and an innovation entered the market to introduce a comfort that slowly turned into a necessity. And such leaps occur all the time. Just like we evolve genetically, we also evolve technologically, albeit in an offbeat way.
The advent of social media is among the most recent(on the human civilization scale) of such disruptions. It has taken the world and its population by storm. If you’re not on any of social media platforms today, people will put up a confused expression and ask you, “Why?” And, back in their heads, they’re also wondering, “What’s wrong with him/her?”
Therefore, participating on the different social media platforms is no longer a privilege, but a mandate. If you stay away from them you lose many of the advantages they offer. That said, does social media offer benefits and benefits alone? Not at all. These platforms also come with a dark side which can damage you in very many ways.
But, social media platforms cannot be classified as good or bad. What makes them helpful or harmful is your usage of them.
In this article, we’ll explore both the pros and cons of social media.
- 13 Pros of social media
- 1. Faster connectivity
- 2. Saves the trouble of setting face to face meetings
- 3. Faster communication
- 4. Opportunity to build visibility for yourself
- 5. Brings change
- 6. Quicker feedback
- 7. Social Groups
- 8. Job seekers find opportunities
- 9. News propagates fast
- 10. Businesses reach out to the right audience
- 11. Crowdsourcing
- 12. Faster propagation during a crisis
- 13. Having fun
- 13 Cons of social media:
- 1. Addiction
- 2. Kills productivity
- 3. Shows only the good side
- 4. Unreliable information
- 5. Tells one side of the story
- 6. Creates false expectations
- 7. Privacy issues
- 8. You cannot delete your content entirely
- 9. Sales targeting
- 10. Causes mental fatigue
- 11. Transformed face to face conversations
- 12. Damage to businesses
- 13. Fraud and scam
The advantages of social media are well known. Here are 13 pros of social media platforms.
1. Faster connectivity
You can connect with anyone located anywhere on the globe by clicking a few buttons. To make that better, you don’t even need a computer or a fixed-line internet connection anymore. You can pull out your phone and send a message to both knowns and unknowns with one hand while you munch on a slice of pizza with the other.
2. Saves the trouble of setting face to face meetings
Back in the day, if you’d to schedule a meeting with an unknown person whom you had no rapport with, you had to knock on several doors and wait for several days before the interaction happened(if at all).
Today, you can send a connection request to anyone in a few minutes. Sure, the outcome depends on how well you manage to make an impression, but the previous roadblocks of physical familiarity don’t exist anymore.
3. Faster communication
If you have to gather 10 people to party on a Saturday night, you need to send one single message in a group. Imagine calling those many people on a landline, finding them home, and co-ordinating a time. Phew, I broke a sweat while I thought about it. God forbid if you had to change plans last minute.
4. Opportunity to build visibility for yourself
Social media provides you with a platform to make a name for yourself.
If you’re a writer, you can self-publish on Amazon today. Compare that with sending your manuscript to hundreds of publishers. If you’re a musician, you can open a Youtube channel. Compare that with finding a music director willing to launch you.
Though the internet has created more competition, you can independently make a name for yourself with a pinch of hard work and a sprinkle of talent.
5. Brings change
Any event that occurs over the globe spreads like wildfire. Events such as corruption, poor customer service, unnecessary arrogance come into the limelight. You don’t even need a media team to cover the story on their channel or website.
People capture videos and post them online to expose the reality to millions of people. Brands are concerned about providing better service to avoid a bad review while a corrupt government official knows that a video of him accepting a bribe means a death sentence to his profession.
Though such problems are still prevalent, social media makes people more mindful of their actions.
6. Quicker feedback
Want to know feedback about an unknown service or a product? You can read what other users have to say using the reviews.
Looking for recommendations on the things to do on your backpacking trip? Find a Facebook group and many will provide suggestions at no cost.
Yes, you receive pointers from a person you’ve never met about a product you’ve never used, yet, you know you can follow the guidance.
7. Social Groups
No matter what your area of interest is, you can find like-minded people on social media. Facebook has groups for everything you can think of. Not every single one of them is active, but with a little effort, you can find an engaged community to exchange your thoughts. Without social media, you’d struggle to find a handful of people in your vicinity who share the same interests as you.
8. Job seekers find opportunities
A decade ago finding a job required a candidate to check newspapers and hoardings, carry a file folder to an office and wait in the queue for an interview.
Today, you can apply for a prestigious job right at your desk. If that wasn’t enough, recruiters themselves reach out to you if you have an influential presence on LinkedIn.
9. News propagates fast
Newspapers and television have served as the source of news for decades now. Since the advent of social media, they’re losing their audience. Social media offers different modes of internet communication and an insane speed of propagation.
You no longer need to find the news. The news will find you.
10. Businesses reach out to the right audience
For business, the traditional sources of advertising were large ads in the newspaper, hiring a brand ambassador agency, an engaging TV commercial, or a hoarding on a busy street. Such forms of marketing relied on reaching a large number of people, hoping it would catch the intended audience’s attention and thereby convert into a sale.
Social media transformed that approach on its head. If you run ads on Facebook today, with the right targeting, you can reach only those who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling, be it an antique clock from a haunted house or a Persian rug from Aladin’s era.
Crowdsourcing is a sourcing model where individuals obtain goods and services from a large pool of participants. The method has a widescale implementation for different purposes and among them, raising capital for a business idea stands out the most. Crowdsourcing banks on social media platforms to put forth the idea to a larger audience.
Many entrepreneurs have raised capital using crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. For example, Oculus took life after raising 250,000$ from Kickstarter before Facebook acquired the company for a whopping 2 billion dollars a few years later.
12. Faster propagation during a crisis
Due to the speed at which information spreads over social media, you can hear about any crisis faster than ever. When a natural calamity occurs, Facebook offers an option to mark yourself safe. A simple click will avoid your loved ones having an anxiety attack.
13. Having fun
Spending time on social media helps you enjoy in little ways. You can share an update on your wall, tag your friends to capture their attention, crack a joke over your sibling’s picture, and whatnot. Are all these activities productive? Not quite. But are they fun? For sure.
Though social media has taken the world a step forward, it has also caused many hassles which never existed before. If you allow these apps to control you, they can have negative consequences. Here are 13 disadvantages of social media.
All social media platforms have a large team whose only focus is to ensure users like you and me repeatedly use the platform. Therefore, once you engage on one such website or app, you feel the urge to come back again and again.
Have you noticed yourself opening your social media newsfeed and scrolling through for no reason? That’s what Instagram and Facebook can do to you.
2. Kills productivity
With the number of apps in the market today, your phone will throw a bazillion notifications every day. Even if a person whom you’ve never met likes your picture on Instagram or a fake profile swipes you right on tinder, your phone beeps to tell you, “Look, something interesting happening. Check me right now.”
By itself, every notification seems like a small distraction, but little by little, one after another, they consume your time and destroy your productivity without your knowledge.
3. Shows only the good side
Do you find your friend posting a story about a bad day they had? Or do you find your coworker sharing a picture about a cheap restaurant he/she visited?
Do you post such updates yourself? Heck, no. Such updates rarely occur, if at all.
On social media, everyone wants to portray only their expensive, interesting, or glorious moments. Call it passive showboating or humblebrag, the updates from people scream, “Look, I’m doing this and I want you to know.”
Such behavior causes low esteem where you start to wonder if you’re living a miserable life while others are having fun. Therefore, next time you find an opportunity, you post a delightful event from your life thereby adding to the already existing pile. You want to pass a message that you’re enjoying in life too, but little do you know that a friend who looked at your picture considers your life amazing.
All in all, it’s a vicious circle where everyone thinks their life is miserable while their friends’ life is fascinating. I know people who go out just to post an update on social media.
4. Unreliable information
The Abraham Lincoln meme conveys how questionable the authenticity of information on the internet is.
For those who did not understand the joke, Abraham Lincoln died in 1895, long before the internet came into existence.
Due to the speed of propagation and the negligence of people to verify authenticity, tons of fake information floats on the internet. To make that worse, when you try to look it up, you’ll find many websites mentioning the same information and you assume multiple sources cannot be wrong. But many a time, all of them have only broadcasted what they found without performing any due diligence.
5. Tells one side of the story
Due to the virality of social platforms and the gullibility of people to trust any random person’s word, one-sided stories create a furor on the internet.
For example, in 2015, a lady put up a social media post complaining about eve-teasing from a biker on the street. Millions of people supported her cause without verifying her claims and the post received 100K shares in no time. TV news channels called the guy a pervert while politicians and celebrities lauded the lady for her bravery. The police arrested the “alleged harasser” who even lost his job. No one tried to hear his side of the story.
The truth was that the two of them had a minor disagreement about a traffic signal. The lady had an incorrect understanding of the traffic rules and the guy had pointed that to her without any harassment involved. The lady had twisted the facts on her Facebook post.
An eyewitness defended the guy’s side and mentioned how the lady had used abusive words and misbehaved on the street. The court ruled in favor of the guy and asked the media channel to issue a public apology.
On social media, people jump to conclusions without any attempt to unearth the reality of both sides.
6. Creates false expectations
The likes and comments on social media do not always translate to real-life praises. Teens who grew up in the current generation have trouble facing the harsh reality in the real world.
For example, a motivational post about entrepreneurship will garner many upvotes, but it won’t ensure a successful business venture. Impressing the opposite sex in person is different from wooing a good-looking person on Tinder. Getting your way over group text messages doesn’t mean you can grab the attention of the audience over a presentation at work.
Social media provides a virtual experience of real-life and that causes damage on several occasions.
7. Privacy issues
Facebook knows a lot more about you than you think. In the highly-rated TV series Black Mirror, on one of the episodes, Smithereens, a person kidnaps the employee of a social media company as a method to get in touch with the owner.
Soon after the crime begins, the TV show depicts how the management team of the social media knows more about the criminal than the FBI does. Though the series uses a dystopian future, it subtly shows how social media has changed the concept of privacy for the whole of humankind.
You have no control over how your information is stored and used. Many a time, even a status update or a picture you post reaches an unintended audience. Even among your followers and friends, you have no clue how people are judging you mentally.
If you’re on social media platforms, which I can bet you are, you have already divulged more about yourself than you wanted to.
8. You cannot delete your content entirely
Assume you posted a bold picture on social media one day. A few weeks later, when you look back, you feel you made a mistake. Therefore, you visit your profile and delete it off. But does that mean your picture no longer exists on the internet? I wish I could say yes, but unfortunately, no one can provide such assurance including the social media platform itself.
That’s because what’s posted on the internet propagates to other places against your choice. Different automated content scrapers are reading content round the clock. Or your friend can save the picture and send it to a large group on WhatsApp. A stranger can take a screenshot and post it on his blog. The scenarios are endless.
In the past, we’ve witnessed celebrities posting a controversial update or picture only to realize their mistake soon after when they received a barrage of comments. But, even after they deleted their posts, the backlash didn’t subside. Several people had screenshots and different websites had written articles about it already.
What you upload on the internet is no different than a new virus. Once it’s out in the open, you will never manage to get rid of it altogether.
9. Sales targeting
Have you noticed the creepy behavior followed by online ads? Once you look for an item on an e-commerce website, all of a sudden you notice ads about related products all over your browser on various websites you visit.
Online ad platforms allow marketers to target ads to people who show interest in their product. Such flexibility serves the advertisers dual benefits. One, their advertising expense remains low because only the intended audience sees the ad. Two, a person who has shown interest has a higher chance of converting into a sale.
If that doesn’t raise your eyebrows, Amazon’s approach of anticipatory shipping will. Amazon uses a mixture of their logistics skills and data analysis process to figure out your needs. In short, Amazon knows what you want to buy before you buy it. So, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say Amazon knows what you will buy before even you do.
10. Causes mental fatigue
Using social media between tedious work hours appears to provide solace, but it only exhausts your mind even further. When you’re scrolling through your newsfeed, you make many little decisions without your knowledge.
Your brain runs on alert mode with thoughts like, “Should I click on this post? Does this picture deserve a like? What is a suitable reply to this comment?” All those decisions consume mental energy.
As a result, if you use social media during your breaks assuming it’ll help you de-stress, you’ve got it wrong.
11. Transformed face to face conversations
A family which used to have dinner as a group together now eats their meal with cutlery in one hand and a phone in the other. Eye to eye contact has changed into half-lowered heads engrossed in the phone. Social media has caused the human connection to drift apart.
Such behavior does not apply to family relationships alone. Friends have arguments over texts and managers provide critical feedback over electronic mediums. Heck, some lovers have broken up on social media messengers too.
Because social media has made communications easier, people resort to them over other personalized interactions.
12. Damage to businesses
To buy an item on Amazon, you read the reviews first or at the very least check the overall rating. Anything below a 4 star becomes a mental filter for rejection. The same applies to the restaurants you visit or the books you read.
Though social proof has powerful benefits, bad reviews can hurt a business. A disgruntled customer can leave a poor review even if the business did nothing wrong. In rare cases, companies have left fake poor reviews on their competitors as a strategy to acquire customers.
Since the reviews on the internet are not moderated, incorrect reviews can spell disaster for a business.
13. Fraud and scam
Due to the social media reach, fraudsters loom large in every nook and corner. If you’re not careful, they will pounce right on you.
Scammers use public feeds to gain knowledge, the chat medium to make a connection, and finally use the information for an unauthorized transaction.
Take for example the following conversation:
Phone operator: “Hello Philippe, you had visited Honda Motors last week and you’ve won the lucky draw for a new Honda CR-V”.
Poor victim: “Really, that’s amazing. I have never won anything in a raffle before.”
Phone operator: “We’re thrilled ourselves. We’ll need a few details to have the car ready for you. Can I know your date of birth and the full name of your spouse please?”
And the conversation follows where the fraudster learns more information about the victim which can be used to change the password of their banking account or guess the pin.
If you’re gullible on the internet, you’re doomed.
Social media has catapulted technology and taken the world forward. As a platform itself, you cannot hold it entirely accountable for the damage it causes people.
Social media is no different than liquor. If you use it in moderation, you’ll relish the good time. But, if you need a dose every few hours, you have a problem. Sure, you can pin the blame on the alcohol, but the truth is that the addiction is your doing. Similarly, whether social media helps you or hurts you depends on how you choose to use it.
So, what’s your experience with social media? Leave a comment.
Online social media fatigue and psychological wellbeing—A study of compulsive use, fear of missing out, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Retrieved March 10, 2021, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323561727_Online_social_media_fatigue_and_psychological_wellbeing-A_study_of_compulsive_use_fear_of_missing_out_fatigue_anxiety_and_depression
The Logical Indian. (2019, October 25). After 4 years of public shaming & Struggle, Saravjeet SINGH finally proven not guilty On JASLEEN KAUR CASE. Retrieved March 12, 2021, from https://thelogicalindian.com/news/saravjeet-singh-jasleen-kaur/
Hou, Y., Xiong, D., Jiang, T., Song, L., & Wang, Q. (2019, February 21). Social media addiction: Its impact, mediation, and intervention. Retrieved March 12, 2021, from https://cyberpsychology.eu/article/view/11562/10373
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.