In this modern society, people are interacting more and more online each day. Consequently, connecting through the internet on a personal level, most often through social media sites. Social media originated as an innovative way to engage with family, friends and romantic partners, connecting people all over the world through convenient communication. As time goes on, we see it transforming from its original purpose into a way to cultivate community and even an income through all walks of life.
Social media is a practical and positive method to connect and has become the social norm for people, depending on your generation. In a study done by researchers Amanda Lenhart, Monica Anderson, and Aaron Smith at Pew University, it was found that only five percent of respondents never use social media, suggesting that it has become a normalized part of many people’s lives. Whereas 82 percent of respondents use social media every day, either several times a day or at least once a day. That same study concluded that 59 percent of respondents say that social media makes them feel more connected with what is going on in their significant other’s life. These findings further prove that people are using social media to not only effectively stay in touch but to constantly do so. Whether you are catching up with a friend after 20 years, a family member across the globe, or sharing a new cooking utensil for others to purchase, social media platforms are your means to that end.
Modern society looks to social media for social engagement, encouraging communication in ever evolving, diverse ways. This was proven last year during the Covid-19 pandemic when the world shut down in person; we watched it open up online. Business small and large alike changed their online game to keep up with the current demands from the public. From grocery shopping to online church services to virtual education, we watched the worlds resiliency honed by our ability to utilize the internet to stay connected and get things done. The ability to connect online may have actually saved lives during the pandemic by making it so that people didn’t have to suffer from isolation and loneliness. Churches were able to stream their services online to their congregations, providing spiritual support during that trying time. Many relationships didn’t experience as big of a lapse as they could have because they were able to cultivate intimacy digitally when it wasn’t safe to in person. Groceries stores and business both big and small made their products readily available by mail or pick up services. These efforts to keep society in motion during the pandemic were revolutionary to say the least, considering how they ensured that quality of life didn’t diminish.
Contrastly, we can examine the negative effects of excessively use of social media such as distorted body image, comparison or coveting, infidelity, and cyber bullying. As social media access is becoming more and more common with younger users, we see an increase in spiteful or hurtful comments or posts between these younger users. This is causing a spike in confidence issues with young people as has even led to depression and social anxiety in the offline world for them. It is imperative for parents and guardians to monitor their underage users’ activity online so that the younger generation grows up understanding how to responsibly navigate social media. Likewise, the issue of more common infidelity with the use of social media can and must be combated by over communicating relationship expectations with one’s partner and discussing boundaries on and offline sooner rather than later.
In conclusion, while social media has proven to be a useful tool, it needs to be navigated with caution. Quite often we find that those operating online don’t always successfully align their intent with their impact. So, the true responsibility falls to the user to navigate and engage on social media platforms.