Social media: dark vs. light

You’re much more likely to hear about the negatives of social media because that makes good news. But for every negative, there has to be a positive, right?

The light and dark sides of social media are often highlighted in the media, by your local social media company and by that grumpy old man on the bus who feels the need to comment as you scroll your feed. But you’ll seldom come across the negatives weighed against the positives.

In this blog, we’re looking at both sides of social media. For every negative associated with either an in-platform feature, posting format or effect on society, we’re going to find a positive. In the same way that you, as a business, should evaluate the potential of both sides when you post on social media.

We’ve picked a couple of topics out of a hat because we’d be here until Facebook implements a dislike button if we tried to cover everything. As you’ll see, you can choose to explore the dark and/or the light side of these social media-themed topics – a rarity to have them side by side, we’re sure.

Natural disasters, terrorist attacks and national crisis’

When natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other national crisis’ arise, social media steps up in a variety of ways. From the Crisis Response feature on Facebook, through to fundraising on your status and then onto hashtags to raise awareness, there doesn’t appear to be anything ‘dark’ about it. But there are a few people who use these opportunities for personal gain…

– People used the Crisis Response feature to mark themselves ‘safe’ during the Nepal earthquakes who were nowhere near or at all affiliated with the area. This “let your friends know” and invited them to get in touch. Personal gain?

– Brands using these events as marketing opportunities to promote sales or products using trending topics and hashtags across social media. Often making a mockery of the event as they go with little sympathy.

– Users can use hashtags to spread fake news and cause scaremongering – often done through exaggeration and the spreading of rumours.

– The Crisis Response feature allows users to donate, find out more and offer specific resources such as clothing, food, and volunteer work. Users can share how they’ve helped in the attempt to inspire others to do so too.

– Users can use hashtags on platforms such as Twitter to keep others updated with to-the-minute news and goings-on.

– Crowdfunding and awareness campaigns are spread far and wide across social media, with many donation buttons in-app now, allowing for quick action for support and an increased reach for raising awareness.


The power to influence politics and elections

Social media platforms have been in trouble on and off the past year or so for the part they’ve played in influencing voters and swaying elections. But we shouldn’t forget that social media has also played an integral part in voter turnout. What do we mean? Explore the dark and light side of social media and politics:

– Profiles on social media are made and used to spread propaganda, looking to scare-monger with fake news and exaggerated opinion and influence the way individuals vote. Something that’s happened for years in different media formats, but is next level on social media.

– It’s hard to know which social media profiles and sources are legit these days. Similarly, it’s easy for a parties social media to be hacked or misused by a member of staff (*ahem* Donald Trump’s ex-employee and the 11 minutes of silence)

– There is no regulation of automation on social media sites. You’re much more likely to believe in the credibility of a post shared by a political party if it has a lot of likes and shares, but how many of those are human? (Turns out, not many!)

– Brexit saw an increase in political parties using social media to get in front of undecided audiences. The Conservative party went as far as running adverts in SnapChat to encourage users to vote! Campaigns and increased social presence of the parties encourage a lot of younger voters to commit on the day.

– Social media saw politics become more accessible and understandable for many individuals. Offering discussion, availability to ask questions, and the ability to receive updates from the party leaders themselves through popular content types.

– Politicians used the platform (and so can you) to gauge the reaction of the public – giving them valuable insight to inspire their campaigns, meaning the content we saw was much more tailored to our needs and desires.


Growing up with and without social media

You can’t deny that things have changed a little in the past decade or two and that we, as humans, have grown alongside the internet. For the best? Well, there are two sides to every story…

– The increase in online communities and groups, and the ease of getting a social media profile makes it really difficult to police the types of users online. Therefore there are accounts that are fake, posed or owned by people who aren’t meant to be online – be that because of age restrictions or other reasons. It’s difficult to know who you’re talking to.

– The ability to build communities so easily means that hate groups and trolls are everywhere. It’s much easier now to spread hate speech across social media than it is in person. Social media has allowed these communities to grow. As well as arrange events with thousands of others.

– Bullying has always been a thing, but social media has added a whole new level to what bullies can do. With a heightened sense of anonymity, bullies can do what they want, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be found out.

– Growing up today sees the youth faced with many ways to reach out into the universe and share an interest or celebrate their uniqueness. Wider groups of styles and ways of living exists now, and minority groups can gather great support through connections they have made on social media.

– There is, through social media, the ability to generate support for causes and more opportunity to help make positive changes in the world. For example, the rise in veganism and sustainable living are a result of trends and influencers on social media.

– Social media has allowed us the chance to be more open-minded and accepting through the education and knowledge from others. We’re much more open to different types of people, different opinions, different likes and dislikes and so much more because of these outlets.

– The introduction of online support groups on social platforms like Facebook is great. Before you only had sex education, drug advice and health advice from the speaker at your school – now, there is an abundance of communities out there offering all kinds of support.


Face-to-face interactions

We’re all guilty of it. Why make the effort to go upstairs and ask your other half where they put the bag when you could just pop them a message on Messenger or Whatsapp? But is social media ruining ‘human interaction’?

– Trolls. We’re not talking about the animated pink haired ones that sing songs, we’re talking about the sort that sit behind the safety of the pixels on their screens and get involved with posting inflammatory or distracting things on the internet, looking to provoke and incite emotional responses. Rarely a good thing. Take away that screen and put them face-to-face with someone and we bet they’d have less to say.

– We’re more anti-social than ever before in a physical sense, ironically so when it’s called ‘social’ media.

– This lack of face-to-face can cause a lot of miscommunication. You can’t truly tell someone’s reaction just because they did or didn’t use a full stop at the end of the sentence. Although if they just reply with “K.” then it’s a 99.9% chance you’re in trouble.

– We’re connected like never before, with the ability to talk to friends and family whenever we want, no matter where they might be.

– Consider the ease. You no longer have to traipse into town to return an item and explain its faults, now you can use social media to chat to an advisor who can process the refund and return label there and then whilst you’re still stood at the mirror wondering why that new dress doesn’t suit you…

– Consider the fact that we’re no longer socially inept, but socially adaptable! There are so many new opportunities that people are much more comfortable to get involved with when hidden from direct view of others and able to portray a different level of confidence.

Targeted advertising

Targeted ads, you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em. You mostly hate them because you know that sometimes they work and you’ve fallen into the ‘trap’ as you click ‘add to basket’. But as you may have guessed from the other posts, there’s always a dark and light side for this kinda thing…

– Targeting can go ‘wrong’ sometimes. We all make mistakes, and sometimes a company might select the wrong interests or age group when the set their ad live – people then get a bit aggy and this can damage the companies reputation.

– All the data you once submitted to the internet, by clicking ‘like’ on that Facebook page about eggplants, following that Instagram account of your favourite ice cream brand and updating your relationship status online to ‘it’s complicated’, can be used to target ads. People don’t realise that this is all data they’ve willingly submitted and therefore complain when they’re targeted because of this. This is a lack of education available to the average social media user on the way their online movements are tracked.

– Targeted ads mean you can reach brand new audiences that may not have heard of you yet, expanding your reach and potential customer base. You can make sure your content is seen by the people it was designed for, having a positive effect on not just your audience, but your bounce rate, referral rate and the type of reach it will have.

– Remarketing means you rarely have to bookmark that pair of shoes you like anymore because they will hunt you down across your Facebook page until you hit buy with that generous 10% offer they gave you to complete the purchase.

– Targeting and remarketing follow your journey in life, meaning what you see is almost always relevant to you, your stage in life and your next steps. It’s super clever! (see GIF above)


We’ve got to get away from the notion that social media is something we use, that it’s something we pick up the phone to open, scroll through then put down and walk away. Because, realistically, social media dictates many of our everyday decisions. We don’t do social media, it does us.

That was a whistlestop tour of some of social media’s hotly debated flaws, mixed with accompanying positives. Proving you can always find the light in a dark situation. Sure, we’re not all perfect, and some of us, as individuals, are ruining the great name of some of these social platforms, but there are equally as many of us using it for good.

Check out our blog titled ‘ffs, stop trying to cheat social media’ to see how we, as a business, tackle the darker side with some light.

Check out our social media for business workshop where you can learn to become a Social Animal by implementing strategies to use the platforms to achieve a variety of business goals.

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