Friday Writing Challenge: Five Problems with Social Media

typing-on-keyboardWriting is my exhale. I’ve realized I’ve been holding my breath for far too long. At least once a week I will exhale, which I hope leads to a healthier breathing pattern. I encourage you to join me, either share your writing on my blog through the comments or in your own forum, whatever that may be. I’ll post the prompt first and then add my response later in the day. Here’s to breathing!

Writing Prompt # 1: Five Problems with Social Media

Did anyone else accept the challenge? Feel free to comment or post links to your forums. Here is my response:

Like all things in life, social media has its positive and negative uses. Only the user can determine which side he or she will fall on.

  1. Immediate access: One of the biggest problems with social media is that people have immediate and constant access to others, giving abusers anonymity and protection from retaliation because they can hide behind a computer screen. We know the nightmare stories about children being tormented by other children. Not only do the tormentors feel protected, but they also don’t have the “benefit” of seeing how their words hurt another person. For most people, seeing the pain we have caused someone is enough to make us think before we torment again. However, that doesn’t happen with social media. If each of us could imagine what our comments may do to the person they are aimed at, we may choose our words more carefully. And for those who are not naturally empathetic, they should think how they would feel if someone made those very comments to them. On the other side of this issue, immediate access to all kinds of people around the world is exactly what has given people the ability to grow their businesses or get acknowledged for their creativity and talent. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogging are the main forums I work with, and they have given me access to the world: I have dialogued with people in Australia and China; people in the UK and Hawaii have purchased my book. The key with immediate access is to use it for good not evil.
  2. Sharing opinions: Social media has brought out the inner critic in everyone. Some opinions are so brutal that they go well beyond freedom of speech rights, but it happens so frequently that not much can be done about it. It’s also difficult to defend yourself against someone’s opinion; he or she has a right to have that opinion no matter how wrong or brutal that opinion is. (By the way, it’s easy to spot the people who are just using hate speech or covering up an uneducated opinion because their comments are filled with logical fallacies.) The best solution is to get tougher skin and let it go or to establish boundaries with people that don’t know they’ve crossed them. I’ve had to set people straight a number of times (and they don’t like it much), but I’ve also realized that someone else’s opinion of me doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what I think about myself. Those thoughts have shaped me into the woman I am. Additionally, my opinions are a reflection of the woman I am. That’s why I try not to share my opinions in negative ways–I don’t want to be a negative person. I refrain from giving an opinion on a subject I know little about–I may have an opinion, but it won’t be an educated one. Being able to share my opinion is also a beautiful thing because it encourages me to become more knowledgeable. My eyes have been opened to some truths in the world because I have dared to look at and investigate an opposite opinion. I don’t agree with every opinion I read, but I’m also not threatened by people who don’t see the world the same way I do. I just look at those comments as a way to strengthen my own convictions.
  3. Getting noticed: Social media has brought some unlikely people into the spotlight, which is a blessing and a curse for anyone who has experienced it. I was able to get a book contract because of the media attention I received after my resignation letter went viral. I knowingly posted my letter to my blog, but I had no idea how big it would get. I wasn’t ready for that kind of media attention or the horrible things some people said to me and about me on the various internet websites. The other unfortunate consequence of getting noticed is that some people will do anything for attention, including lying about who they are and what they’ve done. That’s why it’s so important to be truthful on social media. The only thing worse than getting thrown into the spotlight without any prior training is to get that attention for being a liar or manipulator.
  4. Wasting time: Social media can destroy productivity. Constantly checking statuses, likes, and comments can eat away an hour (or two) without even trying. Staying connected with family and friends in different parts of the globe is a blessing, but looking for acceptance and validation of worth through these connections is not. The key to this is balance and moderation.
  5. Finding out what’s wrong with our society: The horrible crimes we are privy to because of social media has been blamed for our society’s helicopter parenting phenomenon. We read on a daily basis about missing or abused children, bullying, drug abuse, shootings, etc., forcing parents to become overprotective of their children. It’s difficult to raise independent and successful children when parents feel they have to micromanage every detail of their children’s lives in order to protect them from the “dangers” in the world. I’m not saying the dangers aren’t real, but they aren’t new either, and many times these events are sensationalized in order to generate traffic to those sites. I won’t read those articles. It’s not that I want to remain ignorant, but I don’t want to fill my mind with horrifying images. I can’t stay hopeful if I’m constantly afraid. I can’t raise a healthy son if I pass on those fears to him. The other side of this issue, though, is that we have our finger on the pulse of what’s wrong with this world. We have to know what’s broken in order to fix it. For those who care to make a positive impact in our world, all we have to do is read the headlines to know where we are needed most.

 

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