Remember the days when plucking an encyclopedia volume off the shelf was the fastest way to answer a question? With the birth of the Internet, the printed encyclopedia was forever relegated to duty as a piece of nostalgic home décor.
Then along came social media. You had access to anything and everything. And you could get it from a living, breathing person rather than a static Web page. You could connect with people you’d lost contact with years ago. You could keep up with the lives of family and friends on the other side of the country or world. It opened the door to a new level of connecting, sharing and – well – everything.
So five years ago today, Mashable initiated the first Social Media Day as a way to recognize the digital revolution happening right before our eyes. From Australia to the Philippines, all the way to Sri Lanka and Morocco, Social Media Day events and celebrations are kicking off as you read this story.
Social media has certainly built a resume worthy of its own day. It’s changed how we gather and consume news. It’s given “the people” a voice in the digital age – and that voice has prompted a new level of corporate transparency and interaction. It’s even played a role in the political revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain in recent years.
Considerable good has come from the evolution of social media, but there’s another side to every story. In gathering info for this blog post, I solicited the opinions of about 50 people on the potential harm or downfalls of social media. The following were among the most common answers:
- “It consumes you. It can wreak havoc on productivity at work and in life.”
- “The younger generation quantifies self worth with how many likes or followers it has on social media.”
- “The more social we are, the less social we are. How many times have you seen a family out to dinner with faces buried in their phones rather than in conversation with each other?”
- “Because everyone has a voice, a lot of lies are perpetrated and go viral.”
- “Cyber bullying.”
- “I worry about the developmental impact it’s having on young people. I already feel like social skills are deteriorating. What about the first generation of kids who grow up with social media from the beginning?”
I subscribe to the belief that social media is and will continue to be a source of innovation to better our digital world. But the opinions and concerns above can’t be ignored. Social media must compliment our lives, not own it. It’s a serious issue. And it’s our responsibility to become disciplined and find that balance.