The pros and cons of social networking and social media are varied and often connected to each other. While social networking sites provide networking opportunities, ways to quickly transmit information, as well as ways for old friends and family members to stay in touch, they have their drawbacks. Opportunities for legitimate networking can be exploited by scammers and hackers, gossip and rumors can spread just as quickly as actual news, and stalkers can use social networks to further exploit and harass their victims.
Social media sites are perhaps best known for their abilities to connect people who have similar interests but who may not have ever had the opportunity to meet because of geographical, social, or time limitations. Perhaps chief among the "pros" of social networking is the ability of "average" people to learn about others with whom they may share crucial information and develop business and personal friendships. Social networking has proved a boon for people with specialized hobbies and interests, but it also enables people to get acquainted at a safe distance. Unfortunately, some individuals use social media as a way of cheating a gullible public, either through outright scams, such as an appeal for money for a non-existent hospital bill, or by using the social network to spread computer viruses or to gather personal information to be used in identity theft.
Many people use networking sites to share news and information with their friends and family. Many social media platforms make it very easy for users to share links to Internet-based stories, articles, photographs, and blog posts. The pros and cons of social networking information are once again deeply connected: While it is easy for someone to share and spread an important news story, such as one about a natural disaster or a significant health concern, it can be difficult to contain the spread of a story that includes misinformation. Many experts in school bullying also recognize this problem, as students can easily use these sites as a way of spreading viscous rumors about schoolmates.
It's also possible to misuse social networking information for the purposes of harassment or violence. For many people, these sites are a wonderful way of staying in touch with family and friends, particularly those who live far away. Users often share a great deal of personal information about themselves on these sites and may even use them to record their day-to-day activities. While this can be a great way of maintaining relationships, stalkers and other people with bad intentions may use this information to harass and even injure site users. Social media participants should take advantage of privacy protections offered by their sites and restrict what information strangers can learn about them from their profiles.