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Edison State Darke County Campus
Social Media: A Good Thing or a Bad Thing?
By Jonathan Holman, Edison Comp 1 Student

Social media is one of the most argued subjects of today. From parents, teachers, and reporters, to kids, students, and entertainers. It seems as though everyone has a strong opinion on the subject in one way or another. But this is all recent. The concept of social media has been around for centuries. It wasn’t until now that people are starting to question its methods and existence. It has been proven that there are many things that make the idea seem both very good and bad. After you have learned a thing or two about it, which side will you choose?

Per Drew Hendricks, from smallbiztrends.com, interacting with friends and family across long distances has been a concern of humans for centuries. As social animals, people have always relied on communication to strengthen their relationships. When face-to-face discussions are impossible or inconvenient, humans have dreamed up plenty of creative solutions (Complete History of Social Media: Then and now).

The roots of social media stretch far deeper than you might imagine. Although it seems like a new trend, sites like Facebook are the natural outcome of many centuries of social media development. The earliest methods of communicating across great distances used written correspondence delivered by hand from one person to another. In other words, letters. The earliest form of postal service dates back to 550 B.C., and this primitive delivery system would become more widespread and streamlined in future centuries (Complete History of Social Media: Then and now).

In 1792, the telegraph was invented. This allowed messages to be delivered over a long distance far faster than a horse and rider could carry them. Although telegraph messages were short, they were a revolutionary way to convey news and information. Although no longer popular outside of drive-through banking, the pneumatic post, developed in 1865, created another way for letters to be delivered quickly between recipients. A pneumatic post utilizes underground pressurized air tubes to carry capsules from one area to another (Complete History of Social Media: Then and now).

Two important discoveries happened in the last decade of the 1800s: The telephone in 1890 and the radio in 1891. Both technologies are still in use today, although the modern versions are much more sophisticated than their predecessors. Telephone lines and radio signals enabled people to communicate across great distances instantaneously, something that mankind had never experienced before (Complete History of Social Media: Then and now).

Technology began to change very rapidly in the 20th Century. After the first super computers were created in the 1940s, scientists and engineers began to develop ways to create networks between those computers, and this would later lead to the birth of the Internet. The earliest forms of the Internet, such as CompuServe, were developed in the 1960s. Early forms of email were also developed during this time. By the 70s, networking technology had improved, and 1979’s UseNet allowed users to communicate through a virtual newsletter. By the 1980s, home computers were becoming more common and social media was becoming more sophisticated. Internet relay chats, or IRCs, were first used in 1988 and continued to be popular well into the 1990’s (Complete History of Social Media: Then and now).

The first recognizable social media site, Six Degrees, was created in 1997. It enabled users to upload a profile and make friends with other users. In 1999, the first blogging sites became popular, creating a social media sensation that’s still popular today (Complete History of Social Media: Then and now).

In 2002, social networking really hit its stride with the launch of Friendster. Friendster used a degree of separation concept similar to that of the now-defunct SixDegrees.com, refined it into a routine dubbed the “Circle of Friends,” and promoted the idea that a rich online community can exist only between people who truly have common bonds. And it ensured there were plenty of ways to discover those bonds (The History of Social Networking).

After the invention of blogging, social media began to explode in popularity. Sites like Myspace and LinkedIn gained prominence in the early 2000s, and sites like Photobucket and Flickr facilitated online photo sharing. YouTube came out in 2005, creating an entirely new way for people to communicate and share with each other across great distances. By 2006, Facebook and Twitter both became available to users throughout the world. These sites remain some of the most popular social networks on the Internet. Other sites like Tumblr, Spotify, Foursquare and Pinterest began popping up to fill specific social networking niches (Complete History of Social Media: Then and now).

As expected, the ubiquitous Facebook now leads the global social networking pack. Founded, like many social networking sites, by university students who initially peddled their product to other university students, Facebook launched in 2004 as a Harvard-only exercise and remained a campus-oriented site for two full years before finally opening to the general public in 2006. Yet, even by that time, Facebook was considered big business. So much so that, by 2009, Silicon Valley bigwigs such as PayPal co-founder and billionaire Peter Thiel invested tens of millions of dollars just to see it flourish (The History of Social Networking).

Facebook is king for a reason. It wasn’t just through luck that founder Mark Zuckerberg’s darling came to reign supreme over the social media kingdom. It was, in fact, a series of smart moves and innovative features that set the platform apart from the rest of the social media pack. First and foremost, the 2007 launch of the Facebook Platform was key to the site’s success. The open API made it possible for third-party developers to create applications that work within Facebook itself. Almost immediately after being released, the platform gained a massive amount of attention. At one point in time, Facebook had hundreds of thousands of apps built on the platform, so many that Facebook launched the Facebook App Store to organize and display them all. Twitter, meanwhile, created its own API and enjoyed similar success as a result (The History of Social Networking).

Today, there is a tremendous variety of social networking sites, and many of them can be linked to allow cross-posting. This creates an environment where users can reach the maximum number of people without sacrificing the intimacy of person-to-person communication. We can only speculate about what the future of social networking may look in the next decade or even 100 years from now, but it seems clear that it will exist in some form for as long as humans are alive (Complete History of Social Media: Then and now).

In March 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus VR, a company on the cusp of mass producing virtual-reality headsets. Upon sealing the deal, Zuckerberg commented regarding the communication potential for the platform, highlighting the slew of potential uses for the virtual technology when it comes to academics, viewing live events, and consulting with doctors face-to-face. However, Facebook has taken a hands-off approach in its management of Oculus VR, allowing the company to continue focusing predominately on gaming applications while other parties — i.e. the Pentagon — quietly look into using virtual reality headsets for military purposes. A number of medical experts have even begun using virtual reality to treat anxiety, combat-induced P.T.S.D., and other pronounced mental illnesses. Adult entertainment, meanwhile, has invested in virtual reality for years (The History of Social Networking).

It appears a good deal of people have high hopes that virtual reality will become the next blockbuster computing platform. The technology already exists, and with the consumer version of the Oculus Rift VR headset released on sale in late 2014 for under $300, the potential for widespread adoption of virtual reality has never been greater. Note that augmented reality differs from virtual reality in that it applies digital interaction to the real world instead of creating an audio-visual experience from scratch. In terms of social networking, augmented reality offers a number of possibilities. For instance, people could share their name, interests, relationship status, and mutual friends all within a digital sphere (The History of Social Networking).

Believe it or not, augmented reality already exists in apps like Yelp and Google Ingress. Smartphones are more than capable of delivering augmented reality, and as one might expect, the technology is the entire concept driving Google Glass’ digital integration with the real world. Google’s deliberate decision to sell Glass at an inflated price of $1,500, however, is likely meant to exclude the general public while the tech giant and a selective group of consumers — aka “explorers” work to hammer out the device’s flaws. The day Google lowers the price of Glass to its estimated production cost of $150 marks the day when widespread adoption of augmented reality, including augmented reality in social networking, becomes a greater possibility. Until then, there’s always Snapchat and the overuse of hashtags in just about everything we do (The History of Social Networking).

As long of a history as social media may have, its evolution has created some very split opinions on the subject. Many people may view social media as a good way to catch criminals, while others may view this as privacy exposure. For example, socialnetworking.procon.org mentions that law enforcement uses social networking sites to catch and prosecute criminals. 67% of federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals surveyed think "social media helps solve crimes more quickly." In 2011 the NYPD added a Twitter tracking unit and has used social networking to arrest criminals who have bragged of their crimes online. When the Vancouver Canucks lost the 2011 Stanley Cup in Vancouver, the city erupted into riots. Social media was used to catch vandals and rioters as social networking site users tagged the people they knew in over 2,000 photos posted to the sites (Are Social Networking Sites Good for Our Society).

While on the contradicting side, socialnetworking.procon.org also mentions that Social networking sites lack privacy and expose users to government and corporate intrusions. Thirteen million users said they had not set or did not know about Facebook's privacy settings and 28% shared all or nearly all their posts publicly. The US Justice Department intercepted 1,661 pieces of information from social networking sites and e-mails in 2011. The 2009 IRS training manual teaches agents to scan Facebook pages for information that might "assist in resolving a taxpayer case.”  Nearly 4.7 million Facebook users have "liked" a health condition or medical treatment page, and that information is sometimes used by insurance companies to raise rates (Are Social Networking Sites Good for Our Society).

However, social media has proven to be most useful when it comes to finding the news or contacting friends or businesses. In fact, AJ Agrawal, from forbes.com mentions that with so much of the global community being nearly constantly connected to social media, delivering news alerts on social media channels reaches more people faster. News outlets can share breaking stories, alerts and other important bits of news instantly with their followers. When more people are aware of a situation, those working to secure locations and ensure the safety of the general public can perform their job duties more efficiently (It's Not All Bad: The Social Good of Social Media).

Ann Smarty from seochat.com, also mentioned that we are living in a time where the world is open to us. We can contact anyone around the world, at any time, with just a few keystrokes. It is free, unlike calling across the ocean, and live. We can also share elements of our life, from what we enjoy to photos of ourselves and those in our lives. It is like being a part of that person’s world, even though distance keeps you apart (Social Media and Society: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly).

While on the other hand, Michael Kwan from socialnetworking.lovetoknow.com, mentioned that Social networking, with the noted exception of professional networks like LinkedIn, is mostly geared toward personal use as a casual, leisurely activity. However, social media addiction may be hampering worker's productivity when they are in the office. Workers who surf social media instead of doing work could be costing their employers millions of dollars in lost productivity (Reasons Why Social Networking Is Bad).

Sarah Snow from socialmediatoday.com, also mentioned that Social media has some serious repercussions on productivity. People are using social media while they are supposed to be working. Social media has caused, in a sense, the death of privacy. Not only do your friends and family know everything about you, so does any company that can pay for your data. Trolls. Social media and the Internet at large open us up to criticism from anonymous trolls (Is Social Media Bad for Us).

On a different subject, Kelly Wallace from cnn.com, mentions that teens say social media is more positive than negative. In fact, according to a report last year by the nonprofit child advocacy group Common Sense Media, one in five teens said social media makes them feel more confident, compared with 4% who said it makes them feel less so. In the survey of more than 1,000 13- to 17-year-olds about how they view their digital lives, 28% said social networking made them feel more outgoing versus 5% who said it made them feel less so; and 29% said it made them feel less shy versus the 3% who said it made them feel more introverted (The upside of selfies: Social media isn't all bad for kids).

Netessays.net, however, said that as teens become more and more enthralled with social media, their everyday attitudes and behaviors begin to change. Studies show that minors who are frequently active on social media sites are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, be more sexually active, and violent. Today it is normal for modern technology to show many forms of violence such as gun battles, riots, sniper attacks, and acts of physical violence (Is Social Media Good or Bad).

However, Nathan E. Baker from techwalla.com, said that for young people and adolescents, using social media can lead to better social skills like making friends and carrying on a conversation. Shy and introverted users find it easier to interact with strangers when a computer screen stands between them. This can be a great benefit for children with handicaps that confine them to the home, giving them an opportunity to interact with others while feeling safe, which can lead to greater self-confidence (Six Good Things about Social Networking).

Yet at the same time, Brian Jung from smallbusiness.chron.com, mentions that the immediacy provided by social media is available to predators as well as friends. Kids especially are vulnerable to the practice of cyber-bullying in which the perpetrators, anonymously or even posing as people their victims trust, terrorize individuals in front of their peers. The devastation of these online attacks can leave deep mental scars. In several well-publicized cases, victims have even been driven to suicide. The anonymity afforded online can bring out dark impulses that might otherwise be suppressed. Cyber-bullying has spread widely among youth, with 42% reporting that they have been victims, per a 2010 CBS News report (The Negative Effect of Social Media on Society and Individuals).

As for what has been listed and argued, social media/networking is a topic with a great deal of controversy. But that was the idea for social media in the first place, “communication.” There have been many arguments on social media based on whether it is a good or bad thing. But in my opinion I still view it as a good thing. I know there are several things that may consider it to be bad, but I think it is more useful than harmful. On the points of no privacy, stalkers, and less productivity, there are ways to prevent this. You can secure your accounts, be less open to the public, and a manager could put restrictions on how social media is used on the job. My philosophy is that if it can be fixed, than it’s not broken. Or in this case, if it can be prevented, then it’s not a bad thing.

Jonathan Holman was a Composition 1 student at Edison State Community College, Darke County Campus, in the fall semester. His essay, “Social Media: A Good Thing or a Bad Thing?” was his Capstone Research Commentary. It is being published with permission, and was chosen for CNO readers due to the quality of the assignment submission and relevance of the topic. It does not necessarily represent the opinion of County News Online or Edison State Community College.


 
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