The Power of Social Media

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Transition year work experience student Magda Szklanna discusses the worrying power of social media.

Social media has a huge influence on 2.46 billion peoples’ lives. We wake up, we check social media, we eat, we check social media. No matter what we are doing during the day, we always find time to check Facebook. It has become an essential part of our lives. Twitter is always sure to have important news trending, and Facebook shows us important news from our friends’ lives. Social media keeps us in the loop, whilst also keeping us entertained.

Social media is however, so much more than just news and entertainment. It is spreading awareness about the topics that are important to us, like the homelessness crisis that Ireland is facing right now. Social media exposes us to different views and ideas. It provides a platform for people to share and expand their views and opinions, and to listen to others. It shows that the world is full of different types of people and opinions. It can also be used to educate people on a variety of topics, like LGBT+ issues and feminism.

Social media, especially Facebook, is home to many pro-choice and pro-life campaigns regarding the 8th Amendment. Pages like “In Her Shoes,” “Lads for Choice,” and “Love Both” have gained a lot of popularity in recent months. All pages post about their views and opinions regarding the 8th Amendment, which is great because people can hear the two sides of this never-ending debate. On “In Her Shoes,” people can read different women’s stories of abortion, ranging from “it just isn’t the right time” to “my baby died, but my body didn’t register it.” It shows how the 8th Amendment forces women to leave their country because the help they need will not be provided for them here. “Lads for Choice” promotes men getting involved in repealing the 8th, as they feel that too often men say “that’s a woman’s issues, it has nothing to do with me, I’m not going to vote.” The “Love Both” campaign advocates for the rights of the unborn all over Ireland through their #LivesSaved Tour.

“Lads for Choice” promotes men getting involved in repealing the 8th, as they feel that too often men say “that’s a woman’s issues, it has nothing to do with me, I’m not going to vote.”

Nevertheless, there are aspects of social media which continue to be worrying. People tend to put their best side forward, and social media is no exception. People only share the good things that happen to them, leaving the bad stuff out. This can lead to some people thinking “why can’t my life be like theirs? They don’t seem to have any problems.” When, in fact, they could be going through something serious, like financial or mental health issues, but they do not want to make it public. Think about it, how many times did your friend post something and it made you feel bad about yourself? People compare themselves to rich celebrities and people who run fitness accounts. While sometimes comparisons can motivate people to improve and grow as a person, unhealthy comparisons can lead to low self-esteem and negative self image. You have to remember, there is always more behind closed doors. Social media can also make people feel isolated. People see their friends out having a good time while they are stuck at home watching TV. While we may not like to admit it, social media does decrease levels face to face interaction, which is something that human beings naturally require.

A big question that a lot of people have about using online platforms now is: “how safe is my private information?” The recent scandal with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica regarding where people’s private information was being used to influence elections may have answered that question. The UK firm, Cambridge Analytica, obtained the information of 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge. Cambridge Analytica obtained the information from a researcher that created a personality quiz which asked people to download an app which gave Cambridge Analytica access to their friends’ data. They used this information to create profiles that they later sold to clients as political research. Many suspect that this information was used in Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign, but Cambridge Analytica denies this claim.

While sometimes comparisons can motivate people to improve and grow as a person, unhealthy comparisons can lead to low self-esteem and negative self image

Mark Zuckerberg is avoiding calling it a “data breach,” but he has come forward and promised that Facebook will monitor apps that use Facebook more closely to prevent this from happening again. However, what’s done is done, and many people have deleted their Facebook accounts because they were scared that their privacy will be breached again. Many people are questioning what other social media platforms may have the same issue. People no longer feel safe and many are now thinking twice before setting up accounts.

The power of social media in this day and age is undeniable. It influences everything from trends to people’s opinions and views. It allows us to keep in touch with old friends and make new ones. Social media can have a huge positive impact, we just need to use it for the right reasons.

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