Updated by Dave Parrack on June 28, 2017.
Social networking isn’t for everyone. However, it’s now such a massive part of all our lives, whether we embrace or reject the notion, that it can no longer be ignored. Are social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter a force for good or evil? As with most questions there are multiple angles to approach this quandary from.
Having already looked at the negative impact of social networking sites on society, I thought it only fair to redress the balance. Every yin has its yang, after all. Using the previous article as a loose template it’s clear to see that what some people would conceive as negatives can also be positives. Because there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the effect social networks are having on us all in this day and age.
It has never been easier to make friends than it is right now. And that’s mainly thanks to social networking sites. Just a few decades ago it was pretty tough to connect with people, unless you were the overly outgoing type able to make conversation with anyone at a party.
The rise of mobile phones helped change this, connecting people in a new way, but then social networks sprang up and the whole idea of friendship changed again. And there’s no going back.
It’s entirely possible to have hundreds of friends on Facebook. They may not be friends you know on a personal level and spend time with in the real world on a weekly basis. But they’re friends nonetheless. There are several people I consider friends who I have never met — in fact, I may never meet them — but that doesn’t lessen the connection we have thanks to social networks.
Social networking sites can help you make and keep friends.
Each of us spends a little too long talking about ourselves on social networking sites, even if we’re vaguebooking. Which is perfectly natural. We’re sharing our lives — the ups and downs, the twists and turns — with people we think will care.
They generally do care, and will tell you so. They will listen to what you have to say, and help you deal with any problems you may be facing. If this isn’t the case, then you may want to find new friends.
The point is that by all of us sharing our experiences, both good and bad, on social networking sites, we’re able to empathize with each other. A friend may have gone through a similar ordeal that you are currently going through, and they will be able to help you get through it.
You’ll also be able to see for yourself that they made it out the other side, that this issue didn’t derail them, and that they are perhaps better for the experience.
Social networking sites can act as a kind of group therapy session.
Our time is being stretched thinner and thinner by work and family commitments. But social networking sites offer a chance to communicate in a speedy and efficient manner. Writing an update for Twitter takes all of 20 seconds, and with cross-posting to other social networks switched on, that update reaches everyone you want it to reach (and probably more besides) in an instant.
One of the reasons I dislike making phone calls is the unnecessary banter they necessitate. You can’t just say what you want to say and then hang up. Because doing so is seen as downright rude. Instead, you have to swap pleasantries before saying what you want to say, and then swap more pleasantries before the conversation comes to a natural conclusion.
Social networking sites allow you to live a life unhindered by small talk.
In Touch With the World
It isn’t just your inner circle of close friends and even closer family members that social networking sites allow you to communicate with easily and effectively. Social networks have the power to open the world up to you, making it a smaller place than it has ever been before.
So much so that I actually haven’t a clue where many of my contacts reside. When it comes to social networks everyone is equal, regardless of location.
Family members living abroad can be kept abreast of the latest happenings in your world as quickly as those living next door. Friends you haven’t seen since school, and who have since moved away, are able to keep in touch. While location-based services such as Foursquare and Swarm put an emphasis on your location, social networking as a whole means it has become a lot less important.
Social networking sites have made the world a smaller place. And then some.
There is no doubting that social networking sites can lead to the breaking up of relationships. But there is another side to the story, which is that people are moving onto other, perhaps better, relationships. Social networks can put you (back) in touch with people who you have lots in common with, and that common ground is often the starting point for long-lasting relationships.
As painful as break-ups can be, they can sometimes be the right thing for all concerned. What’s to say that the new relationship, founded on the steps of Facebook, isn’t the one that will last? Even if it doesn’t turn into a spectacular coupling, it could be the friendship that is needed at the time. Which has to be a positive thing.
Social networking sites can help foster friendships and perhaps more besides.
Finding Common Ground in an Open Society
As previously mentioned, social networking sites can help you find people you share interests with. Facebook, for example, asks you to list who and what you are interested in right from the start. This makes it much easier to find common ground with other users.
On Twitter you should be following those who have something to say that you’re interested in, making connections with like-minded individuals much easier than it is offline.
This does require the sharing of information, and giving up a certain amount of privacy. Which is enough for some people to reject social networking outright. Keeping key personal information private is necessary, but sharing your likes and dislikes, interests and obsessions, and thought and views actually contributes to an open society.
Social networking sites make fitting in easier, as long as you open up a little.
Are Social Networks a Force for Good or Evil?
As with most things in life, there are positive and negative sides to social networking, both of which we have now explored. My ultimate belief is that when used in moderation, with checks and balances on how younger people in particular are using them, social networking sites are neither good or evil. They’re somewhere in between.
Does this make you feel better about social networking sites and the effect they could be having on society? Or will you remain wary in spite of these examples of the positive impact of social networking sites on society? Whatever your thoughts on the subject, we’d like to hear them in the comments section below!