Social Media - a Tool or a Weapon?

Social Media

Happy post-Thanksgiving!

I’m sure like the many discussions I had around the kitchen table this weekend, the federal election (which is less than a week away) was a hot topic of discussion…. including many opinions on what the suspected outcome is going to be next Monday.

In almost every conversation about the election, the topic of fake news or social media and its role in the election came up.

It prompted me to want to write about this as I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

How conflicted I’ve been about social media in the last few months. Hear me out…

I do social media for a living, promoting the benefits of using it as a digital tool to promote businesses, personal brands, executives, etc. The many benefits of social media can’t be denied - it really is the new telephone book of our time - if you’re not on it, people wonder why because it is expected now that we be online. We’re all using social media or being influenced by it in some way, whether we like it or not.

Yet, there are no rules for social media. And even if there are ‘unofficial rules,’ chances are by tomorrow, a new set of rules will replace what is ‘OK’ to do today. It really is the wild, wild west.

Most companies now have social media policies which employees have to sign (see examples here, here, here and even Elections Canada has a fully dedicated social media page here)- yet do companies really know how to properly enforce these policies? Do social media giants like Facebook really even know what they’re doing from a policy standpoint when the platform changes so often?!

Do we really know what our social media footprint, especially for those teenagers who grew up when social media began and there really were NO rules at all, know what role their footprint will play in their future? I think of this every time I see a child whose parent has given them a dedicated hashtag that can be searched and discovered by anyone. What will the impact be for that child when they grow up, and their name can be searched out to find all of their childhood photos in one place because of a hashtag?

It is a tool that is so powerful…. when used as a tool.

Yet, if it is used as a weapon, social media can be so detrimental and even worse, it can be life altering/ending for those who have been say bullied through social media, whose mental health has been compromised because of social media’s influence or in countries where democracy is compromised because of social media bots/trolls that influence elections.

The impact social media has on our lives is immeasurable.

I’m continually surprised at the amount of people who are now questioning social media - stepping back from it, second guessing why they use it, telling their friends why its bad for them and even their relationships with people… and despite all of this, they continue to use it.

As if we’re all addicted, yet don’t want to admit it.

If we were to have a serious, open discussion about social media’s use as a weapon, it makes me think of the type of training, or lack there of, that we receive for such a small yet powerful force. If we wanted to compare it to the likes of other weapons like guns and cars, we receive training in these areas and yet no formal training is given or offered to learn how to use social media properly or in a healthy manner.

Is this really right? Will things be different in a decade or say 25 years from now, once it is recognized how more measures need to be put into place as how we use social media?

I think that is where we all have to begin. We have to ask ourselves first and foremost - what am I purposefully using social media for?

If it is being used as a tool, to say promote this blog post or network and connect with other business owners or potential clients, then great, its purpose has been fulfilled. But if we find ourselves aimlessly scrolling through our feeds while we sit in bed at night beside our partners, or see a table full of family/friends with their heads down at the Thanksgiving table, checking their phones, then we have to ask ourselves the important question again - what are we purposefully using social media for?

Do we really understand its power, its impact, its influence, its sometimes irreversible force?

Something to think about as we start the work week.

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