Social Media: A Friend or Foe?

by Jessy Troy

Social networking is as much a part of our lives now as any phones or television once were. The ability to keep in touch with people all over the world, meet new friends, keep up with favorite celebrities or be one of the first to know of new entertainment releases has huge benefits. There is even a corporate element not, and you can use Twitter, Facebook and Myspace to get special deals on items or services we use every day.

But with the good comes the bad. We spend more time interacting on Facebook than we do face to face. Along with texting, we have lost a great deal of our personal communication, and it is now the norm to speak over the Internet for everything from work to friends and family. This leaves us with a unique question: is the convenience of social networking taking away from the all-important interactions we used to have to conduct face to face?

There are other problems that have arisen. For example, we are more prone to being distracted. Studies have shown productivity waning in the workplace, with millions being lost every year from time wasted online. A big part of that is through social networking, either through personal profiles, or the entertainment blogs and feeds that have given us instant access to tons on unfiltered and useless information.

I am as guilty of this as anyone. Just today I spent a half an hour looking at a site dedicated to humorous, accidental text messages. Last week, I wasted several hours going from site to site, chatting with friends on Facebook, and looking up worthless trivia that had nothing to do with my work. I am also a habitual email checker, and I am way too easily led away from what I have to do. The Internet is certainly my Achilles’ heel.

But, again, there are positives that seem to balance these out. Social networking has been able to help us to open our world up to new horizons. We can get to know someone in a country across the world, share information about what is happening and where. Just recently, a friend of mine in Egypt was able to speak about what she was seeing during the riots and protests in the street, just before the Internet was shut down by the struggling government.

Just the other day, another person, a relative of a friend of mine, let her family know that she was OK. She had been visiting Christchurch just a day before the quakes hit, but left the city early to head home. Using Twitter, she told her loved ones that the New Zealand earthquake had missed her.

Also of importance is the effect that it has had on the non-profits that have struggled for years to get their message out. Social networking has offered an easy, affordable way to seek donations, tell about important legislation or events, and just pass on information. With a single click, people with hundreds of friends on their list could end up seeing the pages of these groups.

In the end, there are pros and cons to social networking. On one hand, we spend way too much time giving into procrastination. On the other, we have expanded out view of the world and now have a new way of learning, sharing and understanding. It will be exciting to see how things change in the future.

Jessy is an Autralia-based entrepreneur and social media enthusiast. She blogs for HomeLoanFinder, the best free eco-friendly tool that allows to easily compare home loans Australia.