From an easy means to communicate to a tool that has revolutionised society — social media has had one of the greatest impact in shaping today’s world and the people that live in it. Not only do social media platforms provide an easy, constant medium of communication, they have gradually become our virtual identities. According to Facebook, the distance between people seems to have reduced even more through the social media website. The platform claims that the six degrees of separation have now been reduced to only four for a majority of Facebook users. Social media monitoring service Reepler conducted a survey recently and discovered that more than 90 per cent of recruiters now log on to a candidate’s social media account before making a decision. More than 68 per cent of recruiters had in fact rejected or accepted a candidate based on what they saw on social networking sites. Gulf News put the question to its readers in a live debate: What has the real world impact of social media been? Post your thoughts on our Facebook page ‘Gulf News Al Nisr Publishing UAE’ or tell us at email@example.com
What has been the impact of social media in the real world?
For sure social media has changed our world. The revolution in Egypt started basically through one page on Facebook “We are all Khalid Said”, a man who was killed in Egypt. The page was really popular before the revolution started and helped bring the whole revolution to the street. I have never tried to initiate an event or group before the January 25 revolution, but now I am actually the administrator for one of the groups that has more than 3,500 members, and we created another group only for some charity purposes for the less fortunate people in Egypt. We have organised a couple of successful events, where we managed to gather so many Egyptians. If it were not for Facebook, none of this would have been possible. If you build your contacts based on your instant messenger or phonebook contacts, it wouldn’t be enough.
The impact is enormous because social media captures a lot of things and a lot of classes of society and gives information to anyone who is in search of it. It is not like earlier where if you didn’t have access to the newspaper or the radio you wouldn’t hear of what is going on in the rest of the world. Now it is totally different. Now, you can log on to various websites and the news keeps flashing, and often you can’t ignore it. This gives the information to everyone, even a 10-year-old boy would know what is happening because of social media. Everyone is hooked and it educates people at the same time. As people, what we see, we copy; what we hear we repeat. It is like mimicking and mirroring, because if you don’t follow these websites, you will fall behind in the world. So, no matter if you are a Facebook, Twitter or online messaging user, it does have a huge impact on everyone’s personalities.
It is something that affects everyone, and I think it is good because it has changed everyone’s perspectives. You have to share — the more open you are the more people will come to you. If you look at music bands, for example, 20 years ago, they weren’t as open as they are now. I am a fan of music and I get to know a lot about various artists and bands, how their lives are, you can talk to them. If you ask me about Facebook, it is safer for me than my own mobile phone when it comes to pictures. Even if I lose my phone, I can have all my photographs safe on Facebook, which I can customise or lock. You know you used to be told by elders — don’t be friends with strangers, don’t talk to people you don’t know. I think that perception has changed now. People have started realising that they are not living in a small box. Social media is at least a window through which you can see the rest of the world, if you are not able to walk out of your box. I have been in touch with a lot of friends. The most important thing among human beings is to share — if you do not share, you will not move ahead. That is at least what I believe. If you share, your vistas open up. You will get encouragement and feedback, and you get positive, too.
During the past year and a half, Facebook actually changed from being a means of contact with people to a source of information. Now, I don’t go to a newspaper or TV channel’s website for information. I have subscribed to their accounts on Facebook and Twitter. So, I don’t have to go anywhere else. I have one tab on my computer with Facebook open on it and another tab with Twitter on it. And all the information I need is available there. Twitter, I believe, has a greater impact because it is almost instant and it gives you a lot of points of views — on who is for or against what is happening. It is like being there.
Social media is helping people become more tolerant of opposing points of view.
I can’t form my own opinion properly if I don’t listen to other people’s opinions. Even if I don’t agree with them, I should know what other people say or believe in. For example, I have a few friends who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, and we go through long debates on various issues — they believe in whatever they believe in, and I continue believing what I believe in. All these debates are online and it helps me widen my perspective. On another note, social media has affected me at a very personal level as I lost contact with my wife for more than 10 years ago, and I couldn’t get in touch with her in any way. Four years ago, I found one of her friends on Facebook and through her I was able to contact my wife and then we got married.
It encourages people to be more creative and also allows them to be more friendly if it is used wisely. It is entirely up to the person how they take advantage of it. If there were a particular information available that I find interesting, I would definitely read it. But I would just read it, I may not accept the point of view. It is important for me to know what people believe, how they give feedback, because feedback helps you in so many ways, as it helps you modify your behaviour and deal with a problem or issue. You read, perceive it in the way you want to, but may not want to favour the point of view. It is still your preference.
Some people are very negative — those who might be furious about something. That I think is the problem. You shouldn’t be angry and start attacking users. The first thing to do before you go on to social media platforms is to believe that you can accept other people’s opinions. I may be correct, but I have to listen to other people as well, you just can’t attack somebody because they think differently. However, I think people are more negative and critical than tolerant; it may be because people are not able to absorb all the information. They are not mature.
There is too much personal information available on social media websites, which is a disadvantage for users.
I had been using my personal email for my account, and it actually caused me some trouble one of these days. I was a bit frustrated with my boss, and wrote something about it on my status. That message actually reached the person concerned and we had a bit of a confrontation. On the same day I actually went back on to Facebook and started reviewing my friends and privacy settings and eliminated all the people who I thought weren’t that reliable, and later I changed the email account altogether. I actually use a different email account for my personal activities now. Privacy settings are extremely important on such platforms, for example on Facebook — whoever you are not too close to, put them on a ‘limited profile’.
By profession, I am in human resources and I do know how we sometimes use social media to research potential candidates. Also, if there are employers who reject a candidate based on something they might have seen on social media platforms, I don’t think it is fair. If I see someone’s profile with pictures of him or her partying, it shouldn’t stop me from hiring a person. Please remember that this is a social media platform and people have the right to have fun and post a particular picture. As an employer, I have to have an open mind.
Social media leads to chaos more than understanding.
I would say that we cannot avoid the confusion that social media brings with it, because a lot of times too much information confuses everybody. But again, you have to choose what you really want to perceive and understand. If you really want to understand something, you will have to dig deeper.
I couldn’t agree more. I always believe that truth is in the eyes of the beholder. If you get a piece of information, you should find out more about it. But very few people are keen to know the truth. Often people just see and believe. I have someone I used to know, one of the people who I have now deleted from my accounts. He always wanted to comment on my statuses in a very demeaning way, and liked to preach more than comment. I kept tolerating it for some time. But one day, he commented on my status with — I think — 20 lines in response. I carefully read his comment and literally wrote down every counter-argument, point by point. After that, I just burnt the page! I didn’t want to reply to all the nonsense!
I don’t really indulge when someone puts up something like that. I think the mature way of treating such a situation is to send a personal message and tell the person that you find it inappropriate and it has to be stopped. You have different kind of audiences — some are mature, some aren’t. If you know that a person will respond in an immature way, just respond to them personally. Whenever I post something, I choose my audiences. And I honestly just spread happy posts, because that is what I feel is what I want to spread. So I often don’t get nasty comments.
I agree. There were a few friends of mine who kept posting sad comments on Facebook. I actually told them that this was just a selfish act. You are sad, so you want to spread sadness. May be they are in a more miserable condition than you are. So, stop being selfish. You can try to be happy and make someone else smile.
- Readers did not agree on whether social media has made people more tolerant.
- Readers felt that social media can sometimes lead to chaos, but it helps people discover different points of view.
- Readers felt that there was too much personal information available on websites, and users need to be cautious of their privacy settings.