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Social Media's Impact On Society Has Its Ups And Downs

By Chris Gomez - Posted on 15 April 2009

Yesterday I wrote about how some studies suggested a negative impact Facebook had on students' academic performances. While mothers of struggling students may be thrilled at the news (after all, how often can mothers be right and have studies back them up these days), but I think I may have bordered on being unfair. While I can speak volumes about why I have no plans of creating a Facebook account, it and other social media platforms have also done several good things for society.

While I was in the shower this morning I decided to run off, right off the top of my head, the bad and good sides of social media in today's article. Here's what I came up with (it's not the whole list).

The Bad:
#1 – As I'd written before, it can drive grades down for 'careless' students. Studies have found that while non-users of social media spend an average of 11-15 hours a week studying, users only spend 1-5. Missing ten hours of studying time a week can add up to two hundred hours a semester – think of all the knowledge you could miss out on simply by clicking through some stranger's baby photos.

#2 – Maintaining a social media profile carelessly can expose you to scams, identity thieves, and other malcontent. I keep hearing horror stories about people who post their phone numbers on their profiles and in return get contacted by bogus salespeople and such. I get the feeling that social media shouldn't just be a post-graduate degree – it should be taught much earlier in a child's school life, perhaps around the same time sex education rolls around.

#3 - Privacy and The Internet never forgets. If for some reason you'd posted information about yourself, and you suddenly want to take the information down, don't be surprised it being archived or stored in a publicly accessible database which you have no idea about.

The Good:
#1 – Social media has helped police forces in some parts of the world nab criminals. The police basically have a Facebook profile and crowdsource for leads and tips regarding wanted criminals, whose photos and security videos are posted online for their contacts to see.

#2 – It has also helped the youth have a more active voice in the political situation of their respective countries. Before last year's Mumbai attacks (which Indians now know as India's 9/11), most of India's youths were disillusioned with their incredibly inefficient and corrupt government. When a mere 10 gunmen managed to bring one of the country's largest cities to a virtual standstill, Indian youths immediately knew something was horribly wrong, and are now currently using Facebook, blogs, and other social media platforms to bring about some real change.

#3 - Consumer-driven/comunity websites, that have existed way before the so-called phenomenon of social media, have enabled internet citizens share opinions about the products they use and problems with customers service. And through the use of Twitter, YouTube, etc., have managed to get quick attention for their grievances. This in turn has somewhat let to companies paying serious attention to what their customers are talking about.

#4 – It helped bring Obama to the world stage. Woo-hoo.

I guess social media's impact on society has both its ups and downs, and it's really up to users – you and me – to decide how to use it. While we can't really do anything about the lazy bastards who have nothing to do besides enjoy life at the expense of other people, that doesn't give us the excuse not to do anything about it at all.

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