Social Media: The Bad and The Good

Despite all the positive things that social media has improved from activism to just about everything else, it does have its problems. We all know that self-esteem-challenged individuals who use social media are still unhappy, but let’s focus on groups for today. Overall, is social media a promoter of bad behavior amongst groups or is it an enabler good behavior? The answer is both and here are two opposing trends that social media has contributed in one way or another:

It Spreads Crime

Riots broke out in London and throughout England last summer after the death of Mark Duggan, a 26-year-old man shot to death by police. With wall-to-wall coverage not only on television but on the Internet, images of youths protesting police brutality or taking advantage of communal vandalism have made it hard not to watch for people in England and the rest of the world.

A UK government panel not only acknowledged the wall-to-wall coverage, but also put the blame on television and social media for spreading the summer riots in its report published this week. The panel concluded that not only did television have a role in worsening the problem but also “the ability of social media to bring together determined people to act collectively.” Although the panel chastised the role of social media, the Riot Communities and Victims Panel is not against social media entirely as “viral silence may have as many dangers as viral noise.”

Social Media To The Rescue

Although social media has been the scapegoat by panels as part of a wider problem, sometimes social media can be a force for good—especially when you’ve got a great following on Reddit as one girl in Maryland found out. Sarah pleaded for help from fellow Reddit users about how to stop a bully from tormenting her. She said, “The cyber bullying has gotten to the point where the school will not take any action unless I kill myself. Reddit- how do I get my story out and make this stop?”

Since Sarah complained about the bullying, her post garnered 4,000 comments and many users sent messages to the school to do something about it. The school followed up with the comments by suspending the bully and the police had to intervene. Had Sarah not posted her story on Reddit, who knows what would have happened to her? Of course, the kindness of Reddit users is not limited to kicking bullies out of school—they’ve also gained laurels for helping raise $50,000 to support a 3-year-old’s bone marrow transplant and recovery.

As with anything in this world, social media has its upsides and its downsides—it exposes the worst in people but at the same time brings people together to do positive practices.

[Sources: The Guardian, TIME]