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Critically assess the effect of Social Media on society

Social media as defined by Andreas M and Michael (2010, p. 61) is a group of Internet-based
applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that
allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. Social media platforms include chat
rooms, blogging web sites, social networking sites, forums, and also text messages and e-mail
(Luxton, June and Fairall, 2012). The most popular social networking site, Facebook has made
such an influence on society that from 2004 to 2011 the number of users registered to the site
increased from 1 million to about 1 billion users worldwide (Yahoo Finance, 2012). With such
vast figures social media is bound to have an impact on the way society operates, either
positively or negatively, or both. These will be critically analyzed in this essay, identifying the
most crucial impacts it has on our society.
With the rapid increase in the awareness and use of social networking sites, it has provided
positive contributions to how society functions. First and foremost, social networking has grown
to become a critical part of a businesss marketing strategies, and if managed efficiently, will
prove to be a major factor for its success.
Social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter have provided an easy-to-access platform
for people to share their views, preferences, and experiences about brands and products. Once
this information gets widespread through word-of-mouth, it will have a direct influence on
peoples opinion of brands and products, ultimately resulting in a pleasant or negative effect on
brand image (Milad, Choubtarash and Salber, 2013). Moreover, Evans (2012) and Milad,
Choubtarash and Salber (2013) all agree that people find word-of-mouth to be more trustworthy
than claims from marketers and this results in them wanting to imitate others actions. Svetlana
and Philipp (2012, p. 47) emphasises on the importance of word-of-mouth via social media by
saying that, in this day and age the user is defining the brand and has become the most
important factor of being successful
The high amount of exchanging of information through social media has been proven from the
results of a research conducted during October 2012 at Eastern Mediterranean University in
Cyprus. 150 females and males between 18 to 45 years old from different nationalities were
interviewed. 76% were introduced to Facebooks brands page through their friends. 84% of
attendances buying behaviour was affected because of their friends words of mouth which

positively resulted in reducing the uncertainty and increasing trust toward brands advertising on
Facebook. 80% liked or commented on brands pictures and videos to show and exchange their
experience on particular brand which directly have positive or negative effects. (Milad,
Choubtarash and Salber, 2013, p. 72-73).
In addition to this, social media allows marketers to communicate with and build a positive
relationship with existing and potential customers, and in turn allows users to get information
about a company/brand (Svetlana and Philipp, 2012). Marketers are able to provide product
information, promotions and any update on business activities directly to the customers and the
users are freely allowed to give any comments and express their like/dislike for the brand. This
two way communication builds trust between the two parties and according to Safko (2012, p.
28) the social networks goal is to build trust in a given community. Moreover according to
Milad, Choubtarash and Salber (2013) this is the key differentiating factor between social and
traditional media, where in the latter users are allowed to deliver content but not modify it.
A research on Facebook users and their interaction on Facebook has proven that a higher
percentage of users are likely to engage with brands pages to interact with and get product
information from them in 2010 compared to that in 2009.

Figure 1.1 - Facebook users and their interaction on Facebook.

Source: (Svetlana and Philipp, 2012, p47).

Further, the research conducted by Milad, Choubtarash and Salber, (2013, p. 73), concluded that
80% of interviewees were members of different Facebooks brands pages, and from the
findings of The state of inbound marketing webinar (2012) 80% of US social network users
prefer to connect to brands through Facebook.
In addition to aiding businesses to grow, social media provides an array of beneficial uses to
support teaching and learning in higher education. A few of them identified by Selwyn (2009)
cited in Hrastinski and Aghaee (2011) are; social media helps students invest time and energy in
building relationships around shared interests and knowledge communities (Maloney 2007, p.
26), encourages critical thinking in learners (Bugeja, 2006, p. 1), offers educators a forum for
easy networking and positive networking with students (Lemeul 2006, p. 1) and will radically
change the educational system to better motivate students (Ziegler, 2007). In fact social
media has become so influential that according to Al-Rahmi and Othman (2013), students regard
it as one of the major factors for facilitating educational experience.
Social media has helped Professor Janet Banhidi from Marquette University, where she uses
Skype for 1 to 1 Spanish tutorials with students (Ferenstein, 2010). Also, Dr. Rankin, professor
of History at UT Dallas used twitter to reach more students and encourage class discussions both
in and out of the classroom (YouTube, 2009).
A survey on the use of social media by teaching faculty was conducted by Moran, Seaman and
Tinti-Kane (2011), where survey invitation messages were sent to slightly under 50,000 e-mail
addresses from which 1920 sufficient responses were received. The results are presented below.
90% of faculty use social media either for their professional career purposes or in their classes
or both, compared to 47% of employees using it in the workplace.

Figure 1.2 - Comparison of professional social media use by workplace employees and faculty.
Source: (Moran, Seaman and Tinti-Kane, 2011, p. 9).
Since social media is used for professional (non-class) and personal reasons as well, faculty were
asked about their use of social media in class. It was reported that 80% of faculty report using
social media for some aspect of a course they are teaching.

Figure 1.3 - Faculty use of social media in class for student assignments
Source: (Moran, Seaman and Tinti-Kane, 2011, p. 12).

Finally they were asked of the overall value of social media in higher education. A majority of
70% of faculty agree that Video, podcasts, blogs, and wikis are valuable tools for teaching,
while just 6% differ from the statement and 58% agree that Social media can be a valuable tool
for collaborative learning, with only 12% disagreeing with the statement.

Figure 1.4 - Faculty opinion on the value of social media for class use
Source: (Moran, Seaman and Tinti-Kane, 2011, p. 16).
Any innovation has its benefits and limitations and social media is no exception. In oppose to the
above mentioned sound benefits of social media use, there are some ways in which it can be
misused leading to serious concerns on the society.
To begin, social networking has led to the development of cyberbullying, which as defined by
OKeeffe and Clarke-Pearson (2011, p. 801) is deliberately using digital media to communicate
false, embarrassing, or hostile information about another person. Usually social networking
websites such as Facebook are the main platform for this new form of bullying since it provides
protected free speech from the comfort of ones own home which is negatively exploited by the
attackers. Moreover, children and adolescents, without realizing its risks, share their personal
information in these sites which allows bullies to exploit and use it against the victim leading to
cyberbullying (Madden et al., 2013). Further the seriousness of this issue is taken for granted by
parents since according to OKeeffe and Clarke-Pearson (2011, p. 801), some parents are unable
to cope with the rapidly changing internet landscape and thus they often lack a basic
understanding that kids online lives are an extension of their offline lives. Therefore all three

parties; the bully, the victim and the victims parents are, in most cases, held responsible for
cyberbullying through social networks. Consequently resulting in negative effects on victims,
such as lowering self-esteem, increasing depression, and producing feelings of powerlessness
(Anderson, Bresnahan and Musatics, 2014, p. 1) and increased risk for pro-suicide behavior
(Luxton, June and Fairall, 2012).
In The Parents and Teens 2006 survey, where 935 teens of 12 17 year olds and their parents
were interviewed via telephone in 2006, the most common forms of cyberbullying were
questioned. When the results were compared between social network users and that of non-social
network users, it revealed that social networks do facilitate cyberbullying.

Figure 1.5
Source: Lenhart (2007, p. 4)
In addition, although social networking sites offer an attractive means for people to interact with
each other, it also raises the issue of privacy and security risks. This is because it provides users
with a platform to present themselves to their peers and display their popularity among them
(Mohamed, 2010), thus ignoring the risks of sharing personal information such as their telephone
number, e-mail address or where they live. This information is accessible to almost everyone if
the privacy settings are not properly managed, which most social media users find it difficult to

do. Further, OKeeffe and Clarke-Pearson (2011, p. 802) note that sharing too much information,
or posting false information about themselves or others also puts their privacy at risk.
Madden (2012) reports, a survey of telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey
Research Associates International in 2011 on Americans use of the internet, among a sample of
2,277 adults, age 18 and older, revealed the following:
The choices adults and teens make with regards to the privacy settings in social media sites are
identical. Although the majority of young adults (59%) set it to private, there are some (22%)
who allow it to be publicly viewed.

Figure 1.6
Source: Madden (2012, p. 7)

Also, half of social media users report some difficulty in managing the privacy controls on their

Figure 1.7
Source: Madden (2012, p. 8)
Further, a structured questionnaire used to collect data from a sample (N=325) of Arab
respondents in Emirates and Egypt revealed the type of personal information they share in social
networking sites,

Figure 1.8 - Personal information respondents put in their profiles (n=205)

Source: Mohamed (2010, p. 82)

In conclusion, the rise of social media has had a significant influence on various members of the
society, including businesses, learners, educators, children and all those who use it on a regular
basis. It has been proven that in this day and age, it is a must for businesses to implement social
media in their marketing strategies in order to survive. Also it has changed the way high school
educators teach to the better by offering a more interactive learning environment where students
commitment levels have improved. However, on the contrary, social media can turn out to be a
dangerous tool which could even ruin peoples lives if it is misused. The most harmful
consequences of it being the rise of cyberbullying and the risk to privacy.
In my view, the most compelling argument to this topic is that, social media has a more positive
effect on society. This is because the benefits it provides has almost completely changed and
improved the way members of society operate. And as for its negative outcomes, these are
mainly due to lack of understanding of its use and so if educated well, most or all of its
drawbacks can be eradicated.

Word count: 1647

Reference list
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Education, 53(18), B26.

Mohamed, A. (2010). Online Privacy Concerns Among Social Networks Users. Cross-cultural
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Moran, M., Seaman, J. and Tinti-Kane, H. (2011). Teaching, Learning, and Sharing: How
Todays Higher Education Faculty Use Social Media.
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Svetlana, L. and Philipp, D. (2012). Social-media platforms and its effect on digital marketing
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Personal Development Portfolio

A key aspect of social networks is the digital identity (or identities) adopted by users to
characterize and recognize themselves and others. At first glance, it may appear that users of
social networks treat and use digital identities similarly to their real-world identities. However,
the absence of physical contact enables people to create several identities, some of which may be
anonymous. Furthermore, users of social networks search and acknowledge each other based
mainly on attributes that they exchange through the infrastructure of the social network (which in
turn can be further used to disguise ones true identity). Altshuler, Elovici, Cremers, Aharony,
Pentland, (2012, p. 3).
Social media is an ever changing platform which requires the most up-to-date information when
critically analysing its effects on society, and so this quote has been chosen which is from a
recently published book. The Authors highlight one of the main security concerns of using social
networking sites, which is the use of multiple identities. This poses serious threats to those
unaware of the real situation when they interact with these fake identities, especially children
and teens.

Advertising done by businesses alone is not enough to achieve a good brand image, but that done
by the customer through word of mouth within social media is highly essential. This is because
people usually find word of mouth from their friends more trustworthy than claims from
marketers. The following quote shows that the authors are in favour of this positive impact on
Social Media, especially platforms on which the user can exchange ideas/thoughts and remarks
on the product, has become a very important factor inside the marketing approach and how to
build up an image of a brand/product This effect has change one element dramatically; the
company is not 100% owner of its own product. Svetlana and Philipp (2012, p. 47).
The Authors show full support for the argument and clearly emphasises on it by saying that
social media allows customers to have such an influence on brand image that it makes them a
part owner of the product itself.

Social media has given rise to a new form of bullying, called cyberbullying. One of the most
common form of cyberbullying is the spreading of embarrassing pictures without the owners
permission. With the vastness of the internet, this picture could be accessed by almost anyone,
and so once it starts spreading it can lead to extreme consequences to the victim. The quote
mentioned below is from a well published book, where the author strongly agrees to this
argument. It points out well what the author is trying to say, and that is the danger of
cyberbullying due to the enormity of social media in the online world.
The enormity of the online world means that one image sent via an internet chatroom can be
viewed literally millions of times around the world in a very short time, and electronically
forwarded content is hard to control. It may be a single incident for the perpetrator, but can have
multiple impact as it is passed around. Rogers (2012, p. 12).

Reference list
Altshuler, Y., Elovici, Y., Cremers, A., Aharony, N. and Pentland, A. (2012). Security and
Privacy in Social Networks. Springer Science & Business Media, p.3.
Rogers, V. (2010). Cyberbullying. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Svetlana, L. and Philipp, D. (2012). Social-media platforms and its effect on digital marketing
activities. 3(1), pp.44-52.