Risks and Rewards of Social Media

Image by rawpixel.com

Type A

My Post

The high and ever-increasing popularity of social media has been the instigator of both praises and criticism. One common praise of social media platforms like Facebook, is that they allow people to connect with others they might otherwise not be able to connect with, whether its distant relatives on the other side of the globe, or a stranger who shares your love of French cuisines. Of course, this has also been a source of criticism from those who believe that the interactions performed through social media are taking away from real, in-person interactions. A common argument being that, of the hundreds of friends or followers you might have on social media, a small portion of those are people you would consider true friends, or people that you would regularly interact with outside of social media. This agrument, however, is besides the point for many people who use social media. While some people might use social media for the sole purpose of keeping up with the lives of their close friends and family, a lot of people appreciate it for the connections they can make outside these close contacts. Afterall, of the millions of people following Taylor Swift on Instagram, all but a few are just fans wanting to connect more with a celebrity they like and who don’t expect more than that superficial connection.

The question that arises then is, what do people get out of posting their thoughts, opinions, and photos for people they have just a superficial connection with? Why are people willing to put themselves out there for complete strangers to see and judge?  We might like seeing the posts made by a fellow Disney lover, but making such posts ourselves leaves us open for criticism. In the book Antisocial Media, Siva Vaidhyanathan suggests that the reason people post on social media is that they “often desire approval, or at least acknowledgment, from their peers.” We might feel validated when someone gives a “like” or “comment” to our post, even if it’s someone we don’t know very well and who’s opinion on the matter we would not otherwise seek. Such feelings of validation and approval, and the joys that come with them, are what many people come back to social media for. Vaidhyanathan compared social media to a snack, which I feel is an apt comparison for how many people use it. The overall pleasure we receive from social media is limited, but frequent. It is also addictive enough that we keep coming back to it with “the possibility that our next interaction with Facebook will be slightly more pleasurable than the last” (Vaidhyanathan).

Additionally, while posting to social media essentially requires us to put ourselves out there for judgement, the risks usually aren’t actually that high. In fact, despite all its differences, the similarities between social media interaction and in person interactions are plentiful too. In conversations with friends or family we’re close to, it is common to share a story of an experience we recently had, sometimes even with photos, or we might share our opinions on worldly matters. When conversing with strangers or people we don’t know as well, we tell these stories and experiences as a way to grow closer or just to make casual conversation. In both situations, we typically expect positive feedback, whether it’s them telling us that they like the cake we decorated last week, the trip we went on looked so fun, or they agree with a point we made on a worldly issue. People are more likely to give positive feedback or no feedback when speaking face-to-face unless they feel particularly strongly about an issue, just like they are limited to positive feedback in social media unless they feel particularly strongly about something and choose to leave a critical comment. Most social media sites, after all, don’t have a dislike button, so we are led to focus more on how much people like our posts than on how much people don’t.

Chat GPT’s Post

In 250 words, based on Siva Vaidhyanathan’s book “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy”, what value do people see in social media interactions?

In Siva Vaidhyanathan’s book “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy,” he explores the multifaceted value that people ascribe to social media interactions. Social media platforms like Facebook offer users a range of benefits. They enable individuals to connect with others, bridging geographical gaps and maintaining relationships with friends and family. Users value the opportunity for self-expression, using these platforms as vehicles for sharing personal thoughts and experiences. Additionally, social media serves as a valuable source of information and news, with users following news outlets and influencers to stay updated on current events. It fosters community building, bringing together people with shared interests, and provides entertainment and distraction through a myriad of content.

Social media interactions also fulfill emotional needs by offering feedback and validation through likes and comments, thereby boosting self-esteem. Moreover, these platforms facilitate advocacy and activism, allowing individuals and groups to raise awareness about important issues and push for social change. Businesses and individuals appreciate social media as a marketing tool for brand promotion and audience outreach. Furthermore, it has become a vital platform for political engagement and discourse, enabling citizens to voice their political views and connect with like-minded individuals. However, Vaidhyanathan’s book underscores that while these values are evident, they are often accompanied by significant drawbacks, such as disconnection from in-person interactions, filter bubbles that reinforce existing beliefs, misinformation propagation, surveillance, and the potential for manipulation. Thus, Vaidhyanathan’s work encourages a nuanced examination of the value and consequences of social media interactions in our lives and democracy.

3 Comments on “Risks and Rewards of Social Media

  1. I think that’s a good observation–Social media doesn’t really require you to take risks in order to interact with it. While yes, negative things can happen over social media–trolling, for example–you usually aren’t putting yourself into danger while posting.

  2. I’m glad that you highlighted a lot of the benefits of social media, Shaylyn. That’s one of the things that I appreciate about Vaidhyanathan’s chapter: he’s not entirely condemning the activity. Obviously billions of people have made the decision that the benefits of social media far outweigh the downsides.

  3. I love how you pointed out that we don’t actually know most of the people we interact with on social media. I remember in middle school when people would say “leave a comment and I’ll post a ‘tbh’ on your most recent post”. You’d comment a silly emoji and then the person would leave a very shallow comment that usually sounded like, “tbh i don’t actually know you that well but you seem super chill”. It’s surprising how much satisfaction and validation I derived from these shallow compliments from my classmates I saw as “cooler” than me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *