Social media, and our means of interfacing with it, continues to grow. From evolving platforms like Fourspring becoming Swarm, to applications proliferating all over phones and tablets, it feels almost like an infiltration. Lives have been changed because of social media, even damaged. It could be argued that social media does more harm than good. But is that really the case?
Digial delivery systems for media, be they stories or critiques or commentary or something entirely new, require unique methods of finding audiences by their very nature. Most up-and-coming content creators do not have the capital to line up advertising budgets. Success and failure depends almost entirely on word of mouth. The nature of the Internet, and by extension, social media, means that those words can be transmitted to a multitude of ears far more efficiently and quickly than normal modes of conversation. 140 characters may not sound like much, but with persistence and the right timing, they can be just as effective as the biggest billboards lining a superhighway.
There’s also the fact that social media allows people to remain in touch over very long distances and through shifting circumstances. Moreso than phone or emails, social media allows for immediate connections, and immediate feedback. That’s part of its power, and a big portion of its curse. You can’t take back what you say, especially on social media. The more you try to cover up or remove, the worse things look for you. Just ask any number of the independent game developers that try to make negative reviews of their games go away.
In the end, social media is a tool. For connectivity, for promotion, for information – it is a means to an end. Those ends can and do vary from person to person, from goal to goal. It is difficult for me to believe that any permutation of social media was created with any sort of malicious or damaging intent. Like so many things on the Internet, we’re talking about about information. Information, if you’ll pardon the old cliche, is power. The uses and abuses of that power are their own animals. Social media itself is not to blame. I cannot subscribe to that interpretation.
That said, it can impede things. It can distract, detract, and even disrupt. Sometimes, stepping away from the whole mess is the correct course of action. I don’t think anybody can or should be blamed for making that decision. However, for all of its flaws, all of the dust-ups and all of the feet finding their way into mouths, social media is not the enemy. I find it hard to believe that a tool that keeps people connected, spreads unfiltered information, and allows for new breeds of entertainment to find voices they wouldn’t otherwise, has something inherently wrong with it. I know some would call social media a ‘necessary evil’. But I am not sold on the ‘evil’ part.