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Jos Pocholo Manas Mandia 1127 Social media encourages nothing more than idle chatter and self-indulgence.

Is this a fair comment? Social media is an important tool that opens dialogue between individuals and communities and has become an integral part of today's society. With the rise of The Internet, and more importantly the emergence of mobile devices capable of Internet access, has made social media a more integral part of our lives today. And with social media becoming more integral, we find ourselves spending a lot of time on it. An average person spends about 68 hours online every month, a Nielsen report says, and social media is one of the leading Internet activities people are engaged in. And some may say that part of the reason why this is so is because social media only encourages people to engage in idle chatter and self-indulgence. However, before we reach a conclusion to say that this statement is fair, we have to consider the other functions of social media and its effects. Those who claim that social media only encourages self-indulgent behavior are partially correct in saying so. A fair number of users of the social networking site Facebook, in particular, have been noted to create posts so as to garner as many likes from other users as possible. These critics of social media may also stem their argument from the ability to provide quick, easily accessible entertainment through video-sharing sites such as YouTube. This shows that people are using social media to satisfy their hunger for attention and their needs for instant gratification and that social media does provide opportunities to do so.

Facebook and Twitter are also targets of those who support the idea that social media is only a stimulus for gossip and casual conversations. Being able to access The Internet makes it easy for people to initiate a discussion online instead of meeting in person. With software developers making social media applications designed specifically for mobile devices, it even easier to do so. And it is evident in some modern countries that social media is merely a past-time to keep people occupied on a commute to work, or a long lunch break, with some people glued to their screens. Hence it is fair to say that social media does lay ground for idle chatter. However, we have to consider that the same social media programmes and applications that encourage casual conversations between people, are the same ones that give voice to those who sincerely need it and acts as a loudspeaker to inform the masses. Facebook and Twitter were pivotal instruments in initiating the Arab Spring uprisings in early 2011. People used these social networking sites to organise protests, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia, and to rally people together for a cause. This showed that social media indeed had the power to bring people to action and proves that it does more than what it's critics claim to merely accomplish. Social media also is a useful tool in collaborative efforts. Several social media tools online such as Google docs allow people to work on files and documents in The Cloud, as some technologically savvy people would put it. Doing so allows various inputs to be easily placed from virtually anywhere in the world, and reduces the time lag in obtaining data from one side of the world and bringing it to another. Thus, this proves that social media does not only engage people in a casual, recreational manner, but also in work.

The uses of social media is gradually broadening as well, with people utilising in it i other fields such as education. The Khan Academy, a non-profit organisation, utilises a very large collection of about 3300 self recorded micro-lectures and videos, covering a wide range of subjects and sub-topics, to provide education people of all ages. These lessons are free and are accessible to anyone in the world with an Internet connection, and this means that people who may not afford a full education may now have an opportunity to learn, thanks to social media. Hence this shows that social media is no longer just a platform for discussion, but as a far-reaching tool for educators as well. In summation, we can see that social media does accomplish more than what it's critics claim; it is no longer just a gossipers ears and mouth or a place to engage in self indulgence. And it is no longer fair to judge social media as such. It has matured into something that inspires, educates and brings about collaboration.