The Internet plays an important role in our everyday lives. We use it for work, for pleasure, for communication, and for collaboration. Dominating the Internet are social media giants that facilitate building online communities, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you are reading these words, chances are pretty good that you use at least one such website or app.
A lot of research goes in to designing the various social media platforms to encourage their use. As a result, we spend hours and hours scrolling though shared posts, tweets, pictures, and videos.
The negative aspects of these platforms can vary from obvious to obscure. Time spent using them is time not spent doing other things, which in theory could be more productive: reading, interacting directly with friends and neighbors, taking classes, engaging in a hobby. Interaction with short bits of information fractures our attention span and makes it harder to concentrate. Leaked personal information has been used to manipulate individuals without their knowledge or consent.
Social media can contribute positively as well. We use it to get a job, make romantic connections, keep up with friends or family that live far away, and to build communities that share specialized interests.
Evaluating these pros and cons is important for everyone to do. What are some of the other advantages and drawbacks of social media? Do the pros outweigh the cons?
It is easy to see why social media companies exist. People love to interact with each other, and the digital world is another place for that interaction. A successful social media app or platform can be very popular, lucrative, and influential. The companies want your attention, and once they have it they can use that collective attention for their own goals or purposes, like selling goods and services.
But what benefits do individuals get from using them? What do you get out of social media?