The Boston Globe will have an article in the Sunday magazine this weekend listing six ways that social media can ruin your life. But here's the thing: their examples are all cases of social media misuse, and they're the same sort of social gaffes and lack of self-control that can happen in the face-to-face world. While they're correct in stating that social media allows evidence of a mistake to spread much farther and faster than it would have before the advent of social media, they're wrong in that social media is the problem. It's merely a conduit to human idiocy.
But it's also a tool that can greatly enhance a person's life if used well. In that way, social media is more akin to a raw ingredient, and what you do with it determines the taste on the palate. So, sorry Boston Globe, not buying the negativity.
Here are six ways social media has enhanced our lives.
Image: MKHmarketing via Flickr
Though I am sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information constantly being shouted at me from Twitter and the like, there are times when I'm grateful that social media gets information into citizen's hands at a pace that far outstrips the mainstream media. I learned about the Discovery Channel gunman via Twitter. I kept in touch with family during the Boston Marathon bombing and learned what was happening in the moment. I like having news corroborated by the mainstream media, but nothing beats eyewitness accounts in real time.Effect Change
Social media has played a large role in disseminating information and rallying crowds together. Could the Arab Spring have happened without social media? Of course, revolutions happened before the advent of Twitter, but social media allows people to organize and ideas to spread at warp speed.Steer Us in the Right Direction
I get my book recommendations from Goodreads or blogs. I check out hotels via Tripadvisor. And when we're looking to try a new restaurant, I'll go look at the Yelp reviews. I take all reviews with a grain of salt, but they're a good starting point when you're fumbling around in the dark. The first time we went to London, I chose a hotel from a list at a teacher's travel agency. Huge mistake, and we ended up losing our deposit when we needed to move to a safer hotel. The next time we went to London, we looked at the online reviews and ended up picking the perfect place that fit our needs. We couldn't have done that without social media.Livelihood
I'm a writer with an MFA. In the olden days, most MFAs needed to teach in order to support themselves while they wrote. Few people could earn enough money from writing alone that they didn't need to resort to teaching or speaking gigs. Enter social media and you have a new generation of writers supporting themselves with online work while writing on the side. Sites need content -- not just daily content but sometimes even hourly content -- and there are a lot of ways to cobble together a salary by working in social media.Social Life
My friends and I sometimes build a social event off of someone's posting on Facebook. One person will mention a movie and link to the trailer, and others will chime in that they'd love to see it too. And an outing is born. For shy, introverted types, social media gives people a training ground to stretch their wings on making new friends. Social media made me feel more confident, and in turn, I reached out to more people in the face-to-face world. Friends beget friends, and the world has become a lot smaller as we see connections online that we may have otherwise never known about.Strengthen Connections
I have an enormous family, and it's apparent while working on the family tree that the older generations didn't necessarily stay in touch with their cousins as they moved around the country. I keep calling family members, asking them questions about a certain great aunt because I don't have the names of her childrens' spouses. No one knows. Whereas my generation keeps in touch via Facebook. We have a general sense of what is happening in each other's lives. And I have a feeling that family members won't be able to slip off the family tree so easily in the future.
How does social media enhance your life?
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