Over the next minute, 19 million texts will be sent via WhatsApp, 2.5 Million snaps will be created, another 1.3 Million users will log into Facebook, about 194,444 tweets will be sent and 190 Emails will be sent. Visit Internet Live Stats for a peep into what is going on over the web. And it is fast-moving. This is to give you a view of what goes on the internet and social platforms. It was a remote idea that we would be so hooked onto the internet but here we are. The question is, how are social media and the internet affecting us? Is it good? How bad could it be? Read along for my views from my research into the matter over years of using these platforms and researching how best to use social media for good.
What Is Social Media?
Most people strongly believe that they know what social media is. As much as that may be true, most people do not understand the full extent and meaning of social media. Of course, who cares? But if 2 hours of your day every day is spent on one or two social media apps, you might want to take a closer look. What exactly is social media and how does a typical SM platform work? How do they even make money so that I can enjoy the platform for free? These are mind-boggling questions that may not be easily discernible by surfing Facebook or Twitter. Good news is, I have some answers.
Definition of Social Media
A Social media is a platform which allows people to sign up, create and share their own content (User-generated content), connect freely with others based on their terms, ease of use, interoperability between users and all this is done in a real-time setting. Social platforms are built on the web 2.0 technology which allows such participatory culture in a real-time way.
Social media now incorporate higher technologies such as web 3.0 and web 4.0. Our well-known platforms include Facebook, Instagram (Owned by Facebook), Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Other not so well-known ones include Vine, Quora, Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, Wattpad, Academia and Tinder. There are of course probably thousands of them out there.
One feature of social platforms is their promise of privacy of their users. Due to the personal nature of the platforms for the user, it is therefore important that the users trust the platforms before they sign up. India recently banned a good number of apps and social media from their country including the fastest-growing worldwide, TikTok, due to similar concerns.
Now how exactly do these platforms work?
The Typical social media experience starts with signing up with a username and an email address. Other platforms require a phone number or ask you to add it for a better experience. Twitter typically uses your phone number to confirm you are the real owner of the account upon any suspicious activity.
Once you sign up, you are a member and can create, access and share content freely. You can enjoy the features of the platforms such as connecting with family, celebrities, or whatever your reason is for joining.
All platforms have terms and conditions as well as policies in privacy and guidelines on how users are to use the platform. You are either suspended, removed or have limited access when you infringe or violate some of these policies.
They typically send you updates on your activity and the activities of another user with whom you are connected to or may be interested in. Social media platforms typically have to study your activity over time to construct a good understanding of what you might like and what might not like. Through this, they’re able to make suggestions and show you adverts, the main way of making money for them.
How Social Media Platforms Make Money
Advertisements. Have you ever wondered why you have all the options on social media except to remove ads from your feed? The best you can do is to request to not receive certain ads such as from a particular advertiser but you cannot refuse to be shown ads. This is because that is how they make money to keep the platform free for you. YouTube has added a feature that allows a user to use their platform without adverts but that is a paid feature so they continue to make money.
If you are a business, you can use these features to reach the right audience you want. It is a very powerful marketing tool that can help you reach your business goals and objectives. The number of businesses that have risen through the power of social media alone is more than we can count. But also, the number of businesses that have falling due to social media are many. Like every tool, it depends on the users. As a business, do you even need an SM manager or plan?
Social media: The Good and Advantages
- Connects the People of the World
This is the foremost promise of most platforms: Connectivity. They help you connect with your family, loved ones, friends and other people and causes which you may be interested in.
- Great For Marketing
As already made clear, these platforms are great marketing tools for any business, brand or organisation. With the information that the platforms have on their users, they can help you to reach the exact audience you need in order to reach your marketing and business goals.
To do this, you do not necessarily have to pay for adverts. A strategic plan can help you with or without paying for ads. Are you confused about social media, find out how to utilise it for your business here?
- Free Speech, Voice for the Masses and New Media
The rise of social media activists was made possible by of course social media. It has helped foster free speech, helped people with little voices to connect with like-minded people for the cause of having a bigger voice in order to be heard and also increased the proliferation of media some of whom operate solely online and use social platforms as their main distribution points.
- Great Networking Opportunity
The concept of 6 degrees says that you are 6 connections away from any person you may want to meet. Social media can make it a single degree away. As far as they’re on the platform, you can easily connect with them. LinkedIn is a great platform to get a job and so is Facebook. Both platforms have features to allow for job adverts and application. However, LinkedIn is a more professional-oriented platform than Facebook.
- Entertainment and Leisure Use
Social media is also a great place to blow off the steam, relax and entertain yourself during work, on weekends or at your leisure time. Comedians, celebrities and other interesting characters on social media will make sure your time spent on it isn’t worse than your “real life”. It is no surprise that some users use social media as an escape from their troubles.
- Awareness and Activism
The BlackLivesMatter campaign is one of the most popular and most participated campaigns. Even today, users still post about the various matters in relation to it. This isn’t the only campaign that has received attention. There are lots of them and any user can start one with either a simple post or a well-coordinated strategy to raise awareness towards a certain cause.
- Facilitates Collaboration
The power of connection foster collaboration. I have connected with and interviewed people by a simple social media connection. I have gained business partners, customers and so forth from social platforms. For creators, social platforms are a goldmine for finding fellow creators. This extends to any field. All you need is find them and you may be one step away from chatting away with your mentor, or someone you greatly respect.
Social Media: The Bad and Disadvantages
- Information Overload
If you have used any of these platforms, you would agree with me that there is no rest for your mind and attention immediately to open up an app. The endless feed, the bright colours, the rush of emotional rewards we as get likes, seeing people living our dream lives, news reports and an eternally endless stream of data which our mind is meant to process. The information is simply a lot to work around. This kind of exhaustion alone can make you tired before your day even starts. Certain successful people are known to automate certain decisions such as their food, clothing and other mundane aspects of their lives. This habit is to enable their minds to focus on what really matters in life. Our minds have a limited span of focus hence we cannot spend our mind powers on processing everything we find on social media. You get easily tired from such an activity.
- Misinformation, Fake News and Click Baits
With the free proliferation of news and information comes the terror of fake news, click baits and gross misinformation. Our fast-paced world has created a media that is interested in being the first to report and not necessarily the one to report the facts based on research and facts. All media houses are fast to report anything they hear, regardless of the source or if it’s even the right information. This is even worse with bloggers. They must be regulated like traditional media! Another look at this is the individual user creating public awareness of false report which then gets taken by our 2 by 4 media bloggers which sometimes gets fed to the traditional media houses.
- Reduced Productive Hours
Countless research has shown that social media has contributed to the decline in productivity in the average person’s life, whether they’re a worker, business owner or something else. The average person is said to spend 2 hours daily on social media. While a select few are said to spend as much as 4 hours a day – That is half the workday spent on social media. So much waste! On this scale, such people are wasting away their lives and will probably lose their jobs caused by some addiction to social platforms. Most people don’t even know when they drift into social media, before they know it they have spent as much as 30 minutes on multiple platforms. Crazy!
- Bullying Has Taken Over And Become Easier
With social media comes bullying. It has probably made it even easier for those why enough to do it in person. Now anyone can hide behind their social media profile to bully anyone!
- Privacy Issues, Data Mining and Security Concerns
Everyone thought social media platforms were their friends until he Cambridge Analytica Facebook issue erupted years after the fact. It was devastating enough to create the “Delete Facebook” stir and others also called for Delete Social Media. These campaigns weren’t enough to cause much damage to the all-powerful social media corporations beyond a US senate hearing and warning coupled with a fraction fine on their wealth which they can replenish within a relatively short time. Anyway, privacy and security are their greatest promise hence they have to thread well.
- Social Media is Potentially Bad For Your Mental Health
Social media use in general has been shown to be bad for your mental health. Chances are even far worse for users on multiple platforms and frequently check them up in a frenzied manner. This shows a lack of control over your actions toward social media. It makes it difficult to resist hence you may drift onto social platforms without knowing it and even worse, for no reason at all. It is an addiction!
- Declining Attention Span
Social media platforms are constantly being improved and updated to keep your attention. You may notice platforms such as Facebook releases updates quite often. As much as they are adding updates, they are also looking for ways to keep you glued onto the app. The more you are on it, the more you give them in data points for targeted ads for advertisers which brings them money.
“The best minds of my generation are thinking of ways to make people click ads” – Unknown.
The Feedback Loop: How Social Media Actually Works.
You may have noticed that social media platforms are quite good at suggesting stuff to you. Is it that celebrity, your favourite car brand page, and other odd things? This is because as you use the app, they learn and more about you. Imagine they collect information about all posts you like, pages you follow, comments you make, and so many other information including those that you give to them such as your name, location, date of the birth, workplace, etc. All this information helps them to create a quite accurate picture of you.
The algorithms are then designed to show you only content that you might like, not content that is good for you since they assume what is good for you is what you have been interacting with already. They show you what is popular, what your friends are interacting with much as pages and posts. What then you interact with frequently creates a loop that feeds you more and more of that?
Another aspect of all this is, if your friends or connection are also creating content that isn’t good for you, it is what you would be fed.
- Algorithms of death
- Not what is good, but what is popular
“What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” ― Albert Einstein
I recently downloaded a 48 Gigabyte file of the data Google has on me. You can download yours here. You can also download your Facebook data.
How do you stay productive with social media?
- Have a set of goals for your social media use
Having goals determines how you use them. Not aimlessly but with a goal is the way you start being productive.
- Don’t check social media immediately you wake up
Checking social media right in the morning when you wake up is a bad way to start considering the load it places on your mental faculties. It quickly saps your energy and has the potential of creating a bad mood considering the unpredictable nature of posts you can see once you are on the platforms.
- Cultivate A Strong Critical Thinking Mind
Without strong critical thinking skills, it would be hard accepting what you see online. You may get jealous of someone who only rented a car to take pictures for social media, or outrightly believe a ridiculous news report which is likely false, critically thinking and analysing what you see on social media will save you the shock that such content may inflict on others.
- Have a predetermined time you visit social media
Having time when you visit social media is a great way to become productive. This implies a more controlled and conscious use of social platforms which is already a step above the vast majority of social platform users.
Read my full piece on social media productivity here.
Is social media even good for you?
Do you think social media is good for you? Like other tools, yes social media is a tool, it can be harnessed for good or for bad. The one who determines its ultimate use is the majority of those using the tool the gun was invented for good, but look at how it turned out. Over to you. Share what you think in the comments below.