Social media has changed the web for business in many ways, and some would say that it has made the Internet into what it was meant to be all along. People can connect with each other in real-time. They can also contact other businesses and organizations. They can investigate things that interest them (or want to buy) and learn about things that they never considered before. However, there is one other aspect to social media that has to be examined, and that is its destructive power.
If you are the owner of a business, a non-profit organization, or some other sort of firm, you need to be very careful when using social media for your business. Remember, everyone can see the things that you post. Even if you delete them, they can live on in screenshots and online internet archives. If you post something that is offensive, you can undercut your customer base and drastically impact your sales figures. It has happened countless times before you.
As an individual, you may find that social media gives your friends and family members a way to say things that they would never say in real life. While a discussion in a living room would remain civil and kind, a discussion on a social media site could quickly turn to an argument. Insults can easily be written with this sense of distance even if people would never say the same things in another setting.
Those who are in the public eye also have to be careful. There are many examples of athletes saying things that they later regretted, after it was too late. The New York Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire used a gay slur when addressing a fan earlier this year, and the fan took a screenshot and showed it to the world. This was very harmful to Amare’s public image. He was also fined $50,000 by the NBA.
In the end, social media is not inherently destructive. If it is used correctly, it can be very good. However, people need to make sure that they know what they are doing when they use the Internet in this way. They need to be careful. All of your online actions are visible to the public, so make sure that you never say or do anything on a social media site that you would not want the whole world to see.