Social media: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This is an article I wrote for my university’s student magazine, which was published last week. The word limit was a little lower than I would have liked but I’m happy with what I ended up with.

Tuesday June 19th. At around 8.55pm, an earthquake measuring around 5.2 on the Richter scale hit Melbourne. News reports rolled out within the next few hours.
But for many Victorians, the first port of call was their social media platforms. Facebook statuses and Tweets hit cyber space within seconds, flooding newsfeeds and beating out the newspapers by a mile.
It is clear that social and new media have changed the way we communicate and make sense of the world around us. But it is also clear that we are only just beginning to uncover the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in social media.

The Good
On a basic level, social media keeps people in touch. Friends can stay up to date with each other across suburb, state and international borders – all at the click of a button. Establishing and maintaining connections has the potential to be easier than ever, with communication as simple as a ‘poke’ on Facebook or a mention on Twitter.
Professional networking and development flows easily from this breaking down of boundaries. Colleagues and like-minded professionals can share their ideas and knowledge around the world in real time, allowing for unrivaled access to resources.
Previously the public have played a purely ‘consumer’ role in marketing and advertising, but with new developments in social media marketing, we have the ability to take a more involved position and have our say on the products and services we are offered.

The Bad
For as long as social media platforms have been growing in popularity, concerns have existed about the way the private details of its users are protected. Facebook in particular has found itself under scrutiny for the way in which its users’ information is shared with advertisers and other third party companies.
The story of the Melbourne earthquake throws a light on a very current issue – the ways in which the internet has changed the face of news. No longer are traditional print mediums the first stop for information; many turn instead to social media and online newsfeeds to stay up to date. Whether this is a positive development is yet to be realised.

The Ugly
No longer are bullying and harassment confined to the school grounds or workplace; now threatening or abusive behaviour can follow victims home. Often inflicted by anonymous or multiple perpetrators, cyber bullying is harder to avoid and harder to punish.
Maintaining a public reputation is harder than it has ever been. Politicians, pop stars and sporting legends are scrutinised constantly and can now be followed 24/7 via their social media outlets. Employers regularly conduct Google searches to inspect the social media profiles of potential employees – and sackings based on inappropriate online behaviour are not uncommon.

The list goes on. All that can be said for now is that society is continuing down the road of social media and as yet, we can’t tell where that road will take us.

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