On the PROs and CONs of SOCIAL MEDIA

An Evaluation of Online Networking Tools – in the Spirit of “Only Connect”

Sabine Kurjo McNeill (1)


Getting emails from friends with artistic and inspirational slides is one of the ways of being ‘social’: my friends think of me and care for me when they forward me beauty, wisdom or health related information. That was not possible in the days of letter writing and thoughtful conversations during evenings without television.

Social media are new tools and means of communication, new platforms for sharing information and new stages for presenting who you are, what you value and what you consider important enough to spend your time doing.

The impressions that we get from meeting someone face-to-face are always more ‘real’, even though we may also get very wrong ideas about a person from our initial encounter. What does a person radiate without saying anything? How do we relate when we speak to each other? Do we do ‘party talk’ or do we go into depths about ‘changing the world’? Do we want to become friends before we focus on business projects? Will we only connect if we think that the Other has money for us in his pocket?

For me, ‘social media’ are like any other tool: they can be used for good and for evil. But social media have a special kind of power that I’d parallel with the power of audiences, whether in small or large groups.

Our human existence doesn’t allow us to see ourselves the way that others see us. And when we are not true and honest with ourselves, we can fool and manipulate others individually, but not a whole group of people. Hence there is an advantage in virtual audiences correcting bad behaviour. But I have also seen haters, trolls and ‘shills’ where good people are turned into ogres and monsters by mis- and disinformers or ‘agents provocateurs’.

Followers and Friends or Peers or Partners?

On Facebook you make ‘friends’. On Twitter and LinkedIn you attract ‘followers’. So what determines online popularity?

It obviously takes a lot of time before we grow up from being a child and ‘follow’ parents and teachers to ‘lead’ our own lives, looking at people as peers and partners, especially when they are in ‘authority’, especially when they are the other gender.

Social platforms blur the boundaries of generation and ‘position’ according to ‘institution’ and ‘organisation’.

Hence they are inherently a way to demonstrate your authenticity and integrity as the easiest way of being ‘real’ and yourself. What else is there?

Real Platforms

Social Media Platforms are the pastime of people who don’t have a job but also the hope for those professionals and business who hope to find clients this way.

As they emerged as a new structure for ‘many-to-many communications’, they have gained clout such that Klout[1] even measures our online influence!

These kinds of measurements compare numbers of followers and commentators as a way of quantifying online exposure. For people inherently need to compare themselves with their neighbours – whether it’s about the house, car, clothes and lifestyle or the online world of clicks.

LinkedIn for Professional Connections

LinkedIn  is the platform for professional introductions and conversations in focussed groups. Your LinkedIn profile is your business card online – as the first impression before your website. Some people value social ‘capital’ so much that it matters to them to see how many connections you have. Others have their connection anyhow and don’t need LinkedIn!

LinkedIn just sent me their email that I can receive daily or weekly. It contained this article: Why email newsletters still work and how you can make yours better.

Facebook for Social Connections

Facebook[2] can be used by professionals but seems to be more the ‘playground’ for kids, students and activists. However, I am terribly biased, as I have used Facebook mainly since I supported the eight-day demo outside Downing Street to Return our Stolen Children[3]. It was clear that many parents who had been victimised were in all sorts of Facebook groups. Facebook has a very unique way of allowing you to collect ‘friends’ and dish out ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ as easy ways of spreading whatever word you want to spread.

Twitter for Micro-Conversations

Wordpress has a ‘publicise’ option that informs all my ‘friends’ on Facebook and all my ‘followers’ on Twitter to see what I posted. So I use Facebook and Twitter mainly for ‘broadcasting’. But success stories on Twitter abound, ever since that plane landed on the Hudson River and ‘flash mobs’ could be called together. Authorities thus believe that it can help with ‘risk management’ and take its power very seriously. But these ‘tweets’ of 140 characters with their unique abbreviations do require a bit of getting used to. They are definitely at the other end of the literary spectrum of novels! However, ‘re-tweets’ are powerful ways again of spreading messages and Twitter lets you know by email every time you get a new follower or somebody re-tweets your text. You can kind of dip in and out of conversations that get a certain structure with ‘#hashtags’ i.e. ‘key words’ that are searchable so that all those tweets show with that tag.

Living in 3D

So what’s the point of social media other than blogging platforms? Let’s face it: people’s lives are determined by work, sex, money or combinations thereof. Attention, ‘screen time’ or ‘eye balls’, however, is the currency of on-screen communications.

In the early days of computer communication, people formed ‘Closed User Groups’ or CUGs and ‘Special interest Groups’ or SIGs.

Nowadays, social media are the tools for getting in touch with other people around any issue – whether for dating, trading, commercial, political or spiritual purposes.

Websites didn’t have ways for responding. Comments in blogs and all sorts of ‘forum’ software makes it possible for people to express themselves.


(1)  Sabine Kurjo McNeill is the owner of 3D Metrics Ltd.  You can find out more about her from our Contributors' section or at her website: www.sabinemcneill.co.uk

[1] http://klout.com/

[2] https://www.facebook.com/

[3] http://mckenzie-friends.co.uk/2013/07/28/dear-mr-cameron-take-the-lead-and-return-our-stolen-children/