Monday, 5 October 2015

Why Social Media Is The Best And Worst Thing To Happen To Society

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr... Virtually everybody in modern day society has at least one of these social media platforms, with one in seven people in the world logging on to Facebook in one day a few weeks back. Social media has caused an online revolution and has affected every single one of us in some way and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon. Despite social media revolutionising the way we use the internet, I maintain that it is both one of the best things to happen to society, whilst simultaneously being one of the worst.

I'll start with the obvious. Without social media, blogging just wouldn't exist. I have most of my following on Instagram and Twitter, with over 16,000 people following me collectively on just those two platforms, which is absolutely amazing. Social media has opened up a wealth of opportunities for so many people. Look at Zoella who is making an absolute fortune and doing something she loves as a career, all through the power of YouTube and social media. High street brands can reach out to their customers in a more personal way and the internet has allowed smaller businesses to grow due to the immense reach just one social media account can have. Looking for somewhere to eat? Just look on a hashtag of your area and something is bound to come up. 

Facebook is the platform which most people tend to be on as it appeals to people from the older generation too, whereas in my experience, it's the younger generation that actively use platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Facebook allows us to keep in touch with old friends and relatives, who we may not have even spoken to otherwise. We can see what literally everyone is doing at a given moment, whether they're on holiday and sharing their snaps, or whether they're posting a status about getting a takeaway and watching X Factor. We can feel connected with people we may never have met before and I know I've made some fantastic friends through Twitter and Instagram, some of whom I've gone on to meet, and some of whom I simply talk to online. I think the greatest thing is that we can meet so many more people who have the same interests as we do. I don't know anyone in my area who has the same interests as me but thanks to the reach of social media, I speak to people on a daily basis who I just know I'd be best friends with in real life. 

Now, from that point of view, the world of social media looks like sunshine and rainbows, connecting us with people from all over the world and introducing us to ideas that may never have even crossed our minds. However, as we're all too aware, social media has a dark side. 

Social media brings out the worst in people. There's no denying it. People say things to each other that they would never dream of saying in real life and insult people in the worst ways possible and sometimes can even go as far as actively trying to ruin someone's life. Revenge porn is probably the worst example of this and intimate photos of ex girlfriends and ex boyfriends appear on Facebook almost daily. I've seen it happen on my own newsfeed. That person's life is most likely ruined for now but the photo got a hundred comments and who knows how many people talked about it, so it was worth it....right? Wrong. How many statuses do you see every day slagging a friend off, a brand, a job, a specific person who may work in a specific place? Social media seems to have become the place where we go to let off steam in the worst possible way and because we don't have to face the consequences there and then, we don't think of the consequences posts like this can have on people. You may have just lost Terry who works at Sainsbury's his job but hey, you don't have to directly see that happen so why should you care?

I've experienced first hand just how nasty social media can be. You may remember in January when I tweeted about the footballer Ched Evans, a convicted rapist who was to be offered a football contract. My notifications exploded and before I knew it, I had almost 8,000 retweets and 4,000 favourites. Say whaaaat?! You'd think this was a good thing, that my point of view had been shared with literally thousands of people who agreed with me but alas, the abuse I got for weeks afterwards was simply disgusting, some of which I've posted below. 

This wasn't the half of it and I ended up with over 400 messages and tweets calling me a slut, ugly, fat, stupid, telling me to kill myself and even one which seemed to insinuate that I should be raped. Most of these messages, though not all, came from anonymous accounts with pictures of footballers and cars as their profile photos and I think that's where the problem lies. Social media gives us a sense of anonymity. These people didn't know me at all and had never even heard of me before they saw my tweet but still took it upon themselves to tell me to kill myself. Imagine I'd expressed the same opinion in real life. Would these same people have said "go and fucking kill yourself"? Of course they wouldn't. Social media gives us a sense of anonymity and because you're not face to face it's hard to imagine that there is a real life person at the receiving end of these tweets and it hurts just as much as it would saying it in real life. Another example. After the election, I got a tweet from a girl who said "you didn't vote Conservative because you're frightened your benefits will be stopped. You'll never contribute to this society." (actual quote). This girl, who had never heard of me before, felt entitled to judge me and my life. (p.s. she was completely wrong as I work two jobs, study law at Durham University and run my blog #justsaying ;)) 

You probably saw Em Ford's #YouLookDisgusting video on YouTube a few months ago (if not watch it here) and that illustrates my point exactly. I've only experienced this once or twice. I can't even imagine what it must feel like to get such heartless comments from people who don't even know you every single day and the sad thing is, reading some of the comments on the video itself shows yet again how ignorant a lot of people are to the damage which can be done by online trolling and bullying. I got a tweet the other day from someone who said that "online bullying cannot ever be as bad as bullying in real life because online you can't get acid thrown in your face" (yes that is a quote, someone actually said that to me) and said that it's simple because you can just block people abusing you. Sadly this is the mentality a lot of people have. Online abuse and bullying can have just as much as an impact on someone's life as bullying in real life and I know that someone else said to me on Twitter that for them online bullying was worse as it was people she didn't even know telling her to kill herself.

Moral of the story: make social media a nicer place to be. If you wouldn't say it in real life, don't say it on social media. Instead of telling people to "block trolls and bullies online", why can't we tell the trolls and the bullies to just stop? Social media can be, and is, a wonderful thing, when it's used in the right way.

Sorry for the long winded rant but I've seen so many awful comments on Twitter and Facebook recently, I had to get it off my chest!

Amy x
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