What are the long-term effects of social media and society? The good, the bad and the ugly…

Technology and social media have become an integral part of society over the last decade. No longer a pastime of millennial’s – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Strava and others, are social media channels utilised by all ages and demographics. As a lady who values her private time and family life – back in the day, I was a bit hesitant about social media and whether it would really be ‘for me’.

However, when Facebook and Twitter came to market I was intrigued… not only from a personal perspective, but I also wanted to understand how these channels could be utilised for business.

The good – Social connection

There are many things I love about social media – building relationships, keeping in touch with friends and family who have moved away, sharing moments and memories with wider groups of friends and colleagues, being able to share opinions far and wide, being able to connect and engage with the world at large (news, business, sport), and of course being able to converse with people in multiple countries in real-time. For an enquiring mind, social media is not only an amplification tool, but it has opened up a gateway of information to educate and learn. So what’s not to like?

The bad – Society is not set up to be patient anymore

Social media has driven a culture of ‘instant gratification’ and encouraged a mindset of ‘I want it now’. It’s in our human psychology to want to be liked and all social media channels are set up to play on these natural human tendencies – to facilitate that instant hit of dopamine to our brain when content you’ve shared is liked, shared and commented on.

The ugly – Is social media ripping apart society and exploiting psychology?

It’s strange to think that some people in our society are now more obsessed with their ‘social media’ life than they are about their real one. Social media has so many positives but it’s interesting to hear the thoughts from former Facebook Execs on the need to disconnect.

Chamath Palihapitaiya, formerly the longest original member of Facebook’s Exec team, in charge of audience growth says…

  • “Social media is ripping society apart”
  • “People are confusing truth with popularity, what is popular is not truthful”
  • “Social media exploits our natural human tendencies to want and need feedback”
  • “Facebook is designed to drip feed dopamine, you share some content, you get some likes, some comments, you get a dopamine hit, and that leads you to share more content.”

From here a social validation feedback loop ensues. But is this fake popularity? Are we seeking validation from external sources? Is social media rewiring our brains in a negative way so we’re all set on short-term fixes? As Palihapitaiya comments, perhaps this is the reason why Steve Jobs was anti social media?

He goes on to say there’s a real danger this ‘mindset of a short-term fix’ will impact on other areas of our lives – our work life, our personal life – and it’s not healthy. In my view, it’s creating a world where, ironically, we’re less connected; where we run the risk of becoming desensitised to those around us – you know, the real people in our lives – the ones we can see face to face and truly engage with, at home, at work, and socially over a cup of tea, pint or a glass of wine – or in my case a gin and tonic.

Digital detox – take a hard break, embrace it 

Turn it off for a week – would you be able to do this? Some people would freak at this idea as they are physically and mentally attached to their devices, and feel naked without them. Personally I love embracing a digital detox – and not just when I go on holiday. Logging off has become a daily habit – for at least some of my day – meaning no access to the internet, no access to WhatsApp, no access to social – it’s liberating.

Reconnect offline – Make time to log off and reconnect’!

Become super conscious and aware

I want to live in a world that’s super conscious, connected and aware. People are not predictable and that’s one of the many beautiful things about human nature – sometimes you just can’t predict what people will do or say – there’s great pleasure and excitement in not knowing what’s coming next. I value real interactions with real people, I value presence, and I value being around people who are conscious and aware.

What is the short and long-term effect of too much information? Does it serve us well or is it creating an overloaded, congested mind? After years of intense, surface, information, there’s a reason why a wave of people are seeking a higher level of consciousness, to be aware of their actions, and to be aware of the impact their interactions have on society, and the people around them.

Don’t get swamped by the downside of technological innovations in our society – embrace what serves you, and those around you, and remain connected to the real world.

Let’s work together

My name is Emma Potter, I founded Earlybird Consulting in June 2014. I work with early stage start-up businesses and SME’s in the technology, digital transformation, sports and mobile marketing space who are aiming to raise funds to accelerate growth, launch in new territories, drive lead generation, and build brand value prior to acquisition.

I’m always keen to speak with people about their business and to work with them to help solve their marketing challenges – Say hello.

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