Posted: March 30th, 2022
Social Media and People
Has the advent of social media technology had a good or bad influence on human life? While millions of people are upset with social media sites like Facebook for selling their personal data to third parties, millions more continue to benefit from the positive uses that social media can have on human life. Whether it is contacting with old friends, sharing useful information, obtaining news, or learning about new subjects via video tutorials posted for all to peruse, social media has provided people all over the world with a platform that they can use to connect with, interact with, and communicate with people in a way that the world has never before seen. The dangers of social media might range from data harvesting to cyber bullying and stalking—but as with any new innovation that revolutionizes a society, there are going to be drawbacks. Essentially, the conflict surrounding social media boils down to its good and bad effects on human life. Whereas Pfeffer, Zorbach and Carley say that social media can be used to spread negative word-of-mouth stories that have a bad impact on human life, Gil de Zuniga, Jung and Valenzuela say that social media can have a positive impact on human life as a source of news, a way to promote civic engagement, and a means of spreading political participation. This paper will show why in spite of the pitfalls associated with social media, the advent of social media technology actually has had and will continue to have a good influence on human life.
Social media arose in the 21st century as a means of allowing direct communication among people with greater speed and convenience than traditional forms of media. Platforms like YouTube—the video file sharing site, Facebook—the personal info sharing site, Twitter—the sound bite sharing site, Instagram—the photo sharing site, and many others have proliferated in the age of social media. Social media is used by people, businesses, organizations, and even presidents (indeed, President Trump is an avid user of Twitter because he feels it allows him to get his own personal message out to the public without being filtered through mainstream media sites). In this sense, social media is like the modern age’s own fireside chats—at least when it comes to the president. For everyone else, social media is a way to connect to the world, obtain information and share thoughts and experiences.
Pfeffer et al. argue that social media can have a bad impact on human life because it allows for negative word of mouth to spread easily and quickly before anyone can stop it or correct what might be a mistaken bit of information. People can have their reputations tarnished because one piece of information goes viral in a matter of moments over social media. Millions of people might share in the gossip, even if the information is incorrect, and people’s lives can be damaged or ruined as a result.
Gil de Zuniga et al. argue, on the other hand, that social media can have very positive effects on human life. Social media provides a way for people to connect and take part in social causes and promote social and political issues. It is a way for people to obtain and disseminate news quickly—information that might otherwise never get disseminated. It is a way for individuals to exercise their civic duty and take part in social issues and thus promote the democratic process.
Gil de Zuniga et al. highlight numerous good points about social media and why it can help people to bond, share ideas, and take part in one another’s leaves in a meaningful way. Pfeffer et al. only really focus on the negative aspect of social media and how it can hurt people or businesses. In order for the argument of Pfeffer et al. to have more weight, the authors should have conceded that social media can actually be used for good purposes and that just because it has a negative impact from time to time does not mean that it can’t still be used for good in a variety of ways. In short, while Pfeffer et al. highlight a negative aspect of social media they still should have shown that the benefits and good impacts on human life that social media can have far outweigh the negative effects.
I believe that the position of Gil de Zuniga et al. is stronger because it provides many more instances of the ways in which social media can be used for good. Pfeffer et al. instead just focus essentially on one way that social media can be bad. The fact that Gil de Zuniga et al. identify so many positive aspects of social media usage shows that there are far more ways that the various platforms can contribute meaningfully to human societies than there are negative consequences of the ways in which the various platforms are used. As social media’s main purpose is to bring people together via the Internet it cannot be expected to be perfect, because the people who use it are not perfect. To argue that social media is bad for human life is basically to argue that human beings themselves are bad for human life. They are the ones using social media after all: they are talking, sharing, interpreting, and connecting—i.e., they are doing things that human beings have done for centuries and millennia. Only today they are doing it using the power of the Internet. That should not change anything about the nature or essence of communication itself. Thus, if social media is bad, then communication between people should be viewed as bad. Since that would be a preposterous position to take, it is only reasonable to argue that social media is good for human life. For that reason, I believe the argument of Gil de Zuniga et al. is stronger.
Gil de Zúñiga, Homero, Nakwon Jung, and Sebastián Valenzuela. “Social media use for
news and individuals’ social capital, civic engagement and political participation.” Journal of Computer?Mediated Communication 17.3 (2012): 319-336.
Pfeffer, Jürgen, Thomas Zorbach, and Kathleen M. Carley. “Understanding online
firestorms: Negative word-of-mouth dynamics in social media networks.” Journal of Marketing Communications 20.1-2 (2014): 117-128.
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