Scanning Freshly Pressed over the past few days, I have found a clear trend in articles on social media and social technologies. Roughly two thirds tend to focus on social media for business, which is great. Online media is an incredibly important thing for companies and professionals of every type to keep up with and use. But what about social media for, well, socialising? The other articles seem to be overwhelmingly against new media, warning of the dangers of Facebook and twitter to children, complaining that reliance on online communication is destroying our freedom, our creativity and society as a whole. I do find this slightly ironic, given the medium of the message.
Some of these blogs have great meaningful points, and some are more inconsequential, but nonetheless I think it’s time we started to stand up for the positive side of social media.
I’ve talked before about the creative culture of today’s Internet, and much of it has come about through the advantages of social networking. Over the past six months since I started using twitter regularly, I’ve come into contact with creative professionals from all over the country and beyond – so when I leave University I’ll be leaving with an in place network of contacts.
Even with the ones who I follow but haven’t spoken to, I can find out about their jobs, who they talk to, the events/conferences they go to and so get a better perspective and what it takes to get a job like theirs. Equally, I have a lot of twitter contacts in the same position as me, other university students and twitter gives us ways to exchange ideas, collaborations and help with the click of a button.
The downside of social media has always supposedly been the danger of showing an unsavoury side of yourself to the world and thus to potential employer. But what about the positive side that you could be showing? My online footprint shows far more about me than my brief, staid, two page CV ever could. It shows the articles on sound and media I’ve read, discussed and tweeted, the videos I’ve edited together, the music I’ve created. Even this blog is a big, big part of that. And if there are any digital skeletons in the closet, simply insuring that the good stuff rises to the top of the Google search rankings will fix this
Of course, plenty of people use social media purely for personal reasons – what about them? Well, there’s the obvious, you can keep in touch with people anywhere. Friends who may have moved away, family in other parts of the world, people you met once and would love to keep in touch with. But you can find friends online from anywhere in the world who may share your interests. This is often a sticking point in the debate – and the counter argument I’ve heard most frequently has been that having a friend you only communicate with via text is unhealthy, not a real friendship at all. So I challenge you to think back, what was the phenomenon of pen pals meant to be? Having a pen pal was meant to give young people someone else’s perspective on the world and the many people I’ve met and spoken to solely online have done that, with the added bonus of friendships growing organically, rather than organised by someone else.
I’ve never found that my heavy use of social media and online communications impacts badly on the rest of my social life. I’m not ‘cut off from the world around me’ when I’m standing at the tram stop on my phone internet, along with everyone else on my tram stop. Humans, we know, are social animals. We are never going to stop face to face socialising because it is a fundamental part of our species, our genetics. But social media gives us another way on top of that to communicate, which, honestly, is a great thing to have.
Now I won’t dispute that all of these arguments do have a downside, but my point is, we should never lose sight of the ways that social media has changed our world for the better and will continue to do so. I’m sure there are other and better reasons than mine out there, if you can think of any I’d love to hear them!