Editorial: Social media taking our world by storm

August 13, 2014

in Local

SWO-web“Social media” is a term that applies to Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and other things that were spawned by the invention of the Internet.

It refers to what passes for communication these days and is used by one and sundry to tell stories, report on personal and family activities and, in some cases, to sway the thoughts of those who read the “messages.”

These “tools” are also ideal for sharing photos of kids, games, achievements, discoveries and wonders of the world we might not see otherwise. There is, actually, no limit to what can be shared.

Social media is powerful beyond imagining. Consider that it has been used, at least in one country so far, to topple a government.

It isn’t something families use only to share information with distant relatives. It goes far beyond that. Politicians and even government agencies use social media to dispense a variety of messages.

You can find music, art, poetry and host of other things being discussed on social media outlets. Anything you can imagine, and some you might not have thought of before, can be found via social media.

Whether a limit to what can be achieved through social media has been realized yet is an open question. One thing is certain, however: the use of social media is surpassing all other forms of what those of us of a certain age once thought of as communication.

It’s a sort of frightening thing, really, because there are very few, if any, constraints on what social media contains or who it can reach.

In the early days of the Internet there were “chat rooms” that were used by people to exchange their views and ideas. There were some dangers here, but chat rooms, even though still around, have been by-passed by Facebook and similar outlets.

These days, almost everyone uses Twitter to exchange “tweets,” which are opinions, comments, views, pictures and such “shared” by a variety of people, from the famous to the infamous.

In other words, the Information Age, via the Internet, has opened the door to a deluge of data aimed at all who have the expertise required to use the system.

And, evidently, you don’t have to be all that astute to reach that level. If you’re uncertain, you can use the Internet itself to guide you through the required steps. Gradeschool kids, and even those younger, have mastered these skills. They might not be able to spell or write their names, but they can certainly access the Internet. Isn’t that a wonderful thing?

As mentioned earlier, there are no solid constraints on any of this. It’s possible to write anything you want, true or false. You can “post” pictures of any sort, in good taste or bad. And all of this can be viewed by anyone who so desires.

Does this cause a problem? Certainly. Merely consider the stories of teens who have taken their own lives because they were bullied unmercifully via social media. Or the damage done to reputations by spiteful, even hateful, messages dispersed via Twitter or Facebook and the like.

Things many of us would never have considered are now happening on a daily basis and there are cases where lives have been ruined and reputations destroyed because there is no recourse to this sort of thing.

So, what’s the point of all this? A bit of very simple advice: Take whatever you may see or read in social media outlets with a very large grain of salt. There may be truths to be found in these postings, but there could well be the opposite.

One man’s view of the truth could easily be skewed or worse. It’s a murky area best approached with caution and even skepticism.

Whatever is posted, it is good to remember, can be viewed by anyone — and even used to access your personal information, things you might not normally divulge to others. In other words, be careful about what you say and “share,” to avoid it’s coming back to haunt you later.

Should you have an opinion or comment on this or any other subject, please contact us at sedaliaobserver@gmail.com, write us at Sedalia Weekly Observer, 2700 West Broadway, Suite 10, Sedalia, Mo., 65301, including your name, address and telephone number, or simply come by for a visit.

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