The Paradox of Social Media (and How COVID-19 Comes Into Play)

Social Media is a complicated tale-and the COVID-19 pandemic further illustrates this.


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Social Media is a two-sided tale. The same things that benefit its reputation also degrade it.

Jack Otterberg, Reporter

        I use social media a lot [perhaps way too much]; I’m also aware of the many stigmas that come with the usage of apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and TikTok, among others.  Maybe there are good reasons to look down your nose at these platforms. I know I’ve voiced my opinions on some of its negativities, using social media [yes, I realize the irony in that statement]. But for as much harm as they do, they also provide a great deal of benefits, such as connecting with others over long distances.

      Those benefits are especially amplified in the time of social distancing when you are so bored you actually enjoy doing homework.  Or, on a more serious note, when you want to connect with family from far away, whether it be through Zoom, FaceTime, or other forms of media.  Social media, though it is very capable of spreading toxicity and bitterness, possesses the tools to unite its users, making it almost paradoxical- and we all could use a little unity in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.  

      While there is rampant fake-news about Coronavirus being spread in the murkiness of the internet, there are also inspiring stories such as Walter Reed’s.  Reed, a 100 year-old World War II veteran who survived COVID-19, became a hero with the spread of his story. Or take a look at the plethora of videos from Europe in which people applaud healthcare workers from their balconies. Even if these stories do not originate from the typical platforms [Twitter, Instagram, YouTube], they sure do facilitate the spread of something positive: the inherent good of humanity, another thing we so desperately need in these troubling times.  

      These paradoxes mostly lie not within the applications themselves, but in how users work with the platforms.  This fundamentally makes sense as people are naturally good and bad, and will utilize social media with good or bad intentions.  But you didn’t read this for philosophical jargon, so I’ll illustrate a common example.

      The potential negative result of engaging in a controversial discussion with someone on social media is getting in a heated argument that could turn into personal attacks [especially if it involves politics].  But you must also address the possibility of positive discourse.  If people can get along well while debating or discussing hot-button issues, then social media proves itself to be useful in that instance. Disagreement is healthy as long as the conversations do not transform into verbal attacks.

      I still remain a little skeptical of social media platforms because of how they can be used, but I do not believe they should be banished off the face of the Earth.  The reason for my doubt is the same reason for my hope: just as they are negatively utilized, they can also be positively utilized.  And in this testing time period, we can truly see both sides. 


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