Many people I know are victims of social media addiction and usually struggle to contain their online cravings.

Some of the social media apps we tend to abuse include Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Because these apps were developed for commercial use, they’re designed to attract a maximum number of users, and as a result, many find it difficult to resist the temptation of spending hours posting, messaging and checking their devices every few minutes.

This leads me to a question: Are we using Social Media responsibly or dangerously?

In the not too distant a past, communication was mainly by telephone, letters (snail mail) or physical contact. These were either slow, expensive or inconvenient. However, back then communication was usually thoroughly thought-through and relevant. Since the emergence of the current social media platforms we now have instant communication at minimal cost. This development has created both efficiencies and inefficiencies.

Efficiency.

  • Our reach is broader. We can reach a large network of people around the world (basically anyone with a computer or phone)
  • It’s faster. We are able to send messages to intended recipients rapidly.
  • It’s cheaper. Social media provides an affordable way to communicate for the majority of people.

Inefficiency.

  • Many irrelevant messages are received. This creates an obvious, and hidden, economic cost for society – from the time wasted dealing with distractions that have nothing to do with moving your day forward. 

Social media can negatively affect our productivity at work too, from the ease we access social media platforms during working hours. On the positive side – and being such effective tools – we can find ways of incorporating them into our work communication for greater productivity.

Here are a few advantages and disadvantages:

Strengths.

  • Cost effective
  • Direct communication
  • Easy Targeting
  • Fast
  • Wide audience reach

Weaknesses.

  • Much false or misleading information (most not based on facts)
  • Irrelevant, wasteful information

Opportunities.

  • Can be used for official communication
  • An opportunity for a massive reduction in costs for individuals or organizations
  • A great target-marketing tool

Threats.

  • Social media has the potential to threaten the profitability of traditional media (print, etc.)
  • A backlash against you personally if too much personal information is exposed on social media. This is one of the most dangerous threats as it can cost you your life in extreme situations (shaming, extremist thought and violence)
  • Confidential information can be leaked and fall into the wrong hands.
  • The increased threat of hacking can see personal information exposed to criminal syndicates

Distraction can affect productivity, so we need to find ways to make social media work positively for us.

How to use Social media productively:

1. Practice Self-control.

Use social media in moderation. Create a timetable which schedules and specific times that might allow us to use social media productively. Limiting this time will encourage you to engage your social media meaningfully and productively.

2. Use social media platforms that are relevant.

Ensure that the platforms you use can produce a beneficial outcome for your organization. Avoid joining social media groups that will add no value to your objectives and goals.

3. Create a co-working environment.

If you’re in school or college, you can use certain apps to host study groups/ online discussions. This is an effective way to study with friends while in the comfort of our own home. For organizations, it’s a good tool for open team discussions and project planning.

4. Use it as a marketing tool.

Some social media apps are excellent for advertising your business, product, project or company. This can help you boost your market and grow your audience.

I personally see social media as an opportunity to spread awareness around global social issues and a brilliant cost-effective marketing tool. Here are some examples of people using Instagram productively:

 

A post by The Fashion Revolution Organization. They used Instagram to run a sustainable fashion campaign entitled: #whomademyclothes. The campaign went viral, caught much-needed attention and got other organizations and individuals involved.

 

A blogger who promotes sustainability with upcycled design ideas – promoting great ideas to his audience – that may inspire others.

 

A home farm that uses Instagram to market their organic micro-green kits that are 100% sustainable; prompting healthy food and a sustainable way of living.

 

A non-profit that spreads awareness about young school children in Sudan in need of quality education. It helps bridge the educational gap in the rural areas of Sudan and could possibly attract funders to donate to the cause.

 

A NGO organization that hosts voluntary youth summer camps that inspire them to give back to their community. They also offer information on sustainable ways to make an impact within communities, that might change the lives of others for the better.

 

A soap factory in The Dominican Republic that produces sustainable ways of making soap and run a hygiene educational program for youth. They use Instagram to promote both their product and program.