We have come a long way in a short amount of time in the world of social network. With billions of active profiles, Facebook is a dominant force in the lives of many. The average person spends almost an hour of their time every day on their preferred social platforms. We also have LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and several niche options from which to choose.
The first website which could be called a social network debuted in 1997, and it was called Six Degrees. Offered to the public two years before blogging really took off, this site was the first one to allow profiles and the chance to become “friends” with other users.
We used to think of people who used social networking as geeks and nerds. It was only for those who wanted to “flaunt” their technical knowledge. Now society sees people who shun these websites as being out of touch with reality.
If you’re thinking about joining a platform for the first time or you want to justify keeping your profile, these are the social networking pros and cons to evaluate.
List of the Pros of Social Networking
1. Social networking can lead to real-life networking.
When you start sharing messages with people through your preferred social networks, then this can lead to new interactions in real life. It offers people a way to get to know one another on a personal level before a planned meeting or event. You can do research on their past, look at their work history, or any other data points they’re willing to share before you have a face-to-face encounter.
Although this benefit can also be dangerous for some groups, for professionals looking to build a network in real-life, this advantage is one that is a challenge to ignore.
2. It increases voter participation.
Social networking increases the desire to go out and vote. This effect was seen as early as the 2010 national elections in the United States, where social “get out the vote” messages helped to generate almost 350,000 additional votes. The people who were most influenced to vote came from posts and suggestions from close friends who were already participating in their civic duty.
3. Social networking reduces feelings of loneliness.
Older adults and entrepreneurs are at an increased risk of experiencing isolation, loneliness, and depression because of their living situation. The elderly is the most at-risk when they must move into a different type of care community from their independent living. Using a social network helps each group maintain their social ties, making it beneficial to use this platform to feel more connected to family and friends. Social networking creates an improvement in the quality of communication received from others too.
4. It acts as an effective communication tool during crisis situations.
One public post can quickly reach millions, if not billions, of people when there is a crisis situation developing. Facebook introduced a safety feature which allows people to mark themselves as “safe” during a man-made or natural disaster, including terror-related incidents. These platforms can also be useful in sending out proactive information about emergencies, Amber alerts, and other critical data that would normally be presented during a broadcast of the Emergency Alert System. This benefit makes it possible to improve public health and safety on a broad scale.
5. Social networking helps to diffuse social stigmas.
A 2013 effort to share personal experiences with mental illnesses has developed into a platform which generated over 12,000 pledges in just one year to help people when needed. The hashtag #IWillListen inspired colleges to have headphone-free days, honest conversations about finding help, and resource distribution to those who may need it. Many of the stigmas and biases people have today come from misinformation. Social networks are often criticized for distributing fake news, but it can also be useful as a tool that helps people see how others sometimes struggle through life.
6. It can be useful in the fight against increasing suicide rates.
The U.S. military went to their social networks in 2016 to combat the number of suicides in military ranks. The rate of about 20 per 100,000 troops is more than double what it was before the attacks on 9/11/01 in New York City, Washington, D.C., and rural Pennsylvania. By paying attention to what veterans and active-duty service members post on social media, we can recognize the warning signs of suicide and intervene.
When examining the social media posts of individuals who committed suicide for 30 days before their death, those who take their lives write updates about relationship issues, generalized stress, and less overall anger compared to their previous posts.
7. Social networking can help people find new jobs.
Did you know that up to 80% of all job openings in any given year are never advertised? That happens because these positions go to someone who already knows somebody else. Connecting to employers, past associates, or even family on a platform like LinkedIn makes it possible to access this hidden job market. Talent communities allow you to prove through the use of endorsements that you have the necessary skills to fill an open position. This process creates an opportunity where an interested employer might approach you for an interview because your profile looks too good to ignore.
8. It is useful as a marketing tool.
Anyone can use social networking as a form of marketing. Even academic institutions use this platform to promote their research and information gleaned from experiments or clinical studies. It offers access to a community with transformative powers, making it possible to reach new audiences or connect with unique demographics that would normally not be available from a traditional centralized distribution point. It is a way to inform interested parties about what is going on along every step of the process, including an offer of help to the faculty involved as they examine issues and seek feedback.
9. Social networking can be an enormous fundraiser.
Crowdfunding through social media can help people find the money they require for specific situations that were not available to them before. This design makes it possible for people to get more involved, helping households raise the amount of money they contribute to charitable causes each year. 72% of homes donate less than average, yet 75% of people think they give the same or more like the average person in the United States as a percentage of their household income.
10. It allows you to be yourself.
People who are more grounded with authentic values as humans are less likely to be heavy users of social media. They’re also less likely to be negatively affected by their use of it. If you find yourself trying to be someone that you’re not, then this vulnerability is easy to correct. Abstain from using any of these platforms for at least a week. Remove the apps from your mobile device. Then you can come back to be yourself once again.
List of the Cons of Social Networking
1. It creates content which cannot be entirely deleted.
If you decide that something you wish to share on your social networking site sends the wrong message, it may be too late to delete the post. People can share your post while it is live, take screenshots of it to send to their networks, and verify its existence in other ways too. With facial recognition software improving, even those who separate their professional lives from their personal activities will discover that these links continue on indefinitely. Those posts, if they are found to be offensive, could stop you from getting a job – even if the information is several years old.
Kevin Hart had this happen to him as host of the Oscars because of tweets he shared in 2009-2011 that included vulgarity toward people in the LGBTQIA+ community.
2. Social networking can endanger the lives of people.
Activists, journalists, and active-duty military members all have their lives placed at-risk because of the structure of social networks. Instant news updates require these professionals to discuss information before being properly vetted. Insurgents use these platforms to publicize their causes, which promotes radicalism on a global scale. People who have a reputation for sharing critical information have become high-value targets in the modern battlefield, making it easier than ever before to inadvertently venture into dangerous situations.
3. It creates an association with depression with frequent use.
In a survey of almost 1,800 adults between the ages of 19-32, researchers asked about social media use and depressions. Participants for the survey were recruited through addressed-based sampling and random digit dialing. People who fell into the highest quartile of social media use had a significantly increased risk of depression when compared to those in the lowest group. About 90% of young adults use social media, with most checking their profiles at least once per day. Up to 20% of the time spent on a personal computer involves social networking of some type.
4. Social networking can lower productivity levels and academic performance.
Students who use social networks heavily have an increased risk of lower grades when compared to those who don’t use them as much. This impact extends to college studies. The average GPA of heavy users of these networks between the ages 19-54 was 3.06, but non-users of social networking had an average GPA of 3.82. The reason for this is that social networking encourages a high volume of task switching, which requires people to take more time to go through materials than less time. There’s always something available to distract a mind that is bored.
5. It can increase feelings of inferiority.
The average Facebook user today has 338 friends, with the median number coming to about 200. About half of all users have 200 or more friends. 15% have a list which tops 500. What does that mean for someone who has a friends list below 100? It may increase their feelings of inferiority. When there are high-risk elements for mental health or suicidal ideation, then comparisons such as these can reinforce those feelings. Even the perception that other lives are “more perfect” than one’s own, no matter what the size of a friend’s list happens to be, can increase these risks.
6. Social networking is useful for criminals.
If you post on your social networks information which allows people to know that you’re away from home, then criminals understand that your place is susceptible to a burglary attempt. Recording video during altercations encourages a form of “street policing” in some of America’s largest cities. Even bragging about gang violence can promote additional confrontations. Rivalries form on social media, evolve into real life, and then place the lives of others at risk. Preventing oversharing is not enough to reduce this disadvantage. The only way to absolutely stop this issue is to stay off of social media.
7. It takes a lot of time.
Social networking will take you down the rabbit hole and never let you return if you permit it. Between the cat videos, memes, and various status updates of friends and family, people spend most of their days anymore interacting with media instead of each other. American adults spend over 11 hours per day with a screen, with 30% of their online time involving a social network of some type. The average person spends 35 minutes on Facebook, 25 minutes on Snapchat, and 40 minutes on YouTube.
That means you’ll spend over 5 years of your life interacting on social media. That’s more time than you’ll spend eating, doing laundry, or socializing in real life. The only thing that you’ll do more than be on social media is watching TV or sleeping.
8. Social networking invades our privacy.
How many cookies are on your computer right now? Although most browsers place limits on the number of cookies that come from one website, these benign files can impact your privacy. They also take up space on your computer. That information can then be used by your social networking platforms to offer targeted advertising which encourages additional spending. If you use a browser like Safari, you can always block cookies and website data to protect your privacy, but if you do, then the functionality of the sites you visit offers new limitations that are equally frustrating.
9. It may lead to an increase in narcissism.
People compare themselves to others on social media, even when positive messages of self-empowerment are available. That means those who have a lot of followers and popularity also think more highly of themselves. There is a direct link to a rise in narcissism in today’s youth with the use of social networks. Only YouTube shows a positive impact on mental health. Every other platform can create issues with bullying, self-harm, and even health issues like ADHD in youth.
These social networking pros and cons make it possible to look at our personal habits to see what we can improve. We must remember that the use of Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms is a tool which is useful to the greater good if that is our priority. It can also become a toxic place where only the disadvantages are found. It is up to each of us to remember that what we say and share matters.