McWilliams: Social media makes us more social

Leta McWilliams

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of social media. Problems like cyber-bulling and sexting scandals have latched themselves on to the idea of the various social media mediums, skewing their perception negatively. However, social media use has many positives that we are consistently overlooking.

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Social media makes us more social. The positive impacts of social media outweigh the negatives by allowing us to engage more with people we know, people we don’t and create positive changes by a few taps on a screen. 

Social media allows us to be more engaged with people we already know. From my own experience, I know that the relationships I’ve built with other people have only been stronger because of social media by allowing me the ability to keep up with their lives regardless if I’m able to see them in person. Many of us were separated from our friends and family once we left for college, and social media effortlessly aids us in keeping those relationships. 

According to Pew Research Center, “more than eight-in-ten social media-using teens say social media makes them more connected to information about what is happening in their friends’ lives and 70 percent say these social platforms better connect them to their friends’ feelings.”  

Social media platforms are a great ways for people who are otherwise shyer to open up and feel less alone. In a study done by Griffith University and the University of Queensland, they found that young adults felt less isolated than those from previous generations because of their ability to connect with others. Social media gives them access their friends at any moment, making them feel less alone even if they are physically.

Social media allows us to engage with people we don’t know, who have similar interests, and make a big change.

Social media activism has been one of the most positive aspects of social media. The shooting of Michael Brown caused an outcry on social media from those wanting justice, starting #BlackLivesMatter. It paved the way for other activist hashtags, such as #MeToo and #NeverAgain.

Social media has spread awareness of important issues in a way that traditional media never could. 

A group of teenagers started a campaign against cyberbullying, inviting others to join through Instagram and Facebook. More than 2,000 students in Boston walked out of class to protest budget cuts, which started from a letter on Twitter. None of these events would’ve been as impactful as they were if it weren’t for social media.

My colleague Lauren Willson discusses how social media use can increase someone’s chance of being depressed, narcissistic and lower self-esteem. Willson also claims that people will become more isolated from one another in the real world. While this certainly can be the case, these are examples coming from hyper-use of and addiction to social media.

Like anything else, too much engagement in social media can be a bad thing, but that can’t distract us from all of the opportunities it gives us to engage with others.

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Above everything else, social media allows us to make strong and lasting relationships with people without the hesitation or fear of putting ourselves in physical danger. We can reach out to people and engage in conversation in a safe environment. 

Social media is also being used to help those with mental illness. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has social media where people can ask for help any time of the day. Their Twitter page has almost 70,000 followers, who are seeing Lifeline’s resources on their feed every day.

Researchers are also beginning to track suicide risk factors through Twitter. Social media has the ability to save lives by giving people easy access and keep track of those around us to make sure they’re okay.

Social media allows us to engage with others and connect with friends in a way that wasn’t always possible.

Leta McWilliams can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @LetaMcWilliams