Social media has emerged as one of the widely used communication platforms across the world. It entails certain social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogging and Pinterest among others. Emergence of social media raises a critical research question: what are the impact and implications of social media on society? The question is fundamental in nature since it revolves around major aspects of the society. It has become evident that social media sites have emerged as ubiquitous in nature and have provided individuals with new ways of interacting and communicating. In fact, such sites have formed a global village for the world citizens. The new kind of communication relies on user-developed content and not mass formulated messages that come from huge media companies. However, these benefits of social media have come along with challenges and growing pains. In that case, some of the social media companies have found it difficult to strike balances on invitations and interactive environments in terms of their ultimate striving for profits. This paper seeks to answer the research question by way of highlighting the impact and implications that social media has on the society, such as business, crime, politics, human behaviors and other dimensions.
Social Media and Free Speech
One of the major implications of social media on the society is the creation of free speech platforms for individuals. That way, people have found an alternative to reading newspapers as well as accepting false news by accessing newspapers along with other commercials. These alternatives have come in the form of writing and texting through the internet platforms across the world (Anderson 2013). Therefore, the emergence of social networking era has come with infinite expression of free speech across the social environment. Free speech is part of the American constitution meaning that social media has enabled the strengthening of the law at some point. Most importantly, social media “allows us to have freedom of opinions without any boundaries (Gackenbach 2011).” The situation, however, is quite different in some countries where providing opinions on government affairs can lead one to jail. It is through creation of free speech that some companies started monitoring their employees through social media platforms. Such development serves as a benefit to organizations as a way of coordinating and evaluating employee performance (Sobkowicz, Kaschesky & Bouchard 2012). A good example of an incidence where organization benefited from social media was across the news posted of workers whose employment was terminated due to their postings on social media, such as MySpace. In fact, a survey done by CareerBuilder proved that 22% of employers check on the social media networks in order to determine if their employees engage in unprofessional activities (Berger 2012). In other words, free speech enabled by social media has created both benefits and disadvantages that have accrued to individual users, groups as well as organizations.
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However, the creation of free speech has come with its disadvantages as well. Companies that use social media to trace activities of their employees have been criticized for terminating jobs for their workers. The idea assumes that companies should not use opinions of employees expressed through social media for terminating or hiring them (Carroll & Buchholtz 2014). This view can be supported by the fact that individuals can provide falsifying information that can be misleading to an organization. Such misconceptions have come at a time when most people believe in massive information provided through social media. Free speech has also had implications on individuals such as celebrities who have constantly been talked about despite the ambiguity of information in terms of being true or false. A good example is O’Reilly Factor’s news: the National inquirer is among the suspects that develop false articles that become true. It has emerged as the fact that “a story should not be created if it is not supported by evidence. Politicians, on the other hand, are restricted from writing in blogs, twittering and online forums (Bruhn, Schoenmueller & Sch?fer 2012).” Such limitations are pursued at stating that politicians cannot provide much of their perceptions and comments on social media since they are easily judged. Free speech has also been restricted in certain schools since some students took social media as a way of writing comments about their facilitators and colleagues (Hansen 2011). Therefore, social media has had major implications on free speech across major sections of the society.
Social Media and Business
Moreover, social media communication has positively impacted on businesses across the world. Businesses are part of the society and have hugely depended on social media networks in advertising their products and services. Most importantly, businesses have used social media platform in building customer loyalty among other major functions (Treem & Leonardi 2012). Furthermore, it can be deduced that interactions along with feedbacks from clients assist businesses in understanding the market, in which they operate and fine-tune their products as well as design their strategies, in order to fit the market tastes and preferences (DeAndrea, Ellison, LaRose, Steinfield & Fiore 2012). For example, many companies have been organizing contests and offering prizes as a way of creating enthusiasm among their customers in order to attract them to their social media pages. That way, social media has proved to be cheap and more effective in creating brand images and increasing a company’s popularity than television advertisements along with other expensive forms of promotion (Qualman 2012). Furthermore, Facebook and Twitter along with other networking sites have enabled firms to fabricate as well as construct virtual personalities. The resulting idea from confluence is a chance for customer-business interactions. One of the companies that have used social media, Twitter, in order to release promotional messages, is Jet Blue. The company’s page has been reviewed by over 1.6 million individuals (Lin & Atkin 2014).
However, social media networking for companies is not always successful. In the year 2004, it became clear that MySpace became a breakthrough website for most companies. Success has been largely enhanced by the platform’s simplicity although it featured many user pages as well as band pages. It also became clear that in the year 2005, MySpace was bought by Rupert Murdoch who started to transform it into a media empire which made it the most popular platform across the internet. The situation changed two years later when individuals stopped using it when Facebook emerged as the strongest rival. The severe competition was triggered by some factors; however, the most prominent one was the fact that it started being infested with many videos, games, messages and advertisements, which forced many individuals to exit the site (Burke, Kraut & Marlow 2011). People preferred a platform where they could communicate with their peers and have fun. Over-advertising was a major cause of the exit since companies continued to consider MySpace as a profit making haven. The market called for the need of personal interactions of companies with customers rather than entirely engaging in profit maximization (Korda & Itani 2013).
Social Media and Crime
As much as social media is bringing major advantages to the society, it has caused expansion of crime as well. There have been several cases of fraud reported from social media by various individuals. A good example is that of Joseph Duprey who was murdered by Robert Powell. It became evident that the murderer had a picture of Duprey with a notable caption that reads that he was to rest in peace. The message appeared just a few hours before Duprey was killed. This example demonstrates that social media can be a source of information about crime across the world. Most importantly, it has been alleged that “the problems created by these sites are much more prevalent than advantages because it gives malicious people the ability to create more danger among the millions of internet users (Pookulangara & Koesler 2011).” In some cases, the information that is posted across the social media sites by individuals who hold the belief that it will be seen by their friends ends up in the hands of criminals. It has become evident that people find themselves in loopholes where others find chances to stalk them sell prohibited substances as well as abuse others through fraud or other means.
Reports have proved that the lists of crimes committed through the social media networking sites continue to be long. Thus, the measures that have been undertaken as a way of stopping crimes through the social media sites are incompetent in nature. A good example is sentencing of Michael Macalindong for thirty four years in prison in the year 2008. The case emerged after posing a teenage girl, hence soliciting a boy attempting to blackmail him since he had not been posting sexual clips on Facebook. Moreover, copyrighting as well as hacking are two major crimes that have been committed through social media. For instance, Miss New Jersey had her private pictures on Facebook which were provided on tabloids. In fact, the only way to make people feel secure when providing personal information on social media is the signing of agreements in order to abide by conditions before creating an account. Users can also provide information that they find offensive to them to the necessary authorities. However, people do not feel entirely secure whenever they engage in browsing through social media. The biggest problem is that people can act in any way against the terms of application that they have agreed to abide. The point is that the only way that people can be caught while engaging in criminal activities is if somebody reports them. This peculiarity has led to an increase in criminal activities being committed through the social media sites.
Social Media and Politics
Social media has increasingly grown into a vital forum of political engagement in various forms. Certain social media platforms tend to formulate ways that stimulate citizens’ commitment to political life. It is in the political life, such as elections along with campaigns that have central purpose of the use of social media (Pollet, Roberts & Dunbar 2011). It is through personal communication enhanced by the social media sites that politicians as well as parties are brought to their potential voters. Such sites allow politicians to interact with citizens in an increasingly integrated form. Such interaction does not need the engagement of the mass media (Poster 2013). However, reactions, replies and conversations along with debates are enhanced through the internet. Despite the fact that the presence of such sites is spreading and use of patterns is being altered, political engagements through the internet is being restricted to individuals that are active in political affairs (Kietzmann, Silvestre, McCarthy & Pitt 2012). New media platform possibilities have made politicians remain accountable throughout the campaigns that are well-crafted and customized.
Social media has also been found to have a vital influence on voters’ turnaround. A study done on millions of users during the 2010 Election Day indicated that social networks can have great impact on the turnout of voters (Graber & Dunaway 2014). By conducting an examination of the public voter rolls, the study indicated that the actual turnout in 2010 was influenced by messages that were shared on social media. It was evident that 60,000 votes were directly influenced, due to the sharing of opinions that was done through social media (Thompson 2013). It was also found out that only 1% of Facebook users were ready to state their political orientation making it difficult for researchers to determine if the political leanings influenced networking and behavior of individuals (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor & Schellinger 2011). People share political information during campaign and election times. Some of them are informed about such ideas through the social media that in turn causes them to appear for voting. Therefore, social media networks have had great influence on political voting turnouts over the years.
Social Media and Human Behavior (Psychology)
Social media has had a huge influence on human behavior in form of psychological transformation, both positively and negatively. One of the examples of the way social media has changed people’s behaviors is through cyber-bullying (Lee & Ma 2012). Authors have indicated that cyber-bullying occurs because some users feel that they have no responsibility when using internet sites. In current years, some teenagers and adults have been reported to have committed suicides due to bullying through social media. One of the critics of social media indicated that bullies “probably wouldn’t engage in bullying activity if they were face- to-face because of the consequences if they were caught in person by authority figures (DiStaso, McCorkindale & Wright 2011).” Thus, there is quite a huge ambiguity across the social media platforms and that lies heavily on the next generation that will soon be developing their social media skills. More research has also indicated that social media without face-to-face communication is instilling fear in children in facing others (Linders 2012). That has been associated with the fact that the activities carried out in social media platforms may not be happening in the real life. The point is that such activities happen in cyberspace is different from than they are done in real life (Surette 2014). Children find it easier to communicate through the social media than directly in person, and those with poor personal communication skills have found social media a good platform for conversation (Bryant, Thompson & Finklea 2012). However, people engage in such communication without the knowledge that it can ruin their interpersonal relations in the future.
Moreover, it has been found out that social media influences people’s mental formation, which has gone across the line to the adult patients. Broder, who is a cognitive behavior therapist, stated that he has seen such implications in some of his patients. Broder indicated that he had seen some situations where people have had adverse impact from experiences that they have posted on social media (Gil de Z??iga, Jung & Valenzuela 2012). Therefore, such people fear that their information can be accessed by community and friends. Therefore, there is no doubt that social media has much influence on mental formation of individuals across all walks of life. The devastation caused by some of the messages sent through social media can cause a person to suffer from mental scars. Some of the patients who have posted information about their health fear that the messages can have negative influence on friends and families who may think that they are really sick. This example demonstrates that social networking causes people to become increasingly public when discussion their personal lives through social media platforms (Bond et al. 2012). Thus, users are prone to cause bypasses of filters that they might employ whenever they are discussing about their personal lives.
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Several recommendations can be provided in order to prevent the negative impact of social media on the society. One of the mentioned impacts of social media is free speech that has been found to have positive and negative impacts and implications. The negative impact of free speech can be curbed by censorship (Croteau & Hoynes, 2013). People should be educated on the ways to handle criticisms and the way to avoid negative implications of information through social media. Solving crimes formulated through the social media can easily be achieved by enrolling undercover officers who will be involved in patrolling social media sites at regular times. Such initiatives were administered under the Obama leadership, although it was found to violate terms of usage of social media sites (Zillmann, Bryant & Huston, 2013). However, notifying the users that they are under vital surveillance can instill fear in them and prevent any criminal activities through social media. Another way of curbing crime is through hiring a large number of moderators who will be monitoring social media sites. This way, negative impacts of social media on society will eventually decrease (Berger 2013).
In conclusion, it can be deduced that social media has had both positive and negative impacts and implications on the society. The impacts range from personal lives and business activities to group commitments. Persons across the world have been provided with an opportunity to engage in free speech platforms. However, the free speech has been restricted to certain extent. At some point, free speech has been misinterpreted by some people who have found no responsibility in adhering to terms and conditions of usage of social media sites. On another note, social media has impacted political activities including voters’ turnout during campaigns and elections times. In some countries, such as the United States, politicians have been constrained in terms of the messages that they can spread through social media platforms in order to avoid controversy. Most importantly, social media has had implications on people’s psychological formation since people tend to alter their behaviors based on the information posted on social media sites. Bullying and harassment through social media has caused several cases of suicide across the United States despite many warnings by authorities. Therefore, it is vital to formulate rules and regulations that will assist in coordinating the manner in which people share information through social media platforms.