As the title suggests, in this article we are going to discuss the positive and negative aspects of social media, we are going to have a quick look on the history of communications, the internet, the emergence of social media, the positive effects, the negative effects, and we will hopefully end up with a meaningful and wise conclusion on how to stay away from the negative flip of the coin.

Social Media
Social Media

Terminology

Oxford Dictionary
Oxford Dictionary

But first, let’s have a look at the term “Social’ and its, seemingly, various meanings according to Oxford Dictionary of English. The word “Social” is an adjective, and it can mean: “relating to society or its organization”, “needing companionship; suited to living in communities” or “relating to or designed for activities in which people meet each other for pleasure.”

Historical Background

Year Zero

Since their first days on this planet, humans were, are, and forever will be considered social beings who have biological need to connect with each other. When this need, the connection, was not met physically, like face-to-face, or in person, they looked for other means to fulfill it, they started writing letters to each other and sent those letter via different mediums, such as pigeons, cabs and others.

The situation remained like such until the dawn of electricity, with which came a huge number of inventions, maybe the most important of all was the telephone.

Later On...

The year 1844 witnessed the early days of the idea of “speaking telegraph” or telephone, then came the computer, some hundred years later, in the 20th century, and by the end of that century, the internet was starting to spread. At the very beginning of the new millennium, almost every single nation, every single house on our planet was connected to the internet.

A little bit later... Some positive aspects

Good old days were the days when we entered the information age, back in those days everything was simple, and the marketplace was clear, there were software companies and customers, the software companies role was to provide certain types of applications needed by the market, and the customers role was to buy those applications in order to use them.

Then, driven by the need to communicate and meet, a new type of applications and services started to emerge, and that was, the social media platforms.

The spread of these platforms was so vast and immerse, they were tools helped reuniting lost family members, finding organ donors, bringing the people closer to each other like never before in the history, and for the very first time ever, the entire globe turned into a universal village, but could this be the entire story? Or is there a dark side unfathomed yet?

The Negative Aspects Begins...

Many people saw a systematic change happening, and although high-profile employees left the social media industry, big tech names kept getting bigger, and the number of people addicted to their devices was increasing.

Some saw that we had moved from the information age to the disinformation age, due to all the fake news on those social platforms.

Chamath Palihapitiya, former VP of Growth in Facebook, said: “The tools started to erode the social fabric of how society works.”

While Jaron Lanier, Founding Father of Virtual Reality Computer Scientist argues that those platforms are selling users, advertisers are the customers while the rest of us are being sold. He puts it so beautifully: “It is the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behavior and perception that is the product.”

Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya

The Negative Aspects Continues...

Jaron Lanier
Jaron Lanier in 2010

With the rise of social media platforms, a new type of marketplace emerged, and this market place deals with data, it is imperative not to confuse using data with selling data, the big tech companies are not up to sell data, but rather gather more data about any given customer, which enables them to predict the needs of that particular customer and that in turn means happy advertisers who know exactly what the customers need.

In this light, many people stopped seeing social media platforms as tools, and they argued that a tool will always be there, waiting to be used, while the social media platforms, with their persuasive technologies demand their users attention and time.

Conclusion...

Unfortunately, if we look at the matter subjectively we see that social media is, in fact, a drug; it tampers with our basic biological need to connect with each other, and that directly affects the release of dopamine in the reward pathway.

Social media enhance the connection between people and has the potential of an addiction.

So these platforms should be used, if necessary, wisely, with caution, and under supervision, especially for younger generations.

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