Social Media: For Good or Ill

This month at the Humanist Society of West Yorkshire, Simon Duncan presented a talk on social media – what it is and whether it is a good thing or not. Of course, the answer is yes.

Social media brings us huge benefits, at relatively little cost – and indeed almost no monetary cost, as sites like Facebook are all free. Unfortunately, it tends to take a bad wrap because of people not really thinking their arguments through. You can blame the media a little for this, but I don’t think they shoulder that much responsibility.

Take cyber bullying for example. It’s ace. Kids are going to bully other kids anyway, that is just part of society, at least at the moment. But with cyber bullying – you have a full paper trail of everything that has gone on! If social media has made the bullying situation worse for anyone, it’s the bullies! You can now just take your text messages straight to the school, or even the police. None of this complicated business of having to prove what they said with witnesses.

According to Simon, studies have also shown that using social media actually increases real world interaction. That’s certainly true of me – the main reason I use Facebook is to organise real world events with my friends. As well as plenty of other uses of course, such as keeping in touch with friends I otherwise couldn’t keep in touch with affectively because they’re in a different timezone in a different part of the world.

Other fears include issues like privacy and targetted advertising. Perhaps this has been a problem in the past, but with increased awareness of the situation, companies are now putting in place the tools to effectively manage your privacy and you can quickly and instantly lock down your profile, most of which is restricted to approved friends only anyway. This is arguably far more secure than the records the government has for example, which will probably end up on a USB stick left on a public train.

Targeting advertising is actually a massive benefit to us – because more effective advertising means less advertising. If companies can reach their target audience more effectively, they need to reach less people, so they spend less on blanket advertising. This is evident from the reduction of advertising – remember all the big flashing banners and pop-ups that plagued the internet – most of those have now given way to these small text links on Google and Facebook, and the web is much the better for it.



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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2012 at 12:14 pm and is filed under Events, Humanism, Tech, Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.