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Social media- friend or foe?

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Ah the wonder that is social media? Love it or hate it there is no doubt that social media has changed the world we live in, altering the way we interact, act and even feel, in a way that previous generations probably could never have imagined. In many ways I consider my generation to be incredibly lucky, we’ve watched the internet grow around us and I’m of the age that can still remember a world before social media madness! (I’m 21 ok? Ok that’s a lie, I’m 24. Sigh).  I remember when one had to physically knock on a friends door and not just shoot of an IM. I remember when MSN was the height of internet sophistication and Habo hotel was a luxury only understood by a few computer whiz kids. Admittedly I was still fairly young when the world wide web really become a thing and I was in my teens when I first started using the web, yet it was only in my late high school and early university years that I really became familiar with “social media”.

For me it all started with a little and pretty much extinct website called Bebo. I was never one for myspace but I did catch on to the whole bebo trend and loved spending hours examining my school friends pages but it was never really much more. Then of course came Facebook and Twitter and the world was changed forever. It is undoubted that these websites have brought a lot of good to the inter webs, Twitter as a tool for people to engage in politics and current affairs and Facebook as a way of families and friends keeping in contact, yet lately I’ve began to think about all the bad that has also come with these platforms.

There has been a lot of media coverage given to the news that legislation to target “trolls” is set to be made harsher, making it easier for them to receive a jail sentence for terrorising people online and with it comes a ferocious debate on freedom of speech. I’m fairly torn on the issue, I am all for freedom of speech and people being able to communicate their opinions on the internet. Yet I also believe that there is an incredibly fine line between free speech and offensive, despicable behaviour. If you honestly have to start a sentence with “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic (delete as applicable) but”, then you probably should’t be tweeting it. Frankly it’s just simple and basic common sense and like most good things in life, free speech and social media require an element of responsibility. For example criticising David Cameron’s ability to run the country or to understand the concerns of the common man (or criticising him in any form. I jokes) is completely acceptable but threatening to murder or rape, a threat that is particularly loved by male trolls, anyone in the public eye is completely and utterly unacceptable.

Before you tweet, Facebook or snapchat anything, ask yourself the following simple questions:

  1. Would I feel comfortable saying this to the person in public or face to face?
  2. Is this comment likely to affect the person deeply?
  3. Is this comment justified?

My last concern with social media comes with the impact that it has on us, as individuals and us as souls with already threadbare levels of self-esteem. We’ve all done it, poured over pictures of exes and their stunning new partners or examined pictures of that beautiful long lost friend. I worry that social media is only fuelling our deepest worries, intensify any jealousy, adding to our negatvivity and damaging our already media driven lives.

This last question is far more complex and far beyond the scope of this one post but everyone now and then, it is ok to completely switch off from the media and take a few hours out. I tend to do this every Sunday, taking a few hours to reconnect with reality and plan the week ahead.

Whatever your opinion on social media,  it’s here, it looks set to stay for the foreseeable future and it holds a hell of a lot of power. Use your common sense of decency and your basic common sense and the truth is, you won’t go far wrong.

Ohhh look, someone mentioned me on twitter….

What’s your opinion on social media?

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