We commonly hear about the effect of social media on mental health. This is predominantly a negative message with very few positive stories making headlines. Like all things social media is not inherently bad so why are there so many studies and reports regarding the negatives. There are positives to social media and when used as originally intended these positives are clear to see.
With over 2.41 billion active monthly users Facebook is the biggest social network in the world. It’s meteoric rise from Harvard University student network to global behemoth makes it arguably the original social media site. Its goal was always to connect its users and the acquisition of Instagram in 2012 furthered its global reach.
Connecting people is ultimately the aim of social media and this is a positive thing. In a world of phone numbers, email addresses and even home addresses that you don’t know, or have long forgotten, the ability to find someone with just a name is easy. Then you can send a message and catch up, whether they be old school friends, colleagues, next door neighbours or family you didn’t know existed.
This goes beyond people you know, to people you don’t know yet. Social media is a fantastic tool for finding local businesses, clubs, groups and communities. The fact that accounts are free is beneficial to small organisations who can’t afford, or don’t want the cost of running and maintaining a website. Finding a local running club, book club or animal interest group is easy and quick. This enables people to expand their social circle and go from networking online to meeting groups and joining activities.
There is a philanthropic and altruistic side to social media too. Campaigns are launched online regularly, whether it is a something as life saving as proton beam therapy, or as difficult as getting a dying man to see Avengers Endgame pre-release. The reach and power of these campaigns mean that by the time they make headlines they are already well known with hundreds of thousands of supporters. Its not all campaigns though. Its people raising money for causes close to their heart, people running for cancer research, people crossing an island for a local hospice, or bathing in baked beans for comic relief. This ability to share fundraising stories and help a huge range of causes is a positive aspect of social media.
With all the positives from social media there is a place for it in society. That doesn’t mean there are no negatives, or that care and consideration shouldn’t be taken in the use of social media. As with so many things, there are different sides to social media, the good, the bad and the ugly. It is important to focus on the positives and maximise these interactions while doing what we can as users to minimise the negatives.