Newcomers to social media sites like Facebook and Linkedin are wise to wonder about social networking sites advantages and disadvantages – before signing up for the first time. It's no secret that social media is becoming a driving force in today's world, with Facebook alone having registered a user base larger than some entire countries' populations. Meanwhile, Linkedin, a professionally themed social networking site has just come to market with an IPO of $83 per share.
Even the mighty Google is jumping into the fray with its own social networking site Google Plus. These websites offer powerful social platforms of connectivity and sharing. You can keep friends on the other side of the planet updated on your day to day activities, share family news, photos and videos, collaborate with colleagues in your same professional field, or simply expand your social network.
These social media sites feature powerful networking algorithms which suggest people and acquaintances you might know based off your current network. And yet, the world of social media is not without its dark side. From disturbing tales of cyber bullying that has led to real-world deaths, to the potential for leaving a semi-permanent record of embarrassing photos and commentary that future employers can see, it's important to be aware of some of the disadvantages of social networking sites before taking the plunge.
Social networking sites – Advantages
First, we'll explore the positive potential of social media websites. These hubs of connectivity excel at enabling you to meet new people with similar interests, as well as to keep in touch with those close to you, even when you're far away.
It's no secret that much of the younger generation uses their social media accounts as vehicles for regular correspondence. Rather than sift through long e-mail contact lists, it can be much simpler and more streamlined to simply look up your friends online and jot off a quick message. You can even tag multiple friends in a single message, much like CC'ing someone on an e-mail, should you want to extend an invitation to several people at once.
Forget paying exorbitant upload and storage fees. One of the major advantages of social networking sites like facebook is the nearly limitless digital storage they offer their users – for free! You can upload thousands of photos to your facebook account for easy sharing with friends and family and not pay a cent.
Likewise, you can post and storage videos of travel or events and allow your friends and family to view them from anywhere in the world. Professional media sharing and storage services definitely don't allow this same functionality for free. Hence, one of the greatest advantages of social networking sites is the ease and freedom with which you can storage and share media.
Finding Long Lost Friends
Another major benefit to using social media sites is powerful search and relational algorithms which help you to find long lost contacts and friends from long ago. When you join a networking website like facebook or Linkedin, filling in your profile with personal information such as the schools you attended and the companies you've worked for. The system then uses this information to determine other current users you may know, such as classmates or people living in your area. You can accept or reject these connections at your leisure, and the others will only be notified when you decide to add them as a contact.
There's another powerful upside to using social networking sites that other electronic communication tools like e-mail just can't replicate. It's location-based networking, which allows you to quickly find people living in your area so that you can contact them and form connections online and offline. For example, a teacher moving to another country can quickly hop into a teacher's group set up for their new neighborhood and immediately be in contact with other folks living in their neighborhood.
The Downsides of Using Social Networking Sites
Of course, what goes up must come down, and ever since the advent of social media we have seen incidents arise that run the gamut from slightly embarrassing cyber gaffes to outright prosecutable criminal offenses. The internet can be a comfortable place for many people because of the layer of anonymity it allows people who do not wish to use their real names. However, when sites like Facebook, Linkedin and MySpace started coming online, people now had an online venue for projecting and sharing their real-world identities and personas.
The dark side of this, of course, is that all the nasty and unpleasant bad behavior that occurs in the real world can almost as easily happen online. Cyber bullying, harassment, defamation and libel easily fall within the purview of anyone with a keyboard and a chip on their shoulder. In some tragic cases, children have even been pushed to such extreme limits that they have taken their own lives to escape online humiliation and its ripple effects into their real lives. Basically, whatever unpleasantness can occur between people offline can happen online. Just because it's digital doesn't mean its harmless or that it doesn't hurt.
Another Major Downside of Social Media – Is Your Privacy Safe?
When you use social media, you are putting a great deal of yourself online for others to see, whether it be friends and acquaintances looking through your photos or marketing companies trying to mine your data for advertising campaigns. Facebook in particular has had a checkered past when it comes to keeping users' information safe. During one earlier iteration of the social network, it was possible for users' information to be sold to third parties who presumably had a commercial interest in users' behaviors, preferences and demographics.
While good self-control and common sense go a long way in securing your online experience, every social media user should be aware of the risks associated with publishing private information online, such as their home address, cell-phone number and employment information. If anyone has a grudge against you, it is easy for them to access this information directly or indirectly in order to try to harm you.
The Biggest Potential Pitfall of Social Networking – Inserted Foot into Mouth 10 Years Ago
With Facebook constantly re-defining a well-populated website, it seems there is no limit to the user base it is accumulating and adding to daily. What many users do not consider is that Facebook's ubiquity have allowed it to morph beyond the simple and lightheared picture-sharing social tool it once was, into a massive and potentially life-changing cornerstone of modern discourse.
More than once, potential employers have gone to facebook to check on a prospective hire only to get turned off by rampant photo albums of binge drinking and lascivious behavior. Be forewarned, photo posters of the world, what you do 10 years ago online can now be seen into the indeterminate future. There are even online reputation management companies cropping up to deal with this complicated new phenomenon. Keep your image clean if you're not reliably self-employed!