Earlier this month, I wrote about what is wrong with social media today. It is quite a long list, of course. But in the spirit of positivity, it is worth it to share the flipside of social media as well. In the span of just a few short minutes spent browsing a local Facebook page last week, I realized social media has a “high road”. There are those who use it as a platform to provide help and spread community cheer.
During my time spent browsing, which was maybe no more than 15 minutes, I came across countless positive recommendations of small local businesses, as well as some heartwarming posts. There was one in which a man offered a word of thanks to an anonymous stranger who paid for his order at Tim Hortons. There was another by a woman whose mother had lost her wedding and engagement rings while out shopping locally, finished with a cheerful addendum of “rings have been found!” And of course, people use social media routinely to get recommendations on local businesses and service providers to meet their needs.
Like all things, social media needs balance. The psychology is clear on the fact that social skills are important, and social anxieties can be greatly reduced by practicing face-to-face social interactions. A world lived largely behind a computer or smartphone screen is not a psychologically healthy one. But with balance, where we still have in-person interactions but also use social media to connect with a larger number of people in ways that provide benefit to the community as a whole, the potential downsides of social media are greatly diminished.
From the perspective of a small town community newspaper, social media also has the advantage of being what one might call “the new phone book”. Young readers may know what a phone book is as these trusty relics are still printed and circulated from time to time, but I imagine few young readers would realize that the vast majority of landline phone numbers were once listed in the phone book. Now, with far fewer people having landline phones, and the ability to look up phone numbers online, phone books are not as useful as they once were. Social media also allows people to be searched up and contacted by name, which helps tremendously when including members of the community as contributors to their community newspaper!
Why the flip flop on social media? On the contrary, I am not flip flopping, but rather expressing both sides of the social media universe. The world is changing, and we must change with it.