Social media offers us with a range of benefits and opportunities to empower ourselves in a variety of ways.The world is becoming increasingly interconnected through the wonders of the social media and as a result we now live in a society where access to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter (and loads of other social networking platforms) is virtually everywhere. It has become so popular that it seems that physically interacting to other seems so outdated.
The likes, comments and posts we share on social media can often seem inconsequential, but they matter. They tap into the core that make us human, our addictions, desires, anxieties and joys. I use social media, mainly Twitter, a lot. It is magic, almost like a childhood dream. It allows me to interact interesting people – authors, celebrities, politicians, and of course those psychologists that I look up to.
On Twitter, there’s no shortage of wonderful people with insightful things to say. But we don’t just use Twitter to listen to these people, research has confirmed that people use microblogging to talk about their daily activities and to seek, or share information. Twitter is one alternative means for less assertive students to be able to express themselves in and outside of the classroom. It allows them to gather their thoughts and voice them through writing before committing to their expression. Twitter also promotes social connections among students. It can be used to enhance communication building and critical thinking. Denise Domizi used Twitter in a graduate seminar requiring students to post weekly tweets to extend classroom discussions. Students reportedly used Twitter to connect with content and other students. Additionally, students found it “to be useful professionally and personally”.
Since it was launched in 2004, Facebook has become a popular means of communication. It is a never-ending virtual party filled with viral videos, latest holidays, wedding announcements, baby showers and adopted kittens. But why do people use Facebook? The need to belong and the need for self-presentation are the two primary motivating factors that drive us to use it. It makes sense; after all everyone craves for a sense of belonging and Facebook provides us with that in a virtual sense. Or as Aaron Balick elegantly puts it, ‘The notion of “liking” on Facebook is akin to an ego need. The ego, as a rule, seeks to be liked and admired.’
With endless funny videos, music, travels, documentaries and tutorials, YouTube is a fun way to kill time and educate yourself. A 2009 study explored whether motives and individual differences predicted viewing videos on YouTube and sharing videos with others. Consistent with uses and gratifications assumptions, motives and individual differences differentially predicted viewing and sharing behaviours. It has been revealed that while people watch videos on YouTube for some of the same reasons identified in studies of TV viewing, there is a distinctly social aspect to YouTube use that reflects its social networking aspects. Another study has found that YouTube increased participation, personalisation and productivity. YouTube also improved students’ digital skills and provided opportunity for peer learning and problem solving.
There are many studies that have identified the negative aspects of social media ranging from narcissism, usage by extremist groups, to cyberbullying. But for the meantime, let’s just dwell on the more positive side. Closely linked to collective self-esteem, research has shown that social media can increase our individual self-esteem. This is common with teenagers who would normally find face-to-face situations daunting and uncomfortable . This is great as it means that social media can increase social capital for many teenagers who may feel unable to make friends.
Are social media good for the society? It is a perennial topic which continues to divide opinion: some people think it’s a useful tool while others are worried about the negative impact it has on people’s lives. So let’s just be aware of how we all use it so that we positively benefit from using them.
Dennis Relojo is the founder of Psychreg and is also the Editor-in-Chief of Psychreg Journal of Psychology. Aside from PJP, he sits on the editorial boards of peer-reviewed journals, and is a Commissioning Editor for the International Society of Critical Health Psychology. A Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society, Dennis holds a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Hertfordshire. His research interest lies in the intersection of psychology and blogging. You can connect with him through Twitter @DennisRelojo and his website.