Are social media a blessing or a curse?

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The first issue to address here, I suppose, is why I used the word “are” rather than “is” in the headline above.

Well, I did so because the word “media” is a Latin plural, and the nuns who taught me Latin 60-plus years ago were sticklers when it came to grammar.

Social media generally are defined as computer-generated forms of communication, the most popular examples of which include Facebook, blogs, Twitter and such. Billions of people around the world avail themselves of social media on a regular basis.

As for whether social media are a blessing or a curse, they seem to be both. They’re convenient sources of good information but also of sheer nonsense. The traffic on social media ranges from serious stuff to pure drivel, from friendly exchanges to mean-spirited bullying, from vehicles for advancing noble causes to tools of criminal activity and evil hate-mongering.

One thing is for sure, social media can be as habit-forming as illicit drugs. On most days, I spend at least a few hours poring over the offerings on Facebook and surfing various websites for the latest news. Newspapering, which was my career for nearly 50 years, has not exactly been well-served by social media, but them’s the breaks, I suppose. Most papers and other print media have had to learn to adapt to this new environment. Some have adjusted well, while others have simply disappeared.

Perhaps the greatest blessing bestowed by social media is that it can diminish a person’s sense of isolation and loneliness. It’s better than the telephone in that regard. I can exchange thoughts with hundreds, even thousands, of people simultaneously on Facebook. Indeed, I’ve developed good friendships on FB with lots of folks I’ve never met in person. I’ve even heard of romances arising from such digital acquaintanceships.

Like virtually every other aspect of digital technology, social media are forever evolving. If I could predict the next big change in the process, I probably could get rich by pioneering some aspect of it. And yes, I recognize the potential downside this phenomenon represents. After all, there’s no substitute for in-person communication with other people. But social media are here to stay, for good or ill.

It’s up to us to make sure the good outweighs the ill.











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