Social media: the good, the bad, and the ugly

I would just like to share this essay I wrote for a finals exam for the subject Group Dynamics. The question is:

The 21st Century is highly digitized, given the fast-paced expanding growth and development of technology-meditated communication (internet, social media, etc.). Assess and evaluate your technology use and expound on the advantages and disadvantages of its use to your interpersonal relations with others. Cite personal or work-related example/s and explain the dynamics using any of theories, philosophies, principles, processes, and concepts in Group Dynamics.

In the 21st century, social media is now an undeniable part of our life. It has changed how we communicate and our relationships with people. Now that more people are using smartphones, we can talk with other people no matter where they are in the globe. With free data and faster  internet connections, communication is getting even cheaper and easier.

As a millenial, I've tried and I'm using various social media accounts. I've used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Google. As an introvert, I found that sometimes I prefer talking to people through the internet than in real life. I can be more direct and clear in writing through screens than in speaking in real life. I can see my relatives who live abroad and friends I don't have time to meet. I can talk to my brother in Manila or my aunt in New Zealand through video calls. These free services are a big help for families with OFWs in other countries.

Announcements of important events, seminars, and job postings are often found on Facebook. Social media has also been a great help for my Masters degree studies. Since my classmates live in different places, we can use Group Chat in Facebook Messenger to discuss our projects. We use Google Drive to store and share study materials, and edit group projects together. You can also connect with other professionals in your field through social media. In seminars and workshops, I often add the people I knew there in my Facebook account so we can also share information in the future. You can keep up with the latest news and stalk your celebrity crushes online.

But as they say, too much of something is not always good. Facebook and other social media sites are designed for us to be "hooked" - we keep coming back to Facebook because the 'likes', attention, and validation makes us feel good. We end up showing only the best version of ourselves and our lives to get more 'likes'. As users, we also tend to get jealous of other people's accomplishments in their posts. Facebook has also become an avenue of fake news, gossip, propaganda, and even crime.

I've noticed that more people nowadays spend far more time online than they interact in real life. Because of the ‘likes’ and attention they get, people tend to represent themselves in a false way. They only post about their accomplishments and things that sometimes have no real meaning anyway. People spend far more time on their phones than talking to people around them, people spend far more time taking pictures to share in social media rather than live in the moment and enjoy their surroundings. People spend more time taking the perfect picture of their food instead of enjoying actually eating it. Instead of us using social media, social media is using us.

In my experience, I now have to deactivate my Facebook account because I found that I was wasting so much time just browsing the site. When people ask why I 'disappeared', most are so shocked that I deactivated Facebook. I admit that I dislike this reaction - Facebook has become so normal to us that not using it is seen as something abnormal. I think we should think critically of how social media shapes us. I'm still on social media but I'm trying to discipline myself not to waste so much time on it. Though social media provides great services, we must not forget that they are run by private companies who make money with the information we provide for free.

Social media's popularity is normal, as humans are social beings and these tools are there to facilitate and develop our communication as we form and maintain relationships. As humans, we all have the need to be seen, heard, and loved. It is good to share our thoughts, feelings, and lives but we have to admit that sometimes we only share these things to get attention and be admired. We end up being too focused on ourselves and how we appear in our internet profiles.

Social media has also changed the way we interact with others. Now, we have new verbs in our vocabulary that didn't exist years ago. We 'add' people to be our friends, we 'unfollow' a person whose posts we find distasteful, 'unfriending' means severing all connections with another person, and 'blocking' means getting rid of annoying people who keep bothering us. What we do in social media reflects and affects our relations in real life. In fact, social media has become so intertwined with real life that there is no separation anymore.

One disadvantage of social media is it can be an avenue of negative groupthink. People with the same beliefs band together and bash one another. During the May 2016 elections, there were people called 'Dutertards' who have unquestioned belief and loyalty to their candidate that they insult and bash others who don't believe in them. Now, even with all the issues of violence and extrajudicial killings with the current administration, there are still people in social media who actively support the President and are ready to fight at the slightest hint of criticizing him.

I speculate that in the future, social media will still continue to improve and will be a normal means of communication. However, people should be responsible users of social media. It is a great tool for communication and an avenue where we can exercise our freedom of speech, but we must remember that with this freedom also comes with our responsibility not to abuse it.

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  1. I really appreciate the kind of topics you post here. Thanks for sharing us a great information that is actually helpful. Good day!
    Social media