– Dr. S. Shyam Prasad
Very recently, Rajdeep Sardesai, one of India’s well-known television journalists, disabled his Twitter account. He cited “concerted campaign of lies and abuse on a daily basis” being the reason for his action. This raises the question about the nature of the social media. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? This may not be the first time we are confronted with this question. Well, the answer is that it has two sides to it – the good side and the bad side. It depends on which side one uses. It is true that some people applaud it while some others criticize it for its negative impact on the society on the whole and the young in particular. Let us examine the facts.
Social Media: The Good Side
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites have revolutionized the way people interact. By just opening a website, we can communicate with many at one go. It has created platforms to convey our thoughts and feeling on different topics to the world. It has helped even the shy and taciturn to express their opinions. It gives opportunity to create groups of likeminded people to share relevant information.
The social media has helped many to connect with the new people. It has also helped many to find their long lost friends on the net. The social network helps to build better relationships with dear and near ones with whom it may not be possible to meet frequently. Some even argue that social media increases the social interaction of children while they adapt to new technology.
Social media has become one of the important tools in business. No business can afford to ignore social media if it wants to be successful at a higher level. Businesses are aware of its power and potential and almost all of them have geared to meet the requirements. It has helped both the businesses as well as the consumers in sorting out their problems too.
Social Media: The Bad Side
A major drawback of the social media is its potential for addiction – the constant checking of Facebook, Twitter, or other social media updates. Many studies have shown that – both the young and the old – are capable of addiction. They are either tempted to post something or check for updates. This may cause disturbance in their workplace or their family life. A study by Nucleus Research finds that Facebook takes away 1.5% off office productivity while another research by Morse found that British companies lost 2.2 billion a year to the social phenomenon.
Another major risk of the usage of social media is – paradoxically – is isolation. Over dependence or over usage of social media may lead to a reduced level of human interaction. The social media has given a scope for people to hide behind their online identities.
Rawhide, a nonprofit organization, examined social media users’ obsession with selfies and narcissistic tendencies, and its findings included that more people died from taking selfies in 2015 than from shark attacks. Recently an Indian teenager accidently shot himself in the head with his father’s gun while trying to take a “selfie” photograph.
Baroness Susan Greenfield, a top neuroscientist of the Oxford University warns about the lifelong effects of too much social networking.
The Social Media
In 1971, a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo using college students conducted an experiment at Stanford University. The experiment is known as Stanford Prison Experiment. 24 students for this experiment were selected painstakingly without any bias whom they deemed to be the most psychologically stable and healthy. Half of them were assigned the role of prison guards and the other half were made the prisoners. All of them agreed to play their roles with the right to leave the experiment at any time one wanted without any questions being asked. The experiment was to go on for two weeks. Professor Zimbardo took on the role of the superintendent. Within 36 hours, the guards had internalized their roles to the extent that they became abusive – both psychologically and physically. The conditions of the prison become so bad that the experiment was completely stopped on the sixth day, well ahead of its planned duration. Professor Philip Zimbardo, attributed the sudden outbreak of sadism on the “power of situations”. The results of the experiment favor situational attribution of behavior rather than dispositional attribution. Simply put, the experiment indicated that the situation surrounding a person, rather than his individual personalities, caused the participants’ behavior.
The abuse of social media can be explained or understood by means of the above experiment. The power to post anything on the social media, Twitter particularly, using anonymous handles, gives enormous power to the people. There have been many examples, besides Rajdeep Sardesai, on how social media can turn normal human beings in to ugly monsters. Unfortunately, Twitter has ignored the instances of abuse. This does not augur well for the social media. Uncontrolled misuse of social media would surely bring down the respect the social media commands.
On the other hand, other experts say that it is far easier to do something remarkable and noticeable, and have it reach people across the planet, than it has been at any time in our history
(Landry, 2014). Social networks enable businesses across the world to reach globally. It has provided level playing field to both the small and the big.
Social media has come to stay. As with any communication medium, it comes with its pros and cons. The answer to the question whether social media is good or bad, it stands somewhere between the two. It all depends how it is used. The bottom line is that it is a powerful tool and no business can ignore it. It has to be used wisely.
Landry, T. (2014, September 5). business2community. Retrieved May 12, 2016, from business2community.com: http://www.business2community.com/social-media/social-media-changed-us-good-bad-01000104#jfghiphALj2jDDd4.97