Social media is a term used to describe a wide range of online platforms and activities where people can communicate and share information, ideas, photos, and videos.
Social media examples include popular sites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter but also encompass other forms of online communication such as blogging and forums.
It plays a pivotal role in our lives, and most of us use it daily. However, despite social media’s advantages, such as connecting with friends and family worldwide, potential disadvantages of social media should also be considered.
On the positive side, it can help people stay connected with friends and family, build relationships, and follow news stories. It can also be a great platform for self-expression, allowing you to showcase personal interests or talents.
Yet, social media can be a hub for cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment. Moreover, it may lead to overindulgence, sidetracking from important tasks, as well as procrastination.
Pros and Cons of Social Media (Table Summary)
|Pros of Social Media
|Cons of Social Media
|Anyone can publish their thoughts online
|It can lead to addiction
|It is a free source of information
|It can increase online bullying
|It can help us make social contacts
|It can lead to body image issues
|It lets people find their subcultural groups
|It can be misused to spread misinformation
|It allows the truth to get out
|It can affect interpersonal relationships
|It is an excellent communication tool
|It can cause sleeplessness
|It can help with self-development
|It can lead to leaks of private information
|It can be educational
|It can be abused by employers
|It can help businesses to grow
|It can increase stress
|It can improve career opportunities
|It can lead to laziness and helps people procrastinate
|It can help people stay in touch with news
|It leads to polarization of society
|It supports and encourages creativity
|It is very entertaining
|You can earn money with social media
|It can help disarm social stigma
|It stores unprecedented amounts of historical information
Advantages of Social Media
Social media can be a powerful tool for businesses, organizations, and individuals alike due to its ability to connect people and share information quickly.
1. Anyone can publish
Perhaps the best thing about social media is that it’s made absolutely anyone to publish and share their news and information.
Before social media, we were stuck with what’s called “media gatekeepers” – people like newspaper editors – who can choose what news people will and won’t consume (Potnis & Tahamtan, 2021).
Nowadays, literally anyone can publish anything online. Editors, governments, and media don’t have a final say over whether people can see it or not.
Of course, this comes with downsides, which we’ll talk about later!
2. Free source of information
Most social media platforms are free, and they’re available on our phones! This has meant information is more accessible than any other time in human history.
In fact, people have become entirely self-taught experts through YouTube channels, Facebook groups, and even from Twitter threads!
Often, the reason this information is free is that you’re the product. Advertisers pay money to get their ads in front of you on the social media scroll feeds.
It’s so easy these days to meet people online. In fact, many social media platforms have built-in algorithms to help you meet people who have the same interests as you.
The ‘suggested friends’ options on many of these platforms helps people to increase their networks and social capital, which may lead to new friendships, a job, or even a romantic partner!
Furthermore, some platforms like YouTube even act as hubs for people of similar interests to come together into groups – which leads me to the next pro of social media.
4. Lets people find their subculture
Before the internet, people were limited to making friends in their immediate community.
This meant that the shy person who was really into classical music, or the person who loved chess, didn’t really have many other people around them to talk about their hobbies and interests.
But nowadays, we can have dispersed groups of friends around the world based on our subcultural interests. That has enabled small but dispersed subcultures to thrive (for everything from musical taste to philosophical beliefs).
5. Allows the truth to get out
In many societies, governments and establishment media might try to prevent the news from reaching the people.
For example, the government in countries like Cambodia and Syria control the media message. For people in these countries, the only way to access independent news is to use social media. They may also need to use a VPN to access it!
However, keep in mind that freedom to say anything online means that we need to be very critical and assess what is really “the truth” and what is someone’s misunderstanding or propaganda.
6. Excellent communication tool
Social media provide an opportunity to communicate with work colleagues, relatives, and friends living in different cities and countries and make new acquaintances.
Furthermore, by using social media platforms, people can collaborate and share ideas quickly around the world (Laurel, 2016).
For example, if someone is organizing an event, they can easily share updates and make announcements about it on social media. Besides, social media is a great tool for organizing work/school chats and video calls.
7. It can help with self-development
Social networks can be used as a tool for self-development, allowing people to follow inspirational people and content related to their interests.
From blogs about cooking to photography tutorials, many educational resources can be easily accessed through social media.
It is a great way to grow and expand one’s knowledge without leaving the comfort of their home (Laurel, 2016).
So, if a person wants to learn a new skill or expand their knowledge about a certain topic, they can easily access quality content on social media.
8. It can be educational
Furthermore, social networks provide a valuable resource during the learning process.
By using their social media accounts, learners can share lecture notes, laboratory tasks, and other helpful materials with their classmates (Laurel, 2016).
Additionally, students can join a learning community related to their interests. Here they can acquire assistance with complex assignments and ask questions in order to foster knowledge growth.
If a person seeks to master a programming language, for instance, they can join an exclusive group dedicated to the topic and gain valuable insight from more experienced individuals.
9. It can help businesses to grow
Social networks are a platform for business development. People can advertise their online store, web design studio, or rock school here.
Advertising can be aimed at the target audience and people interested in the products or services. Besides, social networks allow communication with customers and potential clients (Paquette, 2013).
With their help, one can get feedback, find out what people like or dislike, and make changes to the product or service.
10. It can improve career opportunities
Social media can help with career growth. Not only can platforms like LinkedIn yield a multitude of job offers, but they can also bridge the gap to accessible international employers.
LinkedIn, in particular, has risen as an invaluable platform where professionals can look up and apply for global employment opportunities with ease (Laurel, 2016).
Secondly, a top-notch portfolio and skillset can be constructed using social media platforms.
For instance, if someone is looking to land a job in graphic design, they can promote their projects and artwork on various social accounts.
11. It can help people stay in touch with news
Social media offer an opportunity to stay informed in real-time with current events, learn more about what is happening worldwide, and access vital work or school-related information.
Twitter and other platforms are useful for getting breaking news straight from sources that you personally trust.
Many social media users would never open a newspaper or log into an actual news website. Nevertheless, while scrolling, they can casually access news sources and inform themselves on what’s going on in the world.
12. Encourages creativity
Social networks have been used by people to share their own creative skills, which can even lead to a career in the creative industries!
From videos and artwork to creative writing, these platforms enable people to share their creative works in an easier way than ever before.
Furthermore, many social media platforms have editing software in them so you can use the platforms to not only share but create. For example, Instagram has editing features built in.
What’s more, these platforms make it simpler than ever to find individuals with similar passions who can relate to one’s work.
13. Acts as a platform for entertainment
Whether for fun or distraction, countless young adults turn to social media as an outlet and discover limitless opportunities for entertainment.
From indulging in their favorite games to streaming movies, the sky’s the limit (Laurel, 2016).
For instance, individuals can join communities and groups focused on their interests, connecting with people who share similar perspectives.
They can converse about anything from ideas to stories or even jokes — it’s a great way to spend time.
Furthermore, different social networks, such as Facebook, have games people can play with friends. In such a way, users can create a fun environment and enjoy spending time with their loved ones.
14. You can earn money
Social media is an incredible asset when it comes to making money. People can easily open their own store or blog and draw customers in from various social networks.
With the right strategy, they’ll be able to maximize returns on investments within no time!
Moreover, some can even become an influencer and promote different products or services. Such collaboration benefits both parties: the person who promotes gets money, and the company increases sales.
Finally, social media allows people to fight against all kinds of discrimination. It’s an excellent platform to raise awareness about taboo topics and break the taboos associated with them.
For instance, platforms like Twitter create a space for previously silenced individuals to speak out and share their stories without being judged.
In this way, those affected by different social stigmas can find support and join the fight against discrimination.
16. It stores unprecedented amounts of historical information
While a little-thought of pro, this one is big for historians. In the future, we’ll have unprecedented amounts of information about this time in history.
For example, even family history lovers of the future will be able to scour our social media profiles to learn about our lives, hobbies, interests, and even what we thought about different issues of the day.
Social media is a historical archive in the making that our descendants will use to learn all about us.
Disadvantages of Social Media
Despite the numerous and undeniable benefits of social media, there are a few drawbacks worth considering, such as addiction, cyberbullying, data privacy breaches, and the negative effects on physical and mental health.
1. It can lead to addiction
Social media can easily become an addiction that takes over people’s lives.
People often discover themselves scrolling through posts, conversing with peers, and playing games for extended periods without even noticing it.
A recent study validates that overreliance on social media can negatively impact mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem (O’Reilly et al., 2018).
So, it is essential to be aware of how much time users spend online and take steps to ensure the usage of these networks does not exceed reasonable limits.
2. Increase online bullying
Social media provides a platform for people to express their opinions and share personal information. But unfortunately, some people use it as an opportunity to bully others.
Online bullying can be very damaging for people who are on the receiving end. It can cause psychological trauma and even lead to suicide in extreme cases.
Alarmingly, almost half of the adolescents between 13 and 17 in the United States have been victims of cyberbullying at one point or another. 46% experience this type of malicious behavior regularly (Vogels, 2022).
See Also: List of Netiquette Rules
3. Can lead to body image issues
One of the most dangerous traps associated with social media is people’s inclination to compare themselves to those around them.
As a result, people often compare their appearances, lifestyles, and achievements to what they perceive in others’ online presence (Laurel, 2016).
Comparing oneself to others can be detrimental, leading to low self-worth and even depression. It is especially true for adolescents in a vulnerable stage of life.
4. Can be misused for spreading misinformation
Social media can also be a breeding ground for misinformation and propaganda. People have been known to spread lies, rumors, and even unsubstantiated theories with impunity.
This kind of conduct can often be harmful nature and have serious repercussions. For instance, it could threaten the political process, create chaos or even spark violence (Laurel, 2016).
Fake news has the potential to shape individuals’ opinions and beliefs in a detrimental way, allowing misinformation to go unchecked. Unsurprisingly, it can lead to negative repercussions and impede people’s ability to make informed choices.
As a result, people using the internet need to exercise advanced media literacy skills, such as the ability to identify trustworthy from untrustworthy sources.
Read Also: The Pros and Cons of the Internet
5. Can affect relationships
Social media can potentially damage relationships, as people often become overly engrossed in their virtual lives and fail to give adequate attention to their tangible connections.
For example, spending too much time on social media can lead to conflicts between partners. One partner may accuse the other of being too absorbed in their virtual world and not paying enough attention.
6. Can cause sleeplessness
Excessive use of social media can also disrupt sleep patterns.
For example, a study found that people who spend more time on their phones are more likely to have difficulty falling asleep (Alshobaili & AlYousefi, 2019).
Moreover, the blue light emitted by screens interferes with the natural production of melatonin, which is needed for restful sleep (Shechter et al., 2018).
So, staying up late to browse social media can lead to chronic sleep deprivation.
7. Can lead to leaks of private information
A major risk of using social media is the possibility of experiencing an attack that will leak our information to others.
Moreover, people online can use personal information posted on social media to target victims and steal their identifying data.
To combat this, internet users need to exercise their skills in identifying trustworthy from untrustworthy links and sources online.
8. Can be abused by employers
Companies can exploit social media for their own dishonest advantages, such as surveilling their employees and intruding on their internet activities.
This clandestine conduct is often seen as immoral and could endanger one’s right to privacy.
Furthermore, employers can use social media to manipulate or intimidate their employees into performing certain actions.
This kind of abuse not only creates a hostile work environment but also evokes feelings of fear and discomfort in the staff.
9. Can increase stress
Social media can be a source of heavy stress and anxiety, especially when individuals feel the pressure to remain active online and respond quickly to messages.
Furthermore, excessive content on social media could inundate users with too much information for them to handle.
Besides, viewing other people’s posts can result in feelings of jealousy and inadequacy. It is especially damaging for growing youths who are still creating their sense of self.
10. Facilitate laziness
Social media can be a trap, sapping away motivation and resulting in an inactive lifestyle.
People may become so engrossed in their virtual reality that they forget about the actual one around them (Laurel, 2016).
Between scrolling, streaming videos, and gaming online, they may find themselves stuck in a cycle of procrastination that hinders their productivity.
So, social media use should be limited and balanced with other activities.
11. Leads to polarization
Social media gives us more of what we like. So, people end up only seen people or viewpoints that agree with us.
For example, once the algorithm gets to know you, it will only feed you information from your preferred news sources, which may be biased.
This has led, for example, to the contemporary issue of extreme polarization in the United States, and far less people truly understanding people with differing viewpoints. Instead, people live in their own bubbles and make strawmen out of their opponents.
The digital age has revolutionized how people communicate, ingest news, and engage in commerce. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the potential risks associated with social media use.
Social media has many advantages, from reconnecting with family and friends to staying up-to-date on news trends. It’s also a great way to make money or boost career opportunities.
Still, it can also be misused for spreading misinformation, affecting relationships, causing sleep deprivation, leading to cyberattacks, being abused by employers, increasing stress, and facilitating laziness.
To have a secure and satisfying experience with social media, it is essential to take the time to evaluate potential dangers and apply suitable safeguards. It will help users protect their privacy and well-being while interacting online.
Alshobaili, F., & AlYousefi, N. (2019). The effect of smartphone usage at bedtime on sleep quality among Saudi non-medical staff at King Saud University Medical City. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 8(6), 1953. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_269_19
Laurel, I. (2016). Pros & cons of social media. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.
O’Reilly, M., Dogra, N., Whiteman, N., Hughes, J., Eruyar, S., & Reilly, P. (2018). Is social media bad for mental health and wellbeing? Exploring the perspectives of adolescents. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 23(4), 601–613. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359104518775154
Paquette, H. (2013). Social media as a marketing tool: A literature review. https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=tmd_major_papers
Shechter, A., Kim, E. W., St-Onge, M.-P., & Westwood, A. J. (2018). Blocking nocturnal blue light for insomnia: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 96, 196–202. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.10.015
Potnis, D., & Tahamtan, I. (2021). Hashtags for gatekeeping of information on social media. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 72(10), 1234-1246.