Lesson 47: Beware of social media

Social media is simultaneously the greatest and worst invention in human history.  Like many things, if used in the spirit intended, it is a wonderful tool and is a fantastic platform for the sharing of ideas and the connection of people who otherwise might never have connected.  Unfortunately, every tool has a dark side.  Used maliciously, Facebook can be more destructive than any physical weapon ever created.  I love using social media, but it is important to understand that there are a lot of things to learn before you enter the online world.

Social media has its many great properties that make life more interesting and easy to share.  It is a fantastic tool for keeping in touch with people and staying informed.  It is a phenomenal platform for anyone and everyone to share information and ideas regarding just about any topic(s) you could imagine with limited restrictions and filters.  Unfortunately, like all good things, too much of it, or misuse can have devastating consequences.  Failure to understand social media can lead to serious errors in judgement, communicative misunderstandings, and relationship breakdowns.  It is also possible for these transactions to eventually translate into physical violence in the real world.

One of the biggest problems with any communicative program or device is the lack of face to face interaction.  I get it, that is semi the point of social media as a communication platform.  It gives people who are too nervous or scared to interact socially a voice with which to speak.  The problem lies in the fact that the vast majority of communication that takes place is nonverbal.  When you stick to an online or telephonic communication platform, you are withholding important things like body language and tone.  It is all too easy to misinterpret images or messages because you are not there to receive all of the communication.  It is also easy to overlook the fact that a lot of your communication is likely to be misinterpreted because they cannot see or hear how you actually feel.

How many times have you looked at a picture on Myspace or Facebook of your significant other with someone and it made you a little jealous?  How many times have you seen them like something that made you a little angry?  Did you ever stop to ask yourself why that made you jealous or angry?  It is just a picture.  It is just a like.  You don’t know the context, especially if you weren’t there.  How many arguments or fights have you been a part of or known about that originated from, or was initiated by, something having to do with one of the many social media platforms.  It is important to educate yourself about social media and understand the dangers and risks with its use.

Cyber bullying isn’t just about picking on the outcast at school.  Creating electronic terror and attacking the defenseless is a real issue and it is getting worse and worse every day.  We are seeing a continuing loss of empathy and compassion because people are not being directly exposed to the result of their attacks.  When someone is bullied face to face, people can physically see the negative impact it has on others.  I get it, not everyone cares, but to assume that no one cares is a mistake.  Even if the bully doesn’t get it, others do.  People see these behaviors and the impact it has.  The question becomes, “how do I feel about it?”

This translates into relationships.  Social media can have a major impact on your active or past relationships and if you don’t have a better understanding, it can be harmful.  Sometimes, the worst online enemy can be yourself.  Social media addiction is a new concept but it is very real.  Information is constant.  Free flowing.  You can find out a lot and it gets easier every day.  Unfortunately, there are times when things are better left unknown.  Seeing how your ex is doing with their new love interest can be hurtful and doesn’t serve any purpose.  Whether you are happy for them or not, constantly reminding yourself of what no longer exists is destructive.  Educate yourself and keep an open mind.  Most importantly, know when to turn it off.

Takeaways:

  1. Understanding of social media is essential.
  2. Never jump to conclusions at first glance.
  3. Cyber bullying occurs in romantic  relationships too.
  4. Just because it starts online doesn’t mean it will end online.
  5. Know when to turn it all off.

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