Social media’s value all depends on the individual user
We hear a steady amount of criticism when it comes to social media, and the criticism varies depending on the situation.
Some people say there’s too much advertising. Others say the algorithm formulas keep them from seeing things they want to know about. Still others say the special features lack substance.
Social media isn’t perfect. It’s hard to have perfection, difficult to come up with a network of information that always pleases everyone.
The one thing we have to keep in mind is that many social media avenues are available at no cost. We’re not paying customers. If something’s free, it’s easier to make allowances if it’s not always in top form.
I’m basically satisfied with my own experiences on social media. I get what I want out of it; a chance to keep in touch with long distance friends, classmates and distant relatives.
Twenty years ago there wasn’t a convenient way to do that. The only time you’d hear from some people, even people you care about, was during the holiday season with Christmas cards. If you didn’t get holiday cards from them, you probably had to wait until the next reunion.
Inevitably we’d lose touch with people that way. Through social media, I’ve sustained at least 50 friendships that would probably have gone by the wayside in years past.
I also stay much more informed about the different branches of my family tree. It’s almost as good as living in the same community. We share a virtual community instead.
One thing I keep in mind about social media is that it’s similar to in person interaction as far as what’s sociable and what isn’t.
It’s easy and sometimes tempting to vent on social media. We might be tempted to blow off a little steam if we get bad service at an establishment or if another motorist nearly runs into us on a busy street.
Sometimes people vent about the weather, high prices, or medical concerns. All of those are sometimes all right up to a point, but very few people enjoy things that are overly negative.
The kind of thing I like to see are family events, vacations, awards and even just life’s ordinary moments that are treasures for someone. It’s good that all of it can be shared with real friends.
It’s very important to be mindful of what we say and how it gets said. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t announce it to a room full of people it shouldn’t be broadcast online. Another is that if you wouldn’t want an elderly parent or grandparent to read it, something might prove offensive to parts of the online audience.
The phrase “social media” might go down in history as an early 21st century oxymoron. That’s because media by its nature isn’t a social activity.
Media involves putting out a message for people to take as they wish. It’s not the same thing as a face to face conversation, or even a phone call or zoom chat where you can have a sense of what someone might be thinking. With online messages it largely comes down to knowing the audience, knowing the likely reaction even without the benefit of verbal or visual cues.
It’s not unusual to have misunderstandings on social media. The practice of “unfriending” can happen over a joke, a statement with political overtones, or even something that just seems boring.
Those who unfriend in such circumstances are not friends on a solid social level. If there’s a social basis behind a friendship, there’s a better chance that someone would take the time to share a reaction through a message. They’d take the time to fully communicate.
Some technology theorists have suggested that virtual experiences could become our new reality. I personally doubt that. I don’t think it will totally replace in-person knowledge and experience.
Time will tell how much social media will change social standards. The good that it can bring through an added connection is likely to outweigh the negatives, especially if most people approach it with a tradition of social responsibility.
— Jim Muchlinski is long-time Independent reporter and contributor.