Is social media more of a blessing or a curse and where is it

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By Vernon A. Williams

It’s complicated, but few can argue that social media is both a blessing and a curse. An internationally prominent Indianapolis pastor is urging his congregation to push away from and refuse to be part of the Facebook and Instagram mania.

In his sermon, he presented a number of indisputable arguments pleading his case, not the least among which is wasted hours on social distraction – sometimes even during worship services.

He rightly pointed out how Facebook and Instagram posts are most often an exercise in vanity, or reiterations of unfounded information and rumor. Other damaging posts are mean-spirited or reckless statements that recycle lies and circulate innuendo as opposed to facts.

Many Facebook pages provide pointless rhetoric thought to be much more profound or clever in the mind of the writer than in reality. Those who post meaningless messages too often aspire to become social media icons. In fact, they are no more than legends in their own minds – driven to virtual “connect” with total strangers.

Here are additional points in opposition to social media and texting addiction:

  • Social media is too often used for bullying, particularly among young people whose suicide rates are rising dramatically.
  • While Russia is guilty of spreading Fake News to a targeted audience via social media to influence the 2016 elections (with plans to try the same this November) distorted and totally fabricated news is spread by millions of social media users.
  • Some unwittingly distribute Fake News when they report information without verifying dates, double-checking the veracity of the information, vetting that the story emanates from reliable sources, and embellishing or exaggerating the facts.
  • Young people rely increasingly on a vocabulary of acronyms and familiar abbreviations that work effectively communicating with peers but fails to transcend to their capacity to perform academically or interact competently in corporate America – limiting employability.
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles reports that 421,000 people are injured as a result of distracted driving – social media, texting or emailing on their phones while behind the wheel.
  • In the U.S., some nine drivers are killed in these accidents every day of the year, according to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.
  • The National Safety Council reports that one out of every four crashes in the country is the result of texting or using social media.
  • Disturbing patterns of child pornography and abuse are facilitated by pedophiles using social media as a tool for their repugnant criminal persuasion.
  • And finally, even the causal user is becoming too preoccupied with social media and texting which, if not related to their job, can create a host of other problems.

Undoubtedly, there are strong arguments against social media and texting. But in reality, there are almost as many clear benefits resulting from sensible, accurate and limited application.

For example, there would have been no coordination of protests across the nation in the wake of the senseless murder of Trayvon Martin had his story not gone viral on Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, with seven Fortune 500 companies in control of print and broadcast media in America, the number of stories and quality of reporting has fallen off dramatically – particularly when it comes to information or news pertaining to the African-American community.

We simply can’t afford to altogether relinquish the medium. Sans the responsible and committed Black press, we simply have far too few reliable channels of communication to cover the nation. Unfortunately because of self-contempt, African Americans refuse to embrace availability of media that do embrace their culture, story and interests.

At the local level, social media is virtually indispensable when it comes to spreading the word on events, activities, goods and services characteristic of urban life – particularly by non-profit organizations, involved corporate citizens, educational institutions and faith-based entities. With little or no press coverage of our community, the use of social media becomes a priority.

Additional positive functions of social media include the presence of inspirational posts that encourage, inspire and uplift those with nowhere to turn. People have successfully reached out for professional and expert information and received helpful responses. And many friends, classmates, even family have rediscovered the whereabouts of one another through this messaging.

Taking the discussion back to the beginning, social media is a curse and a blessing; just as fire is essential for the health and welfare of mankind but is deadly in the hands of the arsonist, or water is a major sustenance of life but can also become a lethal force at the hands of violent humans or as a result of tragic acts of natural disaster.

There will not likely be successful campaigns for the total eradication of social media. A relatively young technology, the pervasive influence is undeniable. That is precisely the reason social media must be better patrolled and controlled by providers of the service. And users indeed need to bring themselves under control to avert the pitfalls of excessive or abusive use.

The best hope is to follow scripture admonishing believers to adhere to the dictates of the word of God that teaches us to exercise “all things in moderation.”

In other words do it. But don’t overdo it. Can I get a nice red “love” heart? LOL

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: vernonawilliams@yahoo.com.

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