The Rise of Social Media – Pros and Cons of the Emerging Technologies

- by Abhyash Timsina
Defining Social media from Wikipedia can be described as “computer-mediated technologies that allow creating and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks.” We can conclude and say that it’s basically communicating your ideas online and with others. It gained its roots from online messaging boards called forums from the mid-1990s where individuals signed up and posted replies to topics anonymously. Now it is becoming an integral part of online life as social websites and applications proliferate. 
Some Social Media Examples
Facebook – We all have heard of this website as it lets us keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues and allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and video, and send messages.
Twitter - Allows registered members to broadcast short & straight to the point posts called tweets. 
Wikipedia is an open content online encyclopaedia which allows registered members to publish explanations and content of known articles and words.  This was created through the collaborative effort of a community of users. 
Google Plus - Designed to replicate the way people interact offline more closely than is the case in other social networking services. The project’s slogan is “Real-life sharing rethought for the web.”
LinkedIn is specifically designed for the business community and allows people to establish and communicate with professionals from different companies, including recruiters.
Reddit is a social news website and forum where topics of all types can be discussed. A lot of the content is humorous and politically incorrect but has grown in popularity with features such as live celebrity interviews. 
Pinterest is a social curation website for sharing and categorizing images found online. The focus is more on the visual. 
The main benefit is being able to connect with millions of people from different cultures and backgrounds all from the comfort of your own home. This vision was derived from the technology pioneers from the 1980s and 1990s alongside the rise of the Internet that has allowed this to be possible. In addition, with the rise of Facebook and Twitter, social media was mainstream. Being able to connect and communicate with family members at any time of day is a good example.
With the multitude array of websites that cater to each person’s interest, people are sure to find something they are looking for. From opinions of different people with similar interests, one can find a community to share ideas and photos. 
Each individual is linked to millions of other people online who can send and receive replies in an instant. Googling a question is not even necessary as an individual can get opinions from industry expects in a matter of seconds. 
This is not just for the public but for business individuals as well who need timely data instantly through online collaboration, inclusive of video communication methods. 
As a business, staff are linked to millions of people worldwide and there is a possibility to market an enterprise’s goods and services to a certain group that is sure to make money for the business.
With the rise of social media, news companies online are able to get up to date news as it comes. For example, with the recent selection of the US presidency, live updates from BBC, CNN, News Australia etc. was present displaying what was going on in each area of the US immediately. 
Anyone is able to post anything they want in social media but obviously it comes with its own backlash. Topics such as religion and politics can reach greater audiences with different opinions and can add thousands of attacking comments against the poster. There are also no laws that govern how defamation is tolerated online. 
A variety of cases have emerged over the years outlining online bullying which has led to serious consequences. As people feel protected as they do not need to show their identity online, they feel they are open to humiliate and torment others online freely 24/7. Also, as children of any age can arrive online, they are targeted by online predators, preying on the children’s weaknesses. However, nowadays online Watchdogs are taking action over these individuals and serve the justice they deserve. 
With most social websites requesting certain information with its subscribers such as name, age, location, photos etc., it also opens up a gateway for other users to take up the role of the person, which may lead to fraud. A recent example is when a woman posted a picture of her lottery win to Facebook, she made the mistake of posting the picture of the barcode, which allowed another user to print and use, to obtain the jackpot amount. 
Recent research has shown that individuals spend a good deal of their day in social media like Facebook leading to less productivity. This goes the same for people working in businesses who use social media in “down-time” as stress relievers, which is viewed as time wasting for the business owners. 
Some people may not know it but organizations such as Facebook, in conjunction with saving peoples interests in their system, also target marketing advertisements to cater to people’s individual interests. Another example is when people post something on their wall, there will be an advertisement running that relates to the users post. This is all done as Facebook doesn’t charge people for signups to their website but make revenue off advertisements. 
The Future
What the future holds for social media is unknown but we can be sure that its growing with new technologies like augmented reality and video conferencing capabilities, it will make it easier and more realistic for the end users. Social media will also be more featured in everyday situations like driving or even using your home’s refrigerator. There will be many advantages but will feature a similar number of disadvantages such as privacy concerns which may make its way into the government’s constitution and how the policy will be governed. 
In your opinion – Does the advantages of social media outweigh the disadvantages? Have your say and email -