Social media has become an integral component of modern life. We use the various platforms in this industry to connect with friends, chat with family members, and catch up on the current events happening in our world. Over 70% of Americans have at least one profile, and over 3 billion people around the globe are counted as social media users.
The growth of social media over the past decade has been staggering. The participation rate for this industry in 2005 was only 5%. Most people didn’t even know what it was at the time, and for those who did, the option to create a MySpace page usually meant fancy backgrounds and personal playlists more than personal communication.
We can even go further back to the invention of blogging on the Internet for the first real taste of social media. The first accounts began appearing in the 1980s, and then free platforms like Blogger mixed with chat rooms from AOL and others to create new social opportunities. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, and many more.
The advantages and disadvantages of social media are many, so here are the critical points to review in each area.
List of the Advantages of Social Media
1. It is easier to carry out research work using social media.
Today’s social media platforms are a fantastic study tool that students can use. These platforms make it possible to ask challenging questions that would be difficult to solve on one’s own. It is also an easier way to create group discussions or study opportunities when people are far away from one another. Students even have the option to post their research work online to help educate others on specific topics.
If you have a question that needs to get answered, a simple status update with your family and friends is usually enough to get what you need.
2. Social media can boost individual self-esteem levels.
Modern social media might feel toxic to some individuals, but it can also be a place where everyone can express themselves freely. These platforms provide ways to join groups or fan pages where shared interests become a reflection of each person’s unique personality. It offers a way to embrace empowerment because it communicates that each opinion counts. This advantage can lead to a significant boost in personal self-esteem.
When someone feels confident because of the online interactions that happen on social media platforms, it is a character trait that transfers to physical life. Many people can pursue what they’re passionate about today because of the positive feedback they received with this tool.
3. It creates more equality in today’s world.
When people have differing social, economic, or physical traits, then society naturally limits a person’s ability to interact at the same level as others when they have negative traits in those areas. Even if you are in a wheelchair, the presence of a curb to make you stand out in the general public. Social media can work to illuminate these stigmas.
Anyone with any disability can perform all of the activities that their peers can accomplish online because of social media. This advantage makes people feel like they belong to their communities instead of being separated from them.
4. Social media can help people to find meaningful employment opportunities.
Social media has become a go-to resource for employers who need help. Each community has several jobs posted and applied for because of the tools that are available in this industry. These jobs can be full-time positions, part-time, volunteer, or internships. Contract jobs are available all of the time with this resource. That means each user has the option to create a unique profile that features their skills and interests.
You can find a job anywhere in the world if you’re willing to embrace self-employment because of the benefits that social media provides.
5. You can stay up-to-date on current trends and technology.
We are living in an era where rapid technological advancements occur. The tools that we use today are items that were only a part of the imagination a mere 20 years ago. When we take the time to embrace the advantages of social media, then we get to use these widely available technologies that can benefit the world in numerous ways. Social media helps us to stay informed of the natural evolutionary processes of each industry.
This advantage also applies to current events. We can quickly find out what is happening in our communities, schools, workplaces, states, and countries. It is an essential way to equip ourselves with adequate knowledge of what is happening around us. This benefit helps us to make informed and empowered decisions.
6. Law enforcement can use social media to capture criminals.
Law enforcement agencies in the United States say that social media is a tool that helps them to solve crimes faster. 85% of American police departments use this tool as a way to find suspects. These platforms are also instrumental in the prosecution and conviction of several criminals, including professional athletes charged with inappropriate activity with minors.
When we are willing to be truthful with one another, social media gives us a variety of ways to keep our neighborhoods and communities safer.
7. Social media gives us opportunities to start making new friends.
According to research published by Pew Internet, 93% of adults say that they use Facebook to connect with family. 91% are using it to stay in touch with their current friends, while 87% say that the platform helps them catch up with the people they know from their past. Over half of the respondents to this project stated that they use the various social media outlets to make new friends, even if they know that they won’t be meeting those people in real life.
One of the reasons why we focus on these connections is because it allows us to feel like we are a part of each person’s life. 70% of teams that use social media say that it helps them to feel more connected to the emotions that we all experience every day.
8. Businesswomen receive empowerment because of social media.
When we look at women CEOs in the Fortune 500, they are outnumbered by their male counterparts by a ratio of 10 to 1 in most years. Finding ways to network with each other and feel like an impossible task when it seems like the cards are stacked against you from the very start. Businesswomen have found that social media can empower them to make better decisions because they can stay connected with other entrepreneurs who are like them.
Women dominate the social media spectrum. They are 80% of Pinterest users, 70% of Snapchat users, and 68% of Instagram users. Men are also in the minority on Facebook and Twitter. Women use these tools to have business chats, create global connections, and receive peer-related knowledge.
9. Social media has the power to increase a person’s quality of life.
The power of social media can be experienced on the individual level in a variety of ways. It can improve a person’s overall life satisfaction, help with stroke recovery, or create gains in memory retention. When someone has a large online social group, then there is typically a higher level of well-being experienced.
Friends on social media can also help people to stay accountable for their health and wellness goals. This benefit promotes more exercise, improved nutrition, weight loss, and other lifestyle habit changes that may be desirable.
10. Social media can facilitate face-to-face interactions.
People often use social media as a way to network at face-to-face events. It’s a chance to get to know others before having personal or business meetings. Messaging opportunities that occur on these platforms can lead to real-life interactions because plans get made online, and then implemented off-line.
The average person will see their close friends in person over 200 days each year while messaging them an average of 39 days annually.
11. The use of social media can increase voter participation rates.
Facebook reports that people are more likely to vote if they see others are doing the same thing. 35% of students said that the status updates from their family members and friends led them to vote in the 2016 presidential election in the United States. That means this influence is even higher than what television, radio, and direct mail provide.
12. Social media can help to remove social stigmas.
Society contains several stigmas that the average person doesn’t think about until there are direct impacts on their life. Various campaigns are running right now to reduce the bias that exists surrounding learning disabilities, mental health concerns, and health issues that people face. These platforms have been useful in the reduction of homophobia, lowering HIV rates, and promoting educational opportunities.
We can use social media to tell our stories. The lessons that we’ve learned in life can provide mentorship opportunities for other people, even if we’ve never met them before. Although some people will always try to troll others, the benefits often far outweigh whatever disadvantages we might encounter.
List of the Disadvantages of Social Media
1. Social media enables the spreading of false information rapidly.
Over 60% of Twitter users say that they have encountered news stories on that platform that eventually turned out to be false. About one in five people say that they had retweeted or posted something that they later discovered was false. Social media provides the advantage of giving information to all of us quickly, but the lies typically spread much faster than the truth. The reason why this happens is that we create echo chambers for ourselves with this tool.
When we surround ourselves with information that supports our personal opinions about the world, then the posts that we see on social media reinforce each bias that we have. Instead of seeking diversity, these platforms end up encouraging more segregation.
2. These platforms expose people to government intrusions.
About half of the people that use social media right now say that they have problems trying to manage the privacy settings for the profile. Over 80% say that they don’t feel secure when using the sites to share private information. This disadvantage applies to corporate and government intrusions because of all of the data that we share on these platforms.
The U.S. government submitted over 43,000 requests for data from Facebook and Twitter in 2015. About four out of every five of them were honored by these organizations. The National Security Agency reportedly can monitor private social messages by entering a specific username into their system. That means what we share can go to everyone.
3. Social media causes student grades to drop.
Students who use social media heavily tend to have lower grades at every level of education when compared to those who avoid these platforms. Over 30% of teens say that using social media during their homework reduces the quality of their studies, resulting in grades that were 20% lower. Students at the college or university level experience a 0.12 drop in GPA for every 93 minutes above the average amount of time spent on Facebook per day.
Students who identify as being heavy social media users have an average GPA of 3.06 across all grades. Those who don’t use these platforms regularly have an average GPA of 3.82.
4. These platforms can lead to offline relationship problems.
About one in every three social media users reports that they have had an argument or fight with a friend or family member because of something that happened online. Over-using social media can potentially decrease a person’s success in real-life relationships as they get older because of how it can hinder communication development. People are less likely to pick up on nonverbal communication signals when messaging has been their primary form of talking to other people.
Active social media use can lead to higher levels of platform-related conflict between friends and romantic partners. Higher risks of conflict, infidelity, and divorce are all associated with above-average active users.
5. Social media can encourage people to waste a lot of time.
The average person spends almost two hours every day browsing through their social media feeds. This figure represents over one-quarter of the total time that people spend online every day. When asked about what their biggest waste of time was every day, almost 40% of respondents referred to social media. That placed it above watching TV at 23% or playing fantasy sports at 25%.
When the average person received a notification about a new social media activity, then it takes up to 25 minutes for them to return to their original tasks. And 30% of these instances, it can take up to two hours to fully return their attention to what they were doing.
6. It can harm an individual’s employment prospects or job stability.
Social media gives all of us an opportunity to express ourselves freely. That benefit doesn’t always translate into life stability. Job recruiters and hiring managers report feeling negative reactions to profanity, poor spelling and grammar, references to illegal drugs, and sexualized content when reviewing the profiles of their applicants. 55% say that they reconsidered someone based on what they saw of a person’s online activities.
This disadvantage applies to people from all walks of life. Former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling was terminated from ESPN because of comments he left on Facebook about transgender individuals. This action followed a suspension he’d received earlier for comparing radical Muslims to the Nazis.
7. Social media can be used to commit or promote criminal activity.
Gangs are known to use social media as a way to recruit younger members. Terrorist organizations create propaganda to accomplish the same goal. These platforms are useful in the coordination of violent crimes or to threaten other people. Sex offenders use websites like this to find victims to exploit.
Almost 80% of burglars admit that they use several different social media platforms to select the properties of their victims. Over half of them say that they track that person’s posting status or current whereabouts to know when they can enter a home or business safely. Some criminals have even started live streaming their activities.
8. It places the lives of activists, journalists, and military personnel in danger.
When military personnel use social media as a way to check in with location-based services, the activity can expose their current position. This data can then endanger certain operations. ISIS used these platforms to locate a freelance journalist who reported what life was like under their regime. Several bloggers in Bangladesh posted their thoughts about atheism online only to be killed by zealots who opposed their opinion.
This disadvantage happens all over the world. A blogger in Mexico was found murdered by a cartel with a note stating that the individual was reporting things on social networks.
9. Social media can encourage cyberbullying activities.
Over half of students today say that they have encountered cyberbullying online directed at them at least once in the past year. 84% of the incidents occurred on Facebook. What makes this disadvantage such a devastating experience is the fact that the information is available all day, every day on a public forum. There is no way to take a break from it, and you don’t even need to be present for people to start this behavior.
Middle school students who are victims of cyberbullying are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide when compared to those who are not. Adults who experience this disadvantage can experience higher levels of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
10. The people who use social media are prone to isolation.
Social media might provide opportunities for personal connections when used correctly, but it can also increase feelings of disconnect. This disadvantage is especially powerful for young people with disabilities. It places them in a higher risk category for eating disorders, low self-esteem, and clinical depression. Passively consuming social media content, including the scanning of posts without leaving a comment, is directly related to personal feelings of loneliness.
11. Children can endanger themselves on social media without realizing it.
Kids don’t always understand the viral nature of social media posts. Even though young people traditionally are more tech-savvy than their parents and previous generations, social media is a different beast. Children and teens see activities that happen online that seem fun, and so they attempt to duplicate them in real life. Some of these incidents even happen accidentally.
Over 600 police officers once had to disperse a teen’s birthday party in the Netherlands because a private invitation ended up being public and going viral. Over 30,000 people showed up for the event. A similar issue happened in Los Angeles that resulted in the host of the party being hospitalized after an attack.
Social media gives us the opportunity to create an online extension of our physical lives. It creates more connections while facilitating communication. That’s why the use of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram have risen from about 26% in 2008 on all platforms to over 80% today.
There are always benefits of social networking to find if we’re willing to look for them. These online communities promote increased interaction with our family and friends, educational support from teachers, information about current events, and opportunities to create political or social change. It disseminates useful information to us all quickly.
The advantages and disadvantages of social media can also swing in the other direction. It can prevent face-to-face communication for some people, alter behavioral patterns, and expose our youth to potential predators. Even when individuals use it to spread false information, we still decide what we want to focus on with this platform. If we can stay disciplined in its use, then social media is a tremendous asset to the world.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.