Social networking has inevitably redefined social interactions for good. Since the inception of every social media platform, its rise had been unstoppable. A recent study shows that Facebook and Youtube continue to dominate this landscape among adults in the US, while majority of the younger users seem to use Snapchat and Instagram more often. If social media platforms are so utilized, how do they impact their users’ social interactions?
Social networking sites provide an additional avenue for connectivity, interaction, and creativity. Users are able to reach out to family and friends and stay up-to-date on their lives through their posts on social media. With the use of chat, they are able to communicate with peers in a timely manner anywhere. Users are also exposed to people of varied backgrounds and are able to exchange ideas with them, making their world virtually wider and more diverse. Furthermore, users are able to enhance their writing, reading, and critical thinking skills through the use these platforms.
Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube have become effective venues for news outlets to reach a larger audience, making social media users more politically aware now. Young users are able to form their own opinions on social issues and share their thoughts publicly.
In case of emergencies, social media platforms also come in handy and become crucial in emergency response and preparedness among citizens. The Federal Emergency Management Agency utilizes social media to facilitate the exchange of information during disasters. Through their smartphones, users can use FEMA’s app to receive alerts, updates, safety reminders, and preparedness tips. Users are involved and given the ability and the social responsibility to spread awareness more rapidly in desperate times.
With the benefits, come the risks and disadvantages of social media use. While these platforms are effective in the free flow of ideas among users, it has also become a venue of abuse. The anonymity that these sites provide, through the option to use names and identity other than their own, gives way to unfortunate encounters such as cyberbullying, harassment, and abuse. These encounters have deep and real-life damage on a person’s mental and emotional health, reputation, and safety.
In a 2017 study, it was found that roughly 4 in 10 Americans have personally experienced online harassment, while 66% have witnessed this behavior towards others online. They expressed that they were harassed online based on their politics, physical appearance, gender, race, and ethnicity. The Federal Bureau of Investigation stated in 2014 that 42% of kidshad experienced cyber bullying, while 35% had been threatened on social media platforms, as well. Fifty-three percent said that they have said something hurtful towards somebody online. The FBI considers cyber bullying as one of the most significant new issues that law enforcement needs to address.
The Communications Decency Act of 1996 states that online hosts are not liable for the content that users post on the platforms. However, 8 in 10 Americans feel that online services need to step in when harassment occurs, while 3 in 10 feels that stronger laws are needed in order to combat this type of online behavior. A good percentage of US adults expressed that law enforcement does not take online harassment cases seriously enough.