Internet has been the most amazing thing invented in the last century. When internet was new, there were expectations that it will greatly change our world and it has indeed become true. It is almost unimaginable to think of a life without internet now. One of the reasons internet is so important is due to its communication capabilities and the real potential of internet as a communication technology has been shown by social media. Social media has mostly been a positive force when it comes to communication but like any other technology, there are potential costs, too.
When we think about older communication technologies such as telegraph and telephone, we realize that new communication technologies are embraced because they are more efficient and convenient than older communication technologies. This is why social media has become such an important part of our lives because it makes communication even more efficient and convenient than older communication styles such as telephone conversation. When we talk on phone, we can usually talk with only one person. But on social media we can talk with hundreds and even thousands of friends at a time. We do so in several ways such as posting a status or even sending direct message as social media such as Facebook and Twitter etc. allow us to do so. In addition, the nature of the communication is more permanent as compared to telephone communication. It is also time saving because an important announcement before internet would often require making individual telephone calls or sending postal mails which were also inconvenient and slower processes in addition to being time-consuming.
Social media doesn’t only allow individuals to communicate with those they already know but also easily find people who may have similar interests or opinions. There are different communities on Facebook on a wide range of topics some of whom focus on information sharing and discussions while others may focus on particular hobbies and interests. Before social media, it would have been quite a challenging task to find people with similar interests except among friends and acquaintances but now it take few clicks to find people with similar interests from all over the world.
Social media has also helped people become connected on a global scale. It is as easy for an American in New York City to communicate with an Indian in Mumbai as it is for him to communicate with a fellow citizen in New York City. In other words, distance doesn’t matter on social media when it comes to ease and cost of communication. Social media has also helped people increase their knowledge and awareness of events that occur in other countries and a great example of this was social media activities during Arab Spring.
Social media doesn’t only allow individuals to engage in personal communication more efficiently but also helps businesses communicate with their customers better. This is why social media has become a major marketing tool for businesses. When businesses market through traditional media such as TV, radio, and newspapers, the communication only flows from businesses to customers. In other words, customers are not able to communicate through traditional media. But on social networks, communication flows both ways. Not only businesses are able to market to customers but can also hear back from customers. There is a reason many leading companies actively monitor opinions and ideas of their customers on social media in order to respond to them or generate new ideas. For example, Dell and Southwest Airlines have dedicated social media teams that monitor customers’ thoughts and opinions on social media such as Facebook and Twitter (Mukherjee).
But just as social media has been a blessing in communication area, it may also cause certain problems. First of all, it is not possible or extremely difficult for individuals to select their communication audience which may have unintended costs. It is not unusual for us to hear about or read on the internet as to how someone lost job due to a post on the internet or how companies visit social media profiles to do background checks on job applicants. Another problem is the relatively permanent nature of communication on social media. Even if one deletes what he/she may have written, others take copy of the post and share it endlessly. This particularly happens with public figures or sensational issues. Lack of privacy is also a concern as noted above that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to control who sees your profile and/or posts. This task is only made difficult by the fact that social media companies continue to change their privacy settings and interface which is why Facebook often gets criticized.
But the costs should not discourage one to avoid social media because the benefits are greater than the costs. Moreover, costs can be reduced through more responsible social media lifestyle. First of all, one should think before posting something as to whether it may cause embarrassment or trouble. Second, one should never post sensitive material. It is also important to avoid language or issues that are controversial because one’s friends and acquaintances come from diverse backgrounds.
It is clear that social media is a revolutionizing communication platform. It is possible to communicate with several people at once. Social media also allows one to easily find others with similar interests and ideas. Social media is also helping people connect with those from other countries and cultures and helping form a truly global community. In addition to helping individuals, social media is also helping businesses better connect with customers and understand them. But there are certain downsides, too such as the potential of economic costs due to controversial or embarrassing material/post and loss of privacy. The key is to adopt responsible social media habits to minimize costs.
- Mukherjee, Writankar. “10,000+ social media experts required as UB Group, LG Electronics, Canon, Future Group and.” The Economic Times 1 October 2011.