As via virtual communities and networks (examples include

   As of 2017, there are “2.80 billion global social media users in the United States”, and the number is only expected to proliferate as humanity advances technologically. Social media is defined as “Computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks (examples include Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, Youtube, Tumblr, Qzone and WeChat), and is credited for spreading information at a rate otherwise unachievable, unifying people across the globe, and benefiting the economy. However, it is an imperfect system, with users claiming there is excessive cyberbullying, hate speech, and unnecessary invasions of privacy. Keeping social media’s advantages and disadvantages in mind, it is debated whether it has an overall more positive or negative effect on the United States.    Social media does not go without its faults. “25% of teenagers report that they have experienced repeated bullying by their cell phone or online, and  52% of young people report being cyberbullied.” Due to social media, users can easily hide behind the shield of a screen under a false alias to verbally abuse others. Although efforts have been made throughout the nation (primarily in schools) to educate children on the weight of their words, it is still an issue that requires immediate action. More immediately though, have users been reporting the use of “Hate Speech” defined as speech that attacks, threatens, or insults a person or group on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. Hate speech goes farther than bullying, attacking issues specific to a person’s identity and beliefs, and some countries consider hate speech to be a crime because it encourages discrimination, intimidation, and violence toward the group or individual being targeted. An example of hate speech in the United States is the supreme court case Snyder v. Phelps. “After Matthew Snyder, a U.S. Marine was killed in Anbar province in Iraq in 2006, some uninvited guests showed up at his funeral at St. John’s Catholic Church in Westminster, Md. The Rev. Fred W. Phelps Sr. of the Westboro Baptist Church and several family members came from Kansas holding signs reading ‘Thank God for Dead Soldiers,’ ‘God Hates Fags’ and ‘You’re Going to Hell'”. Facebook had launched a few years previous, and soon the case made headlines online as well as on broadcasting platforms. Eventually, “In an 8-1 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Westboro’s right to picket. While acknowledging that Westboro’s “contribution to public discourse may be negligible,’ Chief Justice John Roberts’s ruling rested in existing U.S. hate speech precedent: ‘Simply put, the church members had the right to be where they were.'” (Head, Tom). Many were offended, but lives weren’t taken in the act. That can’t be said for the “Islamic Terrorist Regime” in the Middle East, however, who are using social media to promote hatred and violence as well. “The Islamic State is as much a media conglomerate as a fighting force. According to Documenting the Virtual Caliphate, an October 2015 report by the Quilliam Foundation, the organization releases, on average, 38 new items per day—20-minute videos, full-length documentaries, photo essays, audio clips, and pamphlets, in languages ranging from Russian to Bengali”. Americans are also concerned by the invasion of privacy social media imposes, with polls (as of 2016) stating only “12% of  U.S. adults are confident in the ability of the federal government to protect their data” (Gordon, The Statistics Portal). Social media users are skeptical when it comes to online safety, considering it one of the riskiest aspects of the internet. “…The organization’s 2012 IT Risk/Reward Barometer, which looked at online privacy for the first time, found consumers distrust corporations more than they do fellow Internet users. While more than half (53 percent) feel that sharing information online has become riskier over the past year, respondents to the annual survey reported engaging in potentially risky online actions. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents said they do not verify the security settings of online shopping sites, while 36 percent have clicked on a link on a social media site from their work device and 19 percent used their work email address for personal online shopping or other non-work activities. When asked to select the greatest threats to their online privacy, they chose a company’s misuse of personal information they supplied online to purchase or download an item (26 percent), inadequate privacy policies on social networking sites (13 percent), and a company’s use of cookies to track their Web activities (10 percent)” (Eddy, eWEEK). There are positives to social media, however. Sites such as CNN, The New York Times, and BBC News are a few top news sources for 46% of Americans, due to their ability to reach the public remarkably faster than newspaper columns or scheduled TV broadcasts. Because of this, Information is being spread at an expedited rate, and some social media users have been responsible for reporting events even before traditional media outlets. These include the Paris attacks in France on Nov. 13, 2015 (reported by users through Twitter, Facebook, and Vine), the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria and Sierra Leone in July 2014 (reported by Twitter), The Boston Marathon bombing on Apr. 15, 2013 (Twitter), and The Aurora, CO, theater shooting on July 20, 2012 (reported by Twitter users and YouTubers). Due to social media, users around the globe are able to capture footage of events while they are immediately taking place. However, this is a double-edged sword. Due to its rapidity, there has been an increase of false information being spread (coined “Fake News”). False information has plagued social media in particular, with 64% of Twitter users, for example, claiming they encountered news they “later discovered wasn’t true” and 16% reporting that “they had retweeted or posted a tweet they later discovered to be false”. This is a concern for all social media users, as the corruption of knowledge/truth in general public discussion/school systems could have catastrophic consequences. To combat this, companies such as Facebook have taken cautious security measures to keep the false information from spreading, putting some solutions in the people’s hands. “Facebook, which came under heavy criticism for allowing fake news to be circulated during the election period, have taken steps to offer combat the issue. One of those steps is the enlisting of the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN), a branch of the Florida-based journalism think tank, Poynter. Facebook users in the US and Germany can now flag articles they think are deliberately false, these will then go to third-party fact checkers signed up with the IFCN. Those fact checkers come from media organizations like the Washington Post and websites such as the urban legend debunking site Snopes.com. The third-party fact checkers says IFCN director Alexios Mantzarlis look at the stories that users have flagged as fake and if they fact check them and tag them as false, these stories then get a disputed tag that stays with them across the social network.” With non-biased parties checking the most suspected stories thoroughly, users can have a solid confirmation that the information is accurate, and these strategies are being implemented daily.Social media unifies, with “Social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc are the fastest and the most convenient ways to be connected to our loved ones no matter how far they are from us…Sitting in our homes, we can share ideas, feelings, pictures, and details of our lives with people living on other continents and get instant feedback”. There are more than one billion active Facebook users and one hundred million Instagram users every month, so needless to say there are people of all backgrounds, ages, cultures, and races meeting through a singular, social outlet to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences. “In Alex Pentland’s book, Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread-The Lessons From a New Science, Pentland concludes that the structure of our interpersonal connections rather than the content we exchange determines the quality of “idea flow”. He claims that some networks – those where group members have many interactions with highly diverse people outside of the group and where the members are also highly connected to one another – are more conductive than others to the development of new ideas. In one study where Pentland tagged online day traders, for example, he found that the traders who interacted with a broader information network outperformed those who worked in isolation or who operated within informational “echo chambers” (TED).The decision of entrepreneurs to use social media as an effective marketing tool goes way beyond the economic decision. Social media is successful due to its two-way communication between the brands and the customers. Before social media, you had to pay to get out information about your business. Now, every person and company is its own media brand (there are significantly fewer barriers to reaching people). As of than 50 million all businesses using Facebook Pages to connect with their customers (Source: Facebook). 4 million of those businesses pay for social media advertising on Facebook. Before social media, you had to pay to get out information about your business. Now, every person and company is its own media brand (there are significantly fewer barriers to reaching people). Companies such as Uber are an example of social media marketing done right. “Uber’s first stop is Facebook where it has more than 8 million followers. Even Ford has less than 8 million followers on its main Facebook account. Uber’s Facebook account is more of a broadcasting account to inform customers of all the latest deals and offers.  Still, such a use of social media can provide you with a deeper connection and reflects the kind of satisfaction the brand has generated in the few years it has been around. Facebook is a major social media stop for the big brands. Uber relays it’s deals, discounts, and new rides and riding arrangements through its Facebook account to the large base of followers. Another important thing that Uber does via its Facebook account is to address the customer complaints. Here is how Uber uses its Facebook account to deal with customer issues. The customer representatives at Uber dig into the issues posted via Facebook and respond to them by providing clarification and guidance” (Abhijeet, Cheshnotes).After examining both sides of the issue, I have come to the conclusion that, despite its corruption, social media has had a more positive effect on the United States on the basis that it has positively promoted business, allows us to be connected to people across the globe and communicate with them freely through social media sites such as Facebook, and that the average American has access to more knowledge than ever recorded in human history with little to no restrictions. Social media has grown to be something bigger than itself, and because of that is hard to control. 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