According to Statista.com, 78 percent of Americans have at least one social media account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the like. The report also notes that the number of worldwide social media users is expected to go from 1.6 billion today to more than 2.5 billion by 2018. As for popularity, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are the top three platforms at the moment, with Pinterest and SnapChat trailing close behind.
There is no question that as the digital landscape continues to expand social media, in some form, will remain a big part of it. For many, these platforms can be effective tools for business or personal branding. They can help families stay in touch or offer an outlet for personal expression. But, as with anything, the good must come with some bad.
Because of its open, uncensored platform, however, social media can also be a problem for many people, personally and professionally. Expressing an unpopular opinion in social media is like tossing a live grenade into a room and then standing there to be blown up with everyone else.
A Pew Research report indicated this year that 6 of every 10 Americans rely on social media as their main resource for news. That’s somewhat disturbing. Why? Because a great many social media users never bother to read the entire story or watch the full video from any news outlet, reacting only to the headline they see, which may be misleading.
Social media satisfies that urge for immediacy, leaving little or no room for details and the “full story.” Its very nature precludes the idea of excessive length, with every idea boiled down to 140 characters or an unqualified image of some kind.
When emotions are charged – and virtually all reactionary social media posts are emotionally driven – common sense and forethought go right out the window. People don’t think things through before they post a comment or statement.
It’s like saying something to a friend during an argument that probably wouldn’t have been said otherwise. One might imagine that since typing out a response requires time and effort that at least some thought would go into how to say something without making matters worse.
Social media can be particularly harrowing to navigate during this most heated of election seasons. Since Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were confirmed as the presidential candidates for their respective parties, heated debate; no, more like pointless bickering that rarely contains any sort of fact or logic, has led to people parting company on social media.
And this is happening at an alarming pace. The Washington Post has even reported something that might be surprising. According to them, liberals are more likely to unfriend people on Facebook because of political disagreements than their conservative counterparts.
As the countdown continues to November 8th, Trump continues his late night Twitter tirades, attacking anyone and everyone who says anything against him. Naturally, this causes a social media blowback and Trump’s tweets are plastered all over the news – accomplishing exactly what he set out to do – get more publicity. Trump, like many other social media users, sees any publicity as good publicity.
That might be OK for celebrities, but for the rest of the cyber lifers, negativity on social media is getting pretty tiring. Besides political differences, people will unfriend or stop following someone’s feed because of constant complaining or negativity.
It’s likely that every single person reading this story right now knows someone in their lives for whom the world is crashing down around them all the time. Social media gives these people an outlet for their anguish and it spreads like a virus.
Unfortunately, none of this is likely to change in the near future. The nature and uses for social media are evolving, but the people using it remain the same.
The best thing to do is try to stay positive – although that can be pretty challenging some days. Use social media for its intended purposes, to stay connected to family, friends, clients and associates. And hang in there; the election will be over soon. Maybe then people can get back to posting pictures of their breakfast. Who would have thought anyone would miss that?
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Catch the Deer In Headlines podcast on iTunes and at MyGreenRadio.com. More at deerinheadlines.com