Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Networking

Our Love/Hate Relationship with Being Connected to People Online

Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Networking
Photo © Tim Robberts / Getty Images

Social networking has shifted the way we communicate, do business, get our daily news fix and so much more. But is it really all it's cracked up to be?

That depends on who you talk to. A site like Facebook could serve as an opportunistic launching pad for a new business owner, or it could be an inescapable source of negative peer pressure for a young teen. There are pros and cons to everything in life -- even online.

Here are some of the major advantages and disadvantages that most people on the web can probably relate to whenever they decide to check out their favorite social networking sites.

Advantages of Social Networking

Ability to connect to other people all over the world. Perhaps the most obvious advantage of social networking is the convenience of connecting with people from anywhere. Use Facebook to stay in touch with your old high school friends who've relocated all over the country, get on Google+ with relatives who live halfway around the world, or meet brand new people on Twitter from cities or regions you've never even heard of before.

Easy and instant communication. Now that we're connected wherever we go, we don't have to rely on our at-home telephone answering machines or snail mail to contact somebody. We can simply open up our laptops or pick up our smartphones and instantly communicate with anyone on platforms like Twitter or one of the many social messaging apps available.

Real-time news and information discovery. Gone are the days of waiting around for the six o'clock news to come on, or for the delivery boy to bring the newspaper. If you want to know what's going on in the world, all you need to do is jump on social media. An added bonus is that we can customize our news and information discovery experiences by choosing to follow exactly what we want.

Opportunities for businesses. Business owners and other types of professional organizations have been able to connect with current customers, sell their products and expand their reach using social media. There are actually lots of entrepreneurs and businesses out there that thrive almost entirely on social sites and wouldn't even be able to operate without it.

General fun and enjoyment. You have to admit, social networking can be pretty fun. A lot of people turn to it when they're able to catch a break at work or just want to relax at home. Since people are naturally social creatures, it's often quite satisfying to see comments and likes show up on our own posts, and it's convenient to be able to see exactly what our friends are up to without having to ask them directly.

Disadvantages of Social Networking

Information overwhelm. With so many people now on social media, tweeting links and posting selfies and sharing YouTube videos, it sure can get pretty noisy. Becoming overwhelmed by too many Facebook friends or too many Instagram photos to browse through isn't all that uncommon. Over time, we tend to rack up a lot of friends and followers, and that can lead to lots of bloated news feeds with too much content we're not all that interested in.

Privacy issues. With so much sharing going on, issues over privacy will always be a big concern. Whether it's a question of social sites owning your content after it's posted, becoming a target after sharing your geographical location online, or even getting in trouble at work after tweeting something inappropriate -- sharing too much with the public can open up all sorts of problems that sometimes can't ever be undone.

Social peer pressure and cyber bullying. For people struggling to fit in with their peers -- particularly teens and young adults -- the pressure to do certain things or act a certain way can be even worse on social media than it is at school or any other offline setting.

In some extreme cases, the overwhelming pressure to fit in with everyone posting on social media or becoming the target of a cyberbullying attack can lead to self-esteem issues and even depression.

Online interaction substitution for offline interaction. Since people are now connected all the time and you can pull up a friend's social profile with a click of your mouse or a tap of your smartphone, it's becoming a lot easier to use online interaction as a substitute for face-to-face interaction. Some people argue that social media actually promotes antisocial human behavior.

Distraction and procrastination. How often do you see someone look at their phone? People get distracted by all the social apps and news and messages they receive, leading to all sorts of problems like distracted driving or the lack of gaining someone's full attention during a conversation. Browsing social media can also feed procrastination habits and become something people turn to in order to avoid certain tasks or responsibilities.

Sedentary lifestyle habits and sleep disruption. Lastly, since social networking is all done on some sort of computer or mobile device, it can sometimes promote too much sitting down in one spot for too long. Likewise, staring into the artificial light from a computer or phone screen at night can negatively affect your ability to get a proper night's sleep.

Focus on using social media for all the good points outlined in this article, but be wary of falling victim to the dark side of an online interaction. Check out this list of top 15 social networking sites to see which ones are the most popular right now.