A former teacher of digital media studies in the UK, Paul currently lives in Florida where he works as a freelance writer.
In recent times, there has been an explosion in the number of individuals and organizations using social networking websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. The user numbers for sites are staggering. Facebook, for instance, had more than 2.7 billion users in mid 2020.
Social networking sites are used by individuals to keep contact with friends and relatives, and for entertainment. They are also used by businesses and various other organizations to promote products, brands, people, events, and to disseminate information and update groups of followers with shared interests.
Social networking sites have brought with them many benefits, but also downsides. I've listed what I consider to be the main advantages and disadvantages below.
15 Advantages of Using Social Networking Websites
- Individual users can keep in touch with friends and relatives easily. You can stay up to date with what people are doing, and also let them know what is happening in your life, using words, photos, and other media.
- Users can connect with like-minded people. Social networking makes it easy to join groups and make friends online with others who share your particular interests, even if it is relatively obscure.
- Connections with others can be made long distance and across international boundaries.
- Social networking can increase voting rates and facilitate political change. Political campaigns such as elections, boycotts, rallies, and marches can all be set up and run via social media.
- Large amounts of people can be contacted quickly in the event of an emergency event, such as a hurricane, wildfire, or terrorist attack.
- Certain groups, such as senior citizens, or the physically disabled, are able to maintain relationships and feel connected to society more easily.
- Social networking sites can be a source of entertainment. Many people use websites like Facebook for a little light relief during a break from work, or when they are unwinding at home.
- Social media offers excellent opportunities for musicians and artists to promote themselves without the need for a corporate contract. The pop star Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube.
- Users can catch up with news and find out about local events. Provided the source is trustworthy, social networking sites can be a great source of information, whether it is international news, details of the latest bargains at the local store, or reviews of restaurants.
- The police increasingly use social media to catch criminals.
- It is generally free of charge to set up a social networking account and use it.
- Businesses and organizations can use social networking sites to promote their brand, update customers, promote products and events. They can employ direct marketing, traditional advertising, or other sales methods.
- "Crowdsourcing" and "crowdfunding" are great ways for people to participate in the collective funding of a project.
- Social networking online can be a great way to find a new job. Sites like LinkedIn are particularly suited for this purpose.
- The interactivity of social media allows for public discussions online, such as local issues, politics, and current events.
When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears.
— Zadie Smith
15 Disadvantages of Using Social Networking Websites
- Users cannot be sure that their personal data will be safe. It may be stolen, or even sold by the site itself in some instances.
- Scams, computer viruses, fraud, and identity theft all occur on social networking sites.
- Children use social networking sites to cheat and copy their assignments.
- People can waste a lot of time on social networking sites without any obvious benefits. Their work career, studies, social life, and even physical health can suffer as a result.
- Businesses using networking run the risk of making a faux pas or worse, and undermining the brand.
- Terrorism and hate groups use the sites to promote their views and recruit new members.
- There are privacy issues associated with social networking. It is not always clear who is able to read your profile and personal information. An embarrassing photo of you drunk at a party might be seen by a family member, or critical comments made about your workplace might be seen by your boss.
- Once information is posted on a site and shared, it can be difficult or impossible to delete or retrieve it.
- Excessive social media use can result in stress with offline relationships: family; friends; and romantic partners.
- Bullying, stalking and harassment all happen on these sites. Threatening messages can be sent anonymously. Stalkers can often glean personal information or work out a user’s location and movements. Embarrassing photographs and other media can be used to harass or blackmail.
- Unauthorized sharing can take earnings away from artists and musicians, as copyright laws are often flouted.
- Aggressive advertisements can undermine the user experience.
- Information overload causes stress and a sense of being overwhelmed for some. Much of the information is completely frivolous.
- Much of the information on social networks comes from poor sources or is just plain incorrect. Some of the information is calculated to mislead for political or other purposes.
- Some psychologists have expressed concerns about the social disconnect that happens when people swap real life relationships for virtual ones. This especially applies to young people, who are still developing social skills.
These days young kids don't have any place to form an epic adventure. It's more often in front of the TV screen or a laptop. That's very hard on them. They're being taught daily unsocial skills. Facebook is an unsocial skill. It's so sad.
— John Lydon
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Paul Goodman
Brownmanl1256 on August 23, 2017:
The main disadvantage of Social Media is that they gather our data and the best way to protect your privacy is using a VPN https://goo.gl/ywaqkQ
PGupta0919 on May 17, 2017:
Very nicely written!
Tim Martin on May 03, 2017:
Nice and very informative, it is all the matter of perspective and how you utilize it. Thank you for sharing.
steven on February 22, 2017:
i disagree i use the internet at work all the time,and after a long day of work i still have time to play with my kids
David Milberg from New York, New York on February 06, 2017:
I agree with this 1,000%. Social media is a double edged sword for sure.
valestttttttttttt on January 25, 2017:
well! anything has pro's and con's!
social networking sites are drugs. Once you get addicted you can't get off them.You can't spend even one day without them .At the same time its heplful too .
Carl Neumann from Cebu, Philippines on September 21, 2016:
Thanks for a very interesting hub! I would like to add one more point on the advantages side, which is maybe not so well known, but absolutely significant. Social media is a great communication tool following disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. I was in the Philippines during and after Supertyphoon Haiyan devastated large regions of the country, and almost all of the private relief efforts were coordinated through Facebook. People set up groups to exchange information, ask for help, and guide relief efforts to specific regions. I had always been a Facebook sceptic before that, but that experience opened my eyes to the huge benefits FB provides in the form of sophisticated communication and networking tools.
Tori Canonge from North Carolina on April 21, 2014:
My family and friends are spread out all over the country so it's nice to be able to connect with them via Facebook or other social media sites. Unfortunately, I feel like there are a lot of fake people on Facebook and I also feel like it can hurt relationships if it is relied upon. There are so many statuses I see that I wish would be kept private!
x on November 12, 2013:
And might as well toss Pinterest into that mix.
Sonu on May 19, 2012:
Facebook is good service
F.kh morocco on April 09, 2012:
WELL SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES ARE LIKE A DOUBLE EDGED SWORD .THAT IS TO SAY IT HAS PROS AB WELL AS CONS.HOWEVER USERS SHOULD BE ALERT AND CAREFUL OTHERWISE IT MAYBE DANGEROUS
DEEPA JOHN from Trivandrum, Kerala,India on March 27, 2012:
Yes I do agree with u, these are really of great advantage and on the other side, we may get addicted to it sometimes.
we need to track that - which is more important... Social networking should be for us, not that we should be for social networking.
Anastasia Kingsley from Croatia, Europe on March 08, 2012:
I use Facebook since I live in Europe and my family is in America. It's been a definite advantage, seeing and posting photographs and keeping me in touch with their daily goings-on. I don't post hardly anything personal, however - that is reserved for email! With Big Brother lurking, I only put generic things like weather, music and so on...
odeisa from Anaheim on February 14, 2012:
i want to try to not log in to facebook for 1 month and see how it will change me.
H C Palting from East Coast on January 21, 2012:
I choose not to use social networking sites. I cannot trust these sites because many functions change in a stealthy manner that is meant to provide the most benefit to the company and their advertisers, rather than users. And even the simplest of functions are made to be nearly impossible. Add in the fact that some act as if your information is theirs, and I have been totally turned off. Besides, I enjoy seeing people in person, sharing videos or pictures in person, picking up the phone, etc.
yui lockhart from Philippines on December 21, 2011:
I totally agree with this hub of yours. Social networking sites is very helpful when it comes to keeping up with your friends or relatives. Actually, my mom and dad found their elementary, highschool and college classmates thru facebook. But the downside of it, is that your privacy can be exposed. And you can meet people who will not say anything good to you. I have experienced this, that is why, I limit the information I post on the internet. Thanks! great hub