Some write apocalyptic warnings about social media, while others fail to think of its impact. But this piece, by Zeynep Tufekci, shows that social media have positive impacts as well.
What are two positives for you because of social media?
That might not have been apparent to those who picked up their Sunday New York Times to find Sherry Turkle’s latest essay arguing that social media are driving us apart. If anything, social media is a counterweight to the ongoing devaluation of human lives. Social media’s rapid rise is a loud, desperate, emerging attempt by people everywhere to connect with *each other* in the face of all the obstacles that modernity imposes on our lives: suburbanization that isolates us from each other, long working-hours and commutes that are required to make ends meet, the global migration that scatters families across the globe, the military-industrial-consumption machine that drives so many key decisions, and, last but not least, the television — the ultimate alienation machine — which remains the dominant form of media. (For most people, the choice is not leisurely walks on Cape Cod versus social media. It’s television versus social media).
As a social media researcher and a user, every time I read one of these “let’s panic” articles about social media (and there are many), I want to shout: Look at TV! Look at commutes! Look at suburbs! Look at long work hours! That is, essentially, my response to Stephen Marche’s “Facebook Is Making Us Lonely,” which ran in The Atlantic magazine.
And then, please, look at the extensive amount of data that show that social-media users are having more conversations with people — online and off!…
What evidence we do have does not suggest a displacement of one type of conversation (offline) with another (online). All data I’ve seen say that people who use social media are either also more social offline;or that they have benefited from social media to keep in touch with people they otherwise could not; or thatmany people find fellows, peers and like-minded individuals they otherwise could not find. In other words, texting, Facebook-status updates, and Twitter conversations are not displacing face-to-face socializing — on average, they are making them stronger. Social media is enhancing human connectivity as people can converse in ways that were once not possible. Surveys also show that most families think social media enhances their family life — they can stay in touch better, more frequently. (Obviously, there are many complex impacts and not every person is going to “average” impacts.)