Social Media: The Advantages and Disadvantages
Although there are different social media platforms for every audience, the one thing they have in common is that they’re all digital spaces where people, brands, and organizations converge and interact.
Given that man is a social being by nature, as the philosopher Aristotle put it, it’s no surprise why tools to establish connections were created. However, their impact has transcended traditional communication.
Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which not only serve to share photos and videos with friends, have also altered the traditional business model and are considered ideal channels for the promotion of events. But not everything is peaches and cream.
Below, you’ll discover their advantages and disadvantages. This way, you’ll be able to take better advantage of them and detect possible risks.
The advantages of social media
Some people believe that social media could be the downfall of humanity. This opinion may be valid at some point.
However, we can’t deny the fact that social media has certain positive aspects. Here are some of them.
1. They inspire people to improve their health
Photos and recipes of beautiful salads on Instagram, exercise routine videos to help people lose weight, and the posts of influencers are sources of inspiration for many people to improve their health.
Although this advantage crosses a fine line, the truth is that social media provide support and are platforms that allow people to debate their ideas. This environment creates a sort of community with defined goals.
According to a study by the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, social connection could have a great emotional support impact to improve overall health.
Read on to learn more: Going Out with Your Friends Benefits Your Emotional Health
2. They allow you to connect with people from all over the world
Although most people use them to keep in touch or resume relationships with family and friends, these platforms allow anyone with an Internet connection to interact and talk to people from anywhere in the world.
On social media, it only takes a few clicks to become friends with or follow people in countries you may have never even heard of.
3. They allow you to communicate instantly
Landlines and letters fell into disuse due to social media. All you need to do is leave a comment on one of the posts of the person you want to contact and you’ll receive an immediate notification when they reply.
In fact, most non-messaging platforms have a direct message feature. Thus, all you have to do is use a smartphone, computer, or laptop to send and receive messages from all around the world.
4. They provide news in real-time
The Internet age allowed not only the media to instantly report an event. Now it seems that everyone’s job is to help spread the news so that the rest know about current events.
It’s hard to believe that, before, people had to wait until the next day to read the news or wait for news breaks on television. Now you don’t need to wait that long. A simple search on social media will give you all the information you need.
5. They’re instruments to enforce the law
Social media have become tools for law enforcement officials to track and arrest those who choose to brag about their crimes online. These range from inappropriate actions to hate crimes.
In fact, in the United States, 73% of police officers said that social media allow them to solve crimes faster. Similarly, experts estimate that 85% of the police departments in Spain use them to investigate and solve crimes.
6. They increase brand visibility
Regardless of whether your brand is personal or you have a business, social media are good options to connect with new and recurring customers. Increasingly more digital spaces serve as windows to display and sell products, either within the same platform or by redirecting customers to your website.
Social media have also become the greatest ally of freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small companies, who wouldn’t function in the same way if it weren’t for these channels.
7. They can improve school performance
According to a study by Grunwald Associates LLC., in cooperation with The National School Boards Association, 60% of students who use social media do so to discuss education issues. Also, experts know that 50% use them to talk about homework.
They’ve also found that social media programs involving students can improve grades by 50% and significantly decrease school absenteeism.
8. They help shy or isolated people connect with others
A study published in Common Sense Media found that 29% of teens feel less shy and more outgoing when they use social media. Similarly, 20% stated that the use of these platforms improved their self-confidence, popularity, and understanding towards others.
Experts associate these results with the anonymity they provide. Thanks to them, children, teens, and young adults who have a hard time relating to others feel more comfortable talking and interacting, which boosts their self-confidence.
9. They allow people to share knowledge and learn
Social media are also knowledge and learning platforms. You can share what you know, as well as learn from others who have done the same, either through scientific articles, videos, courses, or virtual classes.
10. They offer innovation and versatility
Social media have changed a lot since they were created. The platforms that were created to share photos and videos with friends and family evolved into multipurpose platforms that, for example, can be used to buy and sell products and services.
The disadvantages of social media
Social media are also plagued with “evils” that you need to watch out for.
Below, we’ll explain some of them in detail.
1. They put your privacy at risk
The more data is shared on social networks, the less privacy we have. Some user agreements even allow platforms to use your content.
Similarly, you must be careful with the data that pertains to privacy. Sharing addresses and photos of minors, among other things, can put safety at risk.
2. They make you the target of cyberbullying, pedophile deception, and sexting
Although they tend to mostly affect children, teens, and young adults, they’re “evils” that anyone can fall prey to.
In extreme cases, these practices can lead to:
- Stress and anxiety
- Sexual assault and rape
Read: Cyberbulling, It Could Happen to Anyone
3. They spread false or unreliable information
Another disadvantage of social media is the speed at which people spread false information. The goal of fake news, which has become very popular, is to misinform and harm people.
Thus, it’s important to check multiple sources, as well as to discern whether the news you’re reading is real or fake.
4. They reduce face-to-face interactions
The ease of communication through screens and clicks has contributed to a decrease in basic and traditional actions such as face-to-face conversations.
Although it’s hard to believe, this can affect you in the long term, since it doesn’t allow you to develop the social skills that are required outside digital platforms. In this regard, some experts assure that social media can encourage antisocial behaviors.
5. They interrupt the sleep cycle
Social media can be addictive and affect your rest hours. There’s a relationship between the blue light cell phones emit and the interruption of sleep cycles. This is because many people put a conversation, interaction, or navigation over rest.
6. They make you more sedentary
To be active on social media, you must be sedentary in your real life. In these platforms, meeting people, interacting, and talking requires you to sit in one place for long periods of time.
The bad news is that spending more than 70 minutes sitting each day can wreak havoc on your body and lead to a mostly sedentary lifestyle.
7. They negatively affect school performance if they’re used too frequently
Although students who use social media to discuss education issues tend to have better grades, a study published in Educational Psychology Review showed that those who use Instagram while studying or doing their homework tend to have worse grades.
The same goes for those who log into their social media profiles, post messages and photos frequently, and generally spend a lot of time in these spaces.
As the results aren’t conclusive, experts recommend parents to take an interest and intervene in their children’s use of social media.
8. They can increase the risk of mental disorders
A study published in the American Journal of Health Behavior found that social media use is linked to a higher likelihood of depression and anxiety. Similarly, experts estimate that, due to their addictive nature, they can trigger narcissistic, hyperactive, and rebellious behaviors.
9. They reduce productivity
Just as good use of social media can improve your productivity, inappropriate use of them can waste a lot of your time.
In 2018, adults spent an average of 142 minutes on social media per day. In 2019, this increased to two and a half hours and, in 2020, to three hours. Thus, people spend more time on social media than other activities, such as watching television, playing sports, and shopping.
10. They expose you to scams and identity theft
Social media scams are very common. For this reason, you should be aware of supposed prizes, discount coupons, job offers, business opportunities, surveys, donations, and more. Likewise, beware of counterfeit special feature offers that “allow” you to change platform colors and styles.
Another social media evil is identity theft. People do this for a profit and this practice is related to crimes such as scams. If you’re a victim of this crime, you must report it immediately.
You should read this article: 5 Ways to Cope With Social Anxiety
The advantages and disadvantages of social media depend on the use you give them
Since their appearance at the beginning of the century, social media revolutionized communications. As with everything in life, they have benefits and drawbacks. As such, it’s important to make a conscious use of these platforms to get the most out of them and avoid falling prey to their disadvantages.
Some of the most important advantages include that they allow you to connect with people from all over the world, are an immediate media outlet, provide news in real-time, are a source of inspiration to improve health, and offer innovation and versatility.
In contrast, some of its disadvantages are that they put your privacy at risk, increase your chances of suffering cyberbullying, pedophile deception, and sexting, interrupt your sleep cycles, promote the development of a sedentary lifestyle, and could expose you to scams and identity theft.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
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- Lexis Nexis [Published July 18, 2012]. Role of Social Media in Law Enforcement Significant and Growing. Available from: https://www.lexisnexis.com/en-us/about-us/media/press-release.page?id=1342623085481181
- Common Sense Media [Published June 26, 2012]. Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives, 2012. Available from: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/social-media-social-life-how-teens-view-their-digital-lives-2012/key-finding-2%3A-teens-more-likely-to-report-positive-impact–
- Espinosa, P., & Clemente, M. (2010). Media effects on antisocial behavior in children and adolescents. In M. Frías-Armenta & V. Corral-Verdugo (Eds.), Psychology of emotions, motivations and actions. Bio-psycho-social perspectives on interpersonal violence. Nova Science Publishers, 233–257.
- Marker, C., Gnambs, T. & Appel, M. (2018). Active on Facebook and Failing at School? Meta-Analytic Findings on the Relationship Between Online Social Networking Activities and Academic Achievement. Educ Psychol Rev 30, 651–677. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-017-9430-6
- Shensa, A., Sidani, J. E., Dew, M. A., Escobar-Viera, C. G., & Primack, B. A. (2018). Social Media Use and Depression and Anxiety Symptoms: A Cluster Analysis. American journal of health behavior, 42(2), 116–128. https://doi.org/10.5993/AJHB.42.2.11