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Social Media: Good or Bad for the World?

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In the past few weeks, Facebook has surpassed the one billion active users mark. Considering there are six billion people in the world that’s pretty amazing. One billion people connected to each other on a regular basis. The question is, will the world benefit from all these folks sending their thoughts, pictures, vacations, talking about their kids, talking about other peoples kids, politics, religion, and everything else under the sun? Or, has social media created a petri dish, where rumors, incorrect information, racism, propaganda and other destructive thoughts can propagate and spread like some form of deadly virus? Only time will tell if the cream is going to rise to the top.

The Big Three: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

There is no question the invention of the Internet has totally changed the way we communicate. Over time, TV commercials began showing web sites for more information. Now, advertisers are asking you to “follow” them on one or more of the various social media platforms. Many companies are adding social media to their advertising mix along with their traditional advertising venues. Social media platforms are similar but are used it difference ways by different users.

Facebook

Facebook is a lot like the Bozeman Christmas Stroll. People from different walks of life, all ages and interests, show up in one place just to have a good time together. Families keep in touch, friends exchange cartoons and jokes, and people argue over politics and religion as we’ve done at coffee shops and backyards for hundreds of years. Facebook is the town square of social media. You just show up and see who’s there. But, just like at the stroll, you don’t know everyone and they don’t know you. With Facebook you have to be accepted by those you want to be friends with and in turn you can accept or not accept people who want to be friends with you.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is more like a chamber of commerce meeting or Rotary Club. Business owners, movers-and-shakers of the community, real estate, insurance, doctors, lawyers, and everything in between are the focus of this group. It’s become one of the best resources to find a job on the net or anywhere else for that matter. Like Facebook you have to invite or be invited to connect with someone. But you can also be introduced to someone from a contact you already have. It’s a high-end, virtual networking group. There are also industry groups you can join and give comments or start group discussions. Lot’s of power here.

Twitter

Next to Facebook, this is the one you probably hear the most about. On Facebook and LinkedIn you “message” people. With Twitter, you “tweet.” The talking heads kept track of the number of “tweets” during the debates and election night. What makes Twitter interesting is you can follow anyone and you will get his or her tweets. But they can’t get your messages unless you follow them.

You can keep up with movie stars, TV personalities, politicians, authors, news anchors, or ordinary people. The only real restriction on Twitter is, all messages are limited to 140 characters and spaces. Keeps all messages short and sweet and to the point. You might find yourself using “2” instead of “too” in order to save spaces. Makes reading what your favorite Twitter pal is tweeting easier and quicker.

Some Final Thoughts

Some fads come and go. Social media is here to stay. It’s like the cell phone. It’s become as much of our daily routine as brushing our teeth. Get up, have coffee, see who’s online. Send your “tweets,” “likes” and invite new contacts. We used to say, and maybe still do, that we’d like to be a paperless society. So far, email is about to put the Post Office out of business with letter writing, and social media is slowing making emails less necessary. You can message anyone on any of the three platforms — anytime.

The original question still remains, is social media good, or bad? I guess that’s an individual judgment we all have to make. I guess it goes back to an old saying, “It’s not what you’ve got; it’s how you use it.” How are you using it?

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