Posted by Ann Smarty

If you’re mistrustful of the things coming across your web browser each day, you may be a cyber skeptic. A delve into cyber skepticism –the good, bad and ugly.

Social networking has done many things. It has opened up a more direct form of communication that lets us meet others who are large distances away. It has also provided a place for people to connect based on interests, passions or lifestyle. It has increased the amount of time we spend online and through mobile devices, we are now constantly connected. It has also created a bit of a gap when it comes to reality.

There is a rather heated debate raging between academics and social media users about the benefits versus the issues raised by social media. While they have their share of supporters, Facebook, Twitter, email, instant messaging and other forms of online communication have more than a few haters.

Lately, we have seen a widening number of “cyber skeptics” who are launching an attack against sites that they claim are isolating us, not bringing us together. But does this view have real merit? Does technology cause separation or unity? Is cyber skepticism for those that are behind on the times, or do these individuals see beyond social media lovers into a future with real, negative societal effects?

Perhaps the best way to decide for ourselves is looking at the pros and cons of social media.

The Good

  • It gives us the chance to speak with people all over the world.
  • It allows us to give updates to family that we might not otherwise speak to often.
  • It connects us with other people who hold our interests, beliefs or passions.
  • It tells us about events that we might not have known about, and so missed out on.
  • It gives us an easy way to share links to stories related to our political, religious, moral or cultural beliefs.
  • It provides us with a means of communicating with study groups, work teams or others that might need contact when not in the room together.
  • It lets us find local groups and meetups.

The Bad

  • It gives us a false sense of reality, which is incompatible with the real world.
  • It potentially stunts our ability to communicate one on one, in a real life setting.
  • It keeps us from noticing the world around us as we go about our day.
  • It takes up increasing amounts of time.
  • It might limit our communication by keeping us from getting together in person, or calling for a conversation on the phone.
  • It restricts our attention, and can make us less focused.
  • It reduces productivity in the work or school environment.
  • It could possibly be desensitizing us, such as in the tragic case of Simone Back.
  • It might make people more willing to bully, since it isn’t done face to face.
  • It could make us believe that certain people are “friends” when they are not.

Taking A Moderate Stance

You will notice that some of the cons are definitely seen in today’s world. But others are more theoretical, or extreme versions of consequences that are probably not going to be seen from the perspective of the average user. Which is one of the reasons that social media supporters have gone so heavily on the defensive against academics claiming social media is detrimental.

Frankly, I think that both sides have valid points. Social media has many positive attributes and applications. However, there is no denying it can be a potentially damaging form of psuedo-communication, and work to isolate those who take part in it more actively.

Because both arguments have their place, I think it is important to take a moderate stance on the issue. By holding on to a healthy dose of cyber skepticism, we can retain a realistic view of the Internet’s limitations. Such as recognizing the need for real, one on one communication and interaction, and not replacing that with online conversations alone.

You can also keep in mind that this should be a form of recreation. Not something that you spend all your time and energy on. If you find yourself spending too much time on Facebook, or constantly tweeting the minutest details of your day, it might be time to log off. Take a walk, call a friend, read a book…do something that requires your full attention.

Through taking a realistic view of social media and understanding that it can be both a blessing and a curse, we can moderate our use. That, I feel, is the healthiest dose of cyber skepticism and the best approach of all.

Ann Smarty is the social media addict and co-founder of Viral Content Buzz, the social media promotion platform.

Image Credit: 1, 2.