By Dr. Mercola
It might be difficult to imagine, but 20 years ago email was just getting a foothold on the internet, and 11 years ago Facebook and Twitter didn't exist. What has become commonplace has had a very short history.
Although there are disadvantages to using social media, such as distracting you from your work, creating distance in your face-to-face relationships and giving you one more way to procrastinate each day, there are advantages to being able to communicate with people around the world in a matter of seconds.
Whether you find this media personally enlightening or detrimental to your overall day-to-day activities, it's hard to ignore the way it's impacted our society and the spread of information.
Every Coin Has Two Sides
Data from PEW Research Center shows that 65 percent of all adults in the U.S. now use social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, up nearly 10-fold in the past decade.1 When PEW started systematically tracking social media use, only 7 percent of adults interacted on these sites.
The rise in social media use has affected the way police do their jobs, how you communicate with politicians, the spread of information and news, political deliberation and even your level of stress.
On March 12, 2014, the World Wide Web turned 25. In a survey to mark that anniversary, PEW discovered several interesting facts.2
As of 2014, 87 percent of Americans used the internet and 90 percent of those felt it has had a personal positive impact on their lives. However, only 76 percent felt it has been positive for society as a whole.
The majority of users felt the technology would be very difficult to give up, but were easily moving away from cable television and landline phones. Of those who said it would be difficult to give up, 61 percent said it was integral to their work and jobs.
Although many people enjoy the freedom and connection they feel from social media, it has also had a negative impact on the number of hours you spend in face-to-face relationships and has created a platform where sharing negative thoughts and feelings can be done in a nameless, faceless fashion.
Social Awareness and Information Sharing
Using social media responsibly helps improve communication and information sharing across the world. It has become an important way we share essential health information that impacts you and your family every day.
For instance, instead of making you delve through hundreds of posts to find what you're looking for, we have separated our Facebook pages so you can find exactly what you need when you need it.
If you're looking for advocacy or health information to make choices or make your voice heard, you'll find that information on our Advocacy and Awareness page.
Having specific areas on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook make it easier to communicate upcoming votes in the legislature and share information you'll need to contact your representatives.
Different social media platforms react to information differently, which is why you probably enjoy one platform more than any of the rest of them. It conforms to your personal communication style.
How information spreads across each of the different platforms is dependent upon the way it is shared.
For instance, when JP Morgan Chase announced their over $2 billion loss, the news was on Twitter before the first call to their stockholders was completed.3 Activity on Tumblr, on the other hand, started slowly and only took off several hours later as blogs were reposted.
Social media networking has also had an amazingly positive impact on the distribution of information and acquiring help and support during natural disasters around the globe.
Hashtags are created to help you locate relevant stories and requests for help. This helps local stories get global attention and funding to manage the situation.4
Social Media Networking May Reduce Productivity
Just because something is good doesn't mean you should have more of it. Too much of this good thing can significantly reduce your productivity during work hours or at home. It can lead to addiction and social isolation.
What was designed to help you connect with more people may suddenly create a vacuum in your life. Clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D. identified nine ways teens suffer from overusing their social media accounts.5
Loss of ability to read social cues, excessive drama, sleep deprivation and poor ability to cooperate are just some of the negative experiences teens endure when they overuse social media.
Social media networks may also increase addictive behavior. In a study released by Cornell Information Science, researchers found four different themes that likely influence your potential addiction to Facebook.6
Your perceived addiction, if you feel your Facebook activities are not monitored, if you are in a good mood or if you have other social media accounts such as Twitter — which could take the place of Facebook in your activities — were all influential in whether or not you used Facebook excessively or felt you were addicted.
The aspect of behavior that researchers theorize is the root of addiction with social media use is the fear of missing out. The idea is that the network effect, or the value of the product or service, increases as more people are connected to the network.
For instance, you may not enjoy social media, but you're on anyway as that's where your friends and family are.7
In 2008, President Obama successfully used social media to communicate his platform to the voting public. Since then, many politicians use social media platforms to communicate with their constituents and get feedback on their performance.
The highest number of users are between 18 and 29 years.8 However, PEW found the number of individuals 65 and older have more than tripled since 2010. What does all this have to do with your health and wellness?
Social media is an effective and efficient way of contacting decision-making politicians and increasing awareness. You no longer are exposed to just your local newspaper or major news networks, but have immediate access to information from the source of the science.
Social networks like Twitter, Facebook and even the image-driven social media platform Pinterest, bypass major network news outlets and deliver news immediately. This has clearly made a difference in accelerating change in our healthcare system.
For instance, at the height of sensational reporting about the swine flu by traditional media outlets, several well-respected leaders in the alternative health field published information that "outed" the tactics being used to create panic.
My article about the swine flu published on April 29, 2009, was the seventh most viewed article on the internet that day. To date it has over 1.3 million views, in part because of the number of times it was reposted and shared.
Social media networking has reduced the power traditional media wields over the information you receive, and it has given you a direct voice to people and groups who have an influence over health related decisions.
Social media outlets improve the distribution of news accessible across different age, gender, geographical and socioeconomic lines.
Make Your Voice Heard Today
You have a voice and a vote when you use social media networks to express your opinion. If you don't have a favorite social media platform yet, I encourage you to check out Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram or Pinterest. Each of these sites use slightly different methods for publishing information.
You can follow me on the following platforms, where I share information from our newsletter and videos, and where you have an opportunity to post as well.
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