Eleanor writes on many topics, including parenting, single parenting, party and activity ideas, and career and home life.
1. It Helps Us to Keep in Contact
Perhaps rather obviously, social media allows us to connect to people we know, wherever they are. It allows us a little glimpse into each other's lives so that even when our paths head in different directions, it doesn't have to mean the end.
But why do we need social media at all? Doesn't a video call offer a more intimate option or even the good old phone conversation? Well, it does—if we're talking about your parents, your child, a sibling, or your very best friend. But what about that friend who moved away, those other parents you met at your child's sports club before he quit, that old work colleague you used to laugh with before he moved elsewhere/retired?
The truth is, whatever we say at the time, we're probably not going to video call any of these people or even phone for a chat. To do that, we'd probably feel we're crossing the line of familiarity. Perhaps we'll send a text, wondering how they are. Then, chances are, we'll even stop doing that. Even good friends can start to drop off our radar when they move too far away or when life takes a different turn.
But social media can keep our bonds tied. It's ideal for keeping in contact with those on the periphery of our lives because it enables us to dip and out of communication easier and more subtly than picking up the phone. Which, whatever you want to promise yourself, almost no one ever does anymore.
You can comment on your old friend's holiday pics, wish them a happy birthday, share funny stories or congratulate them on their new job in seconds and without wondering what on earth else you'll talk about. It might not seem like much, but it will still make them feel good, and it will help keep the bond between you from being permanently broken.
I reconnected with my old friend from school via social media after more than twenty-five years of not even knowing where she lived, which was a really nice moment. In fact, the more I think about it, the more it saddens me that nearly all of those random people I once knew from childhood and my younger adult days have disappeared from my life, likely to never be seen again. It's like compartmentalising them—they are the past, and back then there was no internet, never mind no social media. But isn't it nicer to have more fluid lines of communication now?
Social Media Also Helps to Reconnect Us With Our Things
Aside from reconnecting us with family and friends, social media can also help us to find our lost possessions. There are countless sites on social media on which users can post details of both lost and found items, from children's beloved soft toys to precious jewelry and pets. Some groups are nationwide, whereas others are of local interest, but all try to reunite people with their belongings in a way that simply wasn't possible before the existence of social media. Sometimes, 'lost' posts even go viral, particularly when a 'special' item is involved, meaning that the post is shared so widely that thousands of people see it. That kind of exposure simply doesn't happen when you are relying on your local police lost property department.
2. It's Great for Grassroots Campaigns
Social media offers the perfect way to spread news fast. Not only that, but it can reach a phenomenal amount of people. While this can sometimes be a negative consequence, such as in the case of fake news or defamation, there is no doubt that social media is the modern tool for putting the word out there. And when it comes to a campaign of any sort, it shines.
There is a lot going on in the world these days. Not only that, but it has never been easier for 'ordinary' people to spread awareness or set up their own grassroots campaign. The internet has paved the way for easy communication, and social media provides the platform for getting the word out there, and fast. It basically means that everyone is a journalist these days when it comes to expressing what they want to say. Environmental campaigns, political news, local and national fundraising—it's all given a huge boost by the ability to share and promote via Facebook, Twitter, or any other popular site where people can easily share news and opinions. And that's a good thing because it means we are all less reliant on the (often biased and selective) mainstream media.
I recently joined a Greek animal welfare group on social media—it operates in an area I visited on a recent trip. The group shares heartwarming stories of adopted strays and also sometimes devastating news of neglect and even poisoning. What it has done is made me so much more aware of the plight of stray animals in that country and others too—and, in the end, it is awareness that brings about change.
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3. It's the Fledgling New Business Start Up's Best Friend
Anyone who wants to set up a small new business is given a huge helping hand by the internet in general, including the invention of social media. With low start-up costs and the ability to customise your demographic, the ability to reach potential customers without leaving the house, and for as little as $5, is invaluable. Traditional marketing on television, on radio and in print is typically very expensive and therefore elusive to many ordinary people, but with social media, almost anyone has an affordable way of reaching their audience, be it local or international. Social media advertising even allows you to tailor your target demographic in terms of age, relationship status, whether or not they are a parent, and more.
The majority of businesses now have a Facebook page, and this allows the entrepreneur to gain interest in their new enterprise by constantly reaching out to their audience with snippets of conversation, in the name of thoughts, opinions, information, and news. Social media pages can act as the 'front door' to a business by leading the potential customer to the main website. If the new business owner can encourage the visitor to 'like' the page, then that visitor will see all future posts, and thus the visibility of the new project will grow. If they leave a comment, then their social media followers will see it too. And the more the project grows, the more successful it is likely to be, at a minimal cost compared to older, more traditional methods of promotion.
Aside from serious business campaigns, social media offers the chance to profit from a 'hobby.' There is also the opportunity to make money from—or even free-cycle—used goods via local groups, cutting out the need for expensive or cumbersome postage.
4. It Can Deliver a Positive Message
Social media can be a great way of injecting positive messages into the world. Every day, it acts as a platform for inspiring stories that can instantly alter one's perspective and bring about a sense of gratitude and an appreciation for the truly important things in life. On social media, people regularly share wise and meaningful quotes, like an immediate dose of mindfulness. Just that one unexpected message popping up on your feed can be powerful enough to really make you think in that moment. It might even have been something you've heard before, but if you hadn't looked at your social media, it would likely never have entered your head at that time.
Even as I was writing this article, I checked my Facebook news feed and was met with a story about a very poor egg seller. A wealthy lady stopped to purchase eggs and bargained with the egg seller so that she received one egg-free; otherwise, she refused to buy any at all. Then she went to a fancy restaurant and enjoyed an expensive meal without questioning the cost, plus leaving a generous tip at the end. The moral of that story is, why do we sometimes use our power to give less to those who need our generosity the most and give without a thought to those who don't?
It's pause for thought, and there are many tales circulating just like it. There are also many true accounts of people who have battled difficult situations with heroism, leaving us feeling thankful; heartwarming stories of humans coming to the aid of other humans; animals rescuing humans; humans rescuing animals, and so on. Not to mention the countless messages of encouragement and empowerment and funny memes that bring a lighthearted touch to our day.
5. It Can Be Good for Your Career
Being 'out there' means people - even people you don't know can contact you. That might not always seem like a good thing - after all, you probably don't want your whole life on display to strangers. Restrictive privacy settings are recommended on personal Facebook accounts, for example, which is important as it means you can protect sensitive information, such as pictures of your family.
But sometimes social media can lead to opportunities that might not have existed otherwise. Take the professional networking site LinkedIn. Just simply having a page means that people can easily view your skills and experience. It gives you a place online to showcase your expertise, and sometimes that can lead to new opportunities.
Depending on your line of work, your LinkedIn account could be invaluable. Take my limited experience of the site—after a piece of writing I did ended up as part of a project that gained a lot of interest, I realised that my rather sad and neglected LinkedIn account (with no updates, no activity and barely anyone in my network) was suddenly being viewed by people who liked the work. Even better than that, one view was from an editor at a large publishing company who sent me a personal message. One of my New Year's resolutions is to make better use of online networking opportunities.
To Sum It Up
Social media often gets a bad rap. It is sometimes described as addictive, shallow, unrealistic and detrimental for mental health. But, when used moderately and wisely, it can also enhance our lives in ways that simply just didn't exist for past generations. There is a whole world out there, and social media not only connects us more easily but has allowed us to change the way we do things.
© 2019 Eleanor's Words
Anita Hasch on March 30, 2019:
Such an interesting hub. Social media has changed my life and I'm sure thousands of other people's as well. As a writer it has connected me with an audience for my books. Social media has also connected me with friends that have moved to other parts of the world. How awesome is that.