Facebook, GooglePlus+, Linked-In, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, etc. Most everyone is familiar with these popular social media sites. I’d guess that there are at least a dozen more that many of us have never even heard about. However, nearly all of us use at least one or more of them. But how do you use them? I don’t mean from a technical standpoint—heck, you sign up, create a user name and password, point and click, and you’re in business. What I mean is, how do you use them? Do you utilize Twitter or Tumblr to promote your organization or charity? Great! Pinterest is a terrific place to post recipes, or nature photographs, or pictures of your cat—and find those posted by others with those interests. Maybe you’re interested in meeting a member of the opposite sex? Facebook might be a good place to start. Or, perhaps you have a favorite sports team that you like to brag about or discuss? Tweet away about those Braves! These are just some of the more positive ways individuals use social media.
In my case, being an author, I use some of social media sites—not all—to engage those who buy and read my books (I don’t care for the term “fans”). Since it’s not possible to meet and greet everyone, it’s a nice way to make myself accessible to them, and give them an opportunity to feel as though they kind of know me. But I also like to engage with other like-minded individuals on a whole host of topics, including—but not limited to—cooking, music, movies, and sports. As a younger man, I would have done this by frequenting the nearest cocktail lounge or bar. As a 70-year-old, I prefer the modern way of doing things, especially as my tolerance for alcohol (and noise) decreases inversely to my advancing age. Using social media in this fashion (at least for me) is a mostly positive experience. I am a natural born “people person,” and social media serves me well in that regard.
But social media also has a dark side. Many individuals use it for nefarious purposes. They might create a false identity, with which they populate various sites with bombastic attacks on individuals or groups they disagree with. Some lie about themselves and create exaggerated profiles, complete with fictitious names and photographs, in order to entice members of the opposite sex into relationships fraught with potential danger. Others, whose own abilities might pale in comparison to those they malign, write malicious reviews for books they’ve never read, in order to bolster their own egos as wanna-be authors.
Politics and religion are other topics that lend themselves to negative behavior. Fanatical believers, hell bent on a mission, disseminate skewed information, in the hope of increasing their numbers. And then, there is the latest trend of using social media for bullying. Not a week goes by that a news story doesn’t appear regarding an incident. Most often, the story concerns a group of school children taking to Facebook or Twitter to spew hateful messages about an unfortunate classmate, disliked for some obscure “deficiency.” But the worst are the terrorists, who use social media to . . . well . . . we all know about that.
So there you have it, a look into the positive and negative uses of social media—a double-edged sword if ever there was one. Whether you use it for one or the other is up to you. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I have to log into my Twitter account and see if anyone has Tweeted about last night’s Rangers game. Go Broadway Blues!