Before I begin, I would like to emphasize the fact that social media is a good thing. It has helped bring together those that would otherwise never speak, or keep friendships and relationships in tact that could have never happened without it. However, social media takes a toll, and unless managed well it can consume its users.
There are many social sites out there. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+(soon) seem to be the big ones. Each have their benefits. Facebook allows many people to communicate, chat, and play games interactively, while Twitter takes a minimalistic approach, with simple pictures and tiny status updates. LinkedIn allows you to turn jobs and careers into a social game and forum where you can talk to other people in your profession, who you wouldn’t normally be able to. Google+ is currently emerging, and it will be interesting to see the role their new awesome video chat feature takes on in the social arena.
These sites in themselves are fine. The problem with social sites is when you have sites like www.twiends.com, www.twitcleaner.com, www.dagaloo.com, twitter directories, and others trying to influence your social experience by simply attempting to maximize members. www.Twentyfeet.com, www.socialchiefs.com, www.klout.com, and others attempt to analyze every single tweet you have sent in order to maximize followers and audience depth.
This can be great, but for the most part is completely irrelevant. I don’t NEED to know how to construct a perfect tweet. It destroys the purpose of twitter. Tweet what you are thinking and press send. Facebook has turned into Farm-ville spam, and LinkedIn no longer connects people who know each other, but has become a friend contest just like Facebook. Google+ is new, but it will eventually do the same thing. It’s inevitable. Just like the rise and fall of empires, social networks will one day crumble for slightly better features, less advertising, and maybe a new theme.
According to some studies from online education networks, Facebook users receive 20% lower grades throughout all of school than non-Facebook users. They tend to work fewer hours per week, and students are, as a general rule, more depressed than other students. Similar effects will obviously be found throughout the other networks.
“Facebook addiction is searched 350 times more than cigarette addiction.”
(to dispute these, visit this neat link with an awesome picture http://tinyurl.com/5sln5o7)
One of the problems that is starting to become extremely apparent with Facebook is the “liking” of commercial based items. Pay attention when you hear a commercial from a large organization that’s even semi-attempting to be hip. They’ll say “Friend us on MySpace, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or subscribe to our YouTube channel”. All this is fine and great if you really need that in-depth coverage of their products. However, the downside is by “liking” a company on Facebook you have just painted a laser target on your profile for advertisements from that company. This allows Facebook to use your profile’s information and likes to build a vivid idea of who you are as a product. They can then sell you, the product, to their advertisers who now can send specifically targeted ads to you. Remember: on the web, if you’re not paying for the product, it’s because you are the product.
To summarize, use social networking in moderation, not as a medium to stalk your friends in a socially acceptable way. Use it sometimes, and take time to realize real life DOES exist, and going outside is always better than sitting on the computer (unless its rainy, or cold…or hot).
Note: This article is a collaborative effort between myself and Chuck Rolek, a Com Sci major at Grandview University.