Sure, social media is amazing. It’s social. It’s media. It connects me with people all around the world. It helps me stay in contact with people I’d otherwise fall out of contact with. But it’s not all hugs and unicorns. At the very least there are five things wrong with it…
1. Social media is an echo chamber
Naturally the majority of people you connect with on social media are people that you already know or who have similar interests to you. This means that when you post about something that’s important to you – the effect of sea level rises on pacific nations, for example – and you get a whole bunch of likes or retweets or whatever, you might come to the mistaken assumption that you’re making a difference. But really all you’re doing is talking to people who already agree with you, members of your tribe.
2. Social media sucks away your time into an unending black hole
You wake up in the morning, see what’s happening on Facebook, how many likes your last post – a gif of a puppy rolling over adorably – has got overnight from your friends in different time zones, then switch to twitter to see what people are talking about. Oh look, there’s a link to an interesting article. Let’s post that to Facebook, shall we? And the picture’s good, so up on Pinterest that goes. A notification pops up that someone new liked your Instagram post from yesterday afternoon and followed you. You check out their profile. Too many selfies at the gym. Nothing interesting. Is it time to head back to Facebook again?
3. Cyber-bullies and other arseholes
The relative anonymity of social media, and the physical distance from one person to another, means that some people feel less inhibited when it comes to what they say. The extreme end of this becomes racist, sexist, sexually aggressive, transphobic, ableist and other discriminatory behaviour. There’s an element of herd behaviour about this with people jumping in and attacking someone purely because someone else has. It’s a brave human that says something mildly controversial and takes on the Middle Aged White Dude Brigade, who know everything and are soooo much better than everyone else.
4. People are products
This isn’t something exclusive to social media. Have you ever noticed how the things that you talk about in your Gmail emails sometimes have relevance to what shows up on your Facebook page? That’s because Google probably scrapes everything you write for keywords and sells it to Facebook, who charge Page-holders through the nostrils to advertise effectively to their audiences. Write this down and repeat it to yourself before you go to bed: if you’re getting something for free, you’re the product.
5. Clickbait is now a thing
Remember the days when newspapers had journalists on the books that had the time to spend following leads and researching stories of general interest to the public? Yes, so that’s a mildly long bow to draw, but consider the impact of clickable headings on the quality of what we read these days ‘…you won’t believe what happens next’, ‘what happens next will shock you,’ etc. and we’d be foolish to assume that in the days of dwindling profits for news organisations this doesn’t have an effect on the type of copy journalists are asked to produce.
And with that we end 5 Things Wrong With Social Media. Exactly what did you click on this link again anyway?