The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Social Media

social media27th March 2012

Social media is largely a tool for good, but the positive must not succumb to the ugly side of social media.

When mulling over the cultural phenomenon that is social media, you’d be hard pressed to imagine a world void of ‘hashtags’ and ‘Like’ buttons. For we now live in a world where breaking news is dispersed through Twitter, social movements develop via Facebook and viral campaigns capture and compel civic networks worldwide. These are unquestionably ever exciting developments, but for all the fanfare, the trappings of social media are often overlooked.

Last Thursday, the parliamentary apprentices were offered the opportunity to spend the afternoon with social media guru Nick Denys. Fortunately being a social media apprentice for New Deal of the Mind, I benefited from the chance to hear first-hand from someone at the forefront of  this world and knew this masterclass would shape and perhaps alter the manner in which I interacted with these platforms.

After spending the morning studying towards the formal qualification, we met with the Platform 10Kernal and Law Society blogger. With a wealth of knowledge to share, Nick Denys stressed the importance of social media while also highlighting the potential controversies lurking within its confines.

Incidents such as the ‘Save the Intern’ campaign and the minor furore caused by an employee of Andy Slaughter MP critcised for a Republican tweet, underline how social media can so easily spark negativity. In all honesty and rationality, these were minor events in the grand scheme, but within the tribal, passionate and fast-moving domain of social media they caused a significant stirs. Leading to heated debates, a mention in PMQs and briefly catching the glare of the social media elite.  And, while ten minute spurts of uproar may entertain on a slow Monday morning, using social media to be ‘furious for the sake of being furious’ can place someone’s job on the line. Used in this manner social media is disruptive and soulless.

However, as a force for good, social media is one which can push for change, capture the zeitgeist and provide a voice for the people often left voiceless.  It is worthwhile remembering the reasons we all so readily partake in social media. As well as documenting our lives, we can foster relationships that would otherwise seem untenable.  Diverse opinions become both accessible and more widely dispersed and away from this these tools offer a chance to build new fascinating brand identities. Within this, you can identify your place within its walls and make your voice loud and unique in the crowd.  The mantra of Facebook for friends, Twitter for politics is one which defines many interactions with social media, bonding people across a range of all backgrounds.

If social media is to fulfil its promise, we must embrace its shortcomings and work to root problems out. Knowing the pitfalls, will in turn make our interaction with Twitter,Facebook, Google Plus or whatever else, better and stronger.

Voices such as Nick Denys understand the nature of the beast, the Platform 10 blogger outlined three key rules which must be abided by to guarantee success. Emote, inform and entertain. Central to pushing your message, these ideas embody why social media is so exciting. It is our duty to ensure the negative doesn’t over ride the potential for serious good.

For now and after all these words I can only hope to have heeded Denys’ suggestions.

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