Facebook, Twitter are valuable resources for news, awareness

Many of us, including myself, spend a majority of our time on social networking sites. In fact, one of the first things I do in the morning is check my cellphone for Twitter and Facebook notifications.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Many people check their social media while doing homework or watching television. This includes constantly checking Facebook while typing a paper, uploading photos on Instagram or tweeting about a popular reality show as you watch it.

This growing addiction has led to many scholarly articles and research projects aiming to find the ultimate uses of social media. For example, “research conducted”:http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Twitter-Use-2012.aspx by the Pew Internet and American Life Project recently set out to survey users regarding Twitter. They found that 15 percent of the online community use Twitter and 8 percent use it daily. Although this is significantly less than the 71 percent of Facebook users, both sites prove to be vital in the social media realm.

While social networking sites seem to have taken over society, they have shown themselves to be positive resources.

Websites like Facebook and Twitter have proved to be helpful news sources, especially for politics. For many people, these sites are their sole source of news because few people pick up a newspaper or sit down to watch newscasts nowadays. Twitter has also proved to be a major source of mobilization in news events through its use of trending topics and hashtags, particularly in the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement and Trayvon Martin protests.

A more recent example of this is the upcoming presidential election and the candidates’ campaigns for the White House. Both Twitter and Facebook have been buzzing with articles, links and photos advocating the policies and beliefs of both candidates.

With the Democratic and Republican national conventions taking place in the past couple of weeks, Twitter users have been tweeting constantly about the significant moments of the conventions (like Clint Eastwood’s speech) and the importance of voting.

First lady Michelle Obama took Twitter by storm Tuesday, the first night of the Democratic National Convention. Obama garnered “28,000 tweets per minute”:http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/05/us-usa-campaign-media-idUSBRE88419I20120905 at the close of her speech and was among the top five trending topics with hashtags #firstlady and #michelleobama.

This example shows that social networking is being used to discuss real-life issues and also spread awareness. This is critical because it likely creates interest in issues among Twitter and Facebook users who may have not had any interest before. This type of reaction and discussion does not solely come from watching the news or reading a newspaper.

While these sites are great for spreading awareness, their main objective is to allow users to keep in touch with friends from all over the world, as well as reconnect with old ones. Although telephone usage and face-to-face contact are two of the most beneficial ways of communicating, the fact that some of your friends are only a click away is simply much more convenient. Also, the posting and sharing of photos and status updates allows users to see what their friends are up to in real time and provides a foundation for conversation. If done in a safe, responsible and appropriate manner, these websites also have the potential to lead to the creation of new friendships and opportunities.

While social networking is convenient, people should still take it upon themselves to personally visit and connect with friends. Users should also keep in mind the type of photos and statuses they post and remember that there is no such thing as deleting something from the Internet, especially for professional reasons. Many employers hold employees accountable for all things professional and personal posted online. The National Labor Relations Board has even found some companies’ social media policies lawful.

Social networking doesn’t hurt our society — people hurt our society.

Although social media can present challenges, it seems as if it is here to stay. Many companies use these sites to promote their businesses, and it’s common to see the logos of Facebook and Twitter at the bottom of television and Web advertisements alike.

It has simply become a way of life.

_Ta’les is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]_