Mustapha Momoh, Communications Volunteer Sierra Leone YMCA
By now, we are all aware that social media has had a tremendous effects on our society, in politics, business, on social life and the world at large. Social media websites are some of the most popular haunts on the Internet. They have revolutionalized the way people communicate and socialize on the web.
Social media is defined as “a group of internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of web 2.0 and that allow the creation and exchange of users-generated content”
Furthermore, social media depend on mobile and web based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated contents
They introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between businesses, organizations, countries, and individuals. These changes are the focus of the emerging field of techno self studies. Social media differ from traditional media in many ways, including quality, reach, frequency, usability, immediacy and permanence.
Social media operates in a dialogic transmission system (many sources to many receivers). This is in contrast to traditional media that operates under a monologic transmission model (one source to many receivers) (Wikipedia)
Most notable social media sites are; facebook, whatsapp, twitter, Instagram, viber, Imo to name but a few. These sites have had a very strong interest on people that the urge is not normal or natural. It has become a part of our daily living that it is very difficult to live without. Infact for some, missing social media interaction a day is like missing something so dire to their heart.
However, aside from seeing your friend’s new baby or picture on facebook, or reading about your favorite celebrity or footballer on twitter, what are some of the real effects, both positive and negative that social media has had on our society?
Here is a closer look at the effects of social media on politics, business, socialization as well as some of the negative effects like cyber bullying and privacy.
Effects on politics: the social media in this dispensation has become fertile ground for political campaign. Therefore, every politician worth his salt needs to jump on social media bandwagon. This is because, social media websites have played an important role in many elections around the world, including the U.S, Iran, India and many parts of Africa. They have also served to rally people for a cause, and have inspired mass movement and political unrests in many countries. A clear example of such was the Arab spring. When citizens used facebook to facilitate protest against their government.
Effects on business: Most business companies and enterprises like the Go shop, online business are using social media to advertise their products, built customer loyalty and many other functions. Interactions and feedback from customers help business to understand the market, and fine-tuned their products and strategies
Social media presence in business is cheap and effective means to enhancing brand image and popularity compared to television advertisement and other expensive forms of marketing.
Effects on socialization: social media networks offer opportunity for people to re-connect with their old friends and acquaintances, make new friends, trade ideas, share contents and pictures, and many other activities.
Users can stay abreast of the latest global and local developments, and participate in campaigns and activities of their choice. Professionals use social media site like LinkedIn to enhance their career and business prospects.
Students themselves can collaborate with their peers to improve their academic proficiency and communication skills. Infact, some lectures interface with their students through social media. You can learn about different cultures and societies by connecting with people in other countries.
Unfortunately, there are a few downsides too to social media networking. Many introverts and socially impulsive users place too much emphasis on virtual interaction, and ignore the real world outside. Amongst this downsides are;
Cyber bullying and online harassment: if users are not careful, unscrupulous people can target you for cyber bullying and harassment on social media sites. School children, young girls, and women can fall prey to online attacks which can create tension and distress. If you are a victim of cyber bullying, do not take it lying down.
Effect on productivity: Though if wisely used can improve productivity, many companies have blocked social media networks on their office internet as addicted employees can distract themselves on such sites, instead of focusing on work. Studies shown recently that British companies have lost billions of dollars per year in productivity because of social media addiction among employees.
Effect on privacy: If users are not careful, what you post on the net can come back to haunt you. Today, we see alot of young people posting every manner of pictures of themselves not realizing the consequences thereof.
Revealing personal information about yourself on social media sites can make users vulnerable to crimes like identity theft, stalking etc. Many companies perform a background check on the Internet before hiring an employee.
If prospective employee has posted something embarrassing on social media, it can drastically affect their chances of getting the job. The same holds true for relationship too, as loved ones and friends may get to know if we post something undesirable on social media networks.
Finally, social media has its advantages and draw backs as revealed in this article. It is up to each user to use social media sites wisely to enhance their professional and social life, and exercise caution to ensure we do not fall victim to online dangers.