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Social media: Awesome or annoying?

To like or to dislike? That’s a question that can seemingly be answered with just the click of a button — or, nowadays, the tap of a finger. Today’s rapidly advancing technology has provided a way to communicate with others around the world in a way like we’ve never seen before. One of the most valuable conveniences of social media is that it is readily available nearly anywhere, anytime. What could there possibly be not to like?

Unfortunately, quite a lot. When used incorrectly or disrespectfully, benefits of online communication also become big problems.

We’ve all heard the stories about invasions of privacy, hackers, identity thefts and a multitude of other cybercrimes prevalent today. But is that what really keeps people away? For some, perhaps. But for most — absolutely not. We want instant gratification; we want to be in the know; and we don’t want to miss out on anything. So, we use Facebook. We use Twitter. We use Instagram, Flickr, Foursquare, YouTube, Tumblr … the list is endless. From our computers, iPads or phones we can send our own personal messages and pictures out for the world to see.

Is this really as good as it seems? When does it all become just too much?

I conducted a survey among social media users to find out what they dislike about these programs — what bothers them the most?

And in classic online form, I had an influx of replies within minutes. Seems there are quite a few things that offend people in this digital world.

The biggest turnoff among the majority of responders can be summed up simply: Use discretion, people. Not everyone you’ve ever met wants to know all the details. Having trouble potty training your kid? That’s nice … but we don’t really want to hear about all that. Fighting with your family? Then deal with it at the reunion — don’t publicly spar like you’re in a modern-day street duel. It’s raining outside? Yeah, it is — we can see that from our windows, too. And we’re glad you love your spouse — but the slurpy-sweet, “I love you sooooooo much honey bear, sugar pie, baby of mine” is a little over-the-top. We’re glad y’all have a great relationship, but as wife and mother Vickie says, “Tell the person, not the world.”

And please refrain from posting gruesome pictures — not everyone’s stomach is as strong as yours. Perhaps my favorite response on this issue came from 30-year-old Kristin. Her gripe: “Over-sharing of the birthing process! I do NOT care how many centimeters somebody is dilated!” I agree — some things are probably best when kept to yourself.

Another big turnoff is negativity. Most users turn to social media for a reprieve from the world — a few moments to de-stress, relax and see what friends are doing. So don’t bring us down. Adam puts it this way: “Don’t update me on your terrible day. I get that you need to vent, but you can do it to a friend, not all of your ‘friends.’ If you’re going to trash a person, place or thing for the sole purpose of complaining, call a friend or send a text — you’re making an idiot of yourself in a public place.”

Facebooker Hamp said what bothers him the most is when others whine and complain that it’s Monday and they have to go to work. “Be thankful you have a job, and get a paycheck.”

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Anita Theiss

Wife and mother of two Anita Theiss, 29, noted that she may block someone’s messages when their constant “soap-boxing” becomes too much. “When I go online, I want to see how my friends are — look at pictures of their kids or family vacations. What I’m not interested in is a diatribe on someone’s political or religious views. It’s fine to have your opinions — I have my own — but don’t write a novel ranting and raving about it.”

Remember the chain-mail letters you used to send with your childhood friends? They’re still around. “‘Repost this or die/be my true friend/win a million dollars’ … nope, doesn’t work,” Bethany observed. Adam noted, “If it looks too good to be true, don’t share it. I’m glad you’re still filled with enough hope and wonder to believe you’ll win those airline tickets, but I don’t share the sentiment.”

Numerous responders said they hate receiving advertisements for shopping deals, birthday reminders and “requests” for online games.

Victoria Trussell laments that online correspondence lacks the ability to convey your intent as well as face-to-face communication. “You can’t always write something, because it can be taken the wrong way when you have no harmful intent at all.”

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Victoria Trussell

For others, the amount of material available can simply be too much of a distraction. One click leads to another, then another. Middle school teacher Heidi recalled why she temporarily disabled her Facebook account when she was studying to earn her master’s degree. “I found myself wasting time I could use to study looking at random pictures of a friend’s cousin’s wedding — someone I’ve never even met.”

And while sites like Facebook, Twitter and picture uploader Instagram can be very convenient, they can also be demoralizing and destructive — especially among celebrities.

The old adage, “Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back,” has never been more true.

On Twitter for instance, users have less restrictions, allowing them to connect with people all over the world, from businesses to celebrities. This medium is unique in that it is a venue for personal interaction between famous faces and their fans — or haters. However, it has also become a hotspot for venting frustration and publicly insulting others. With the click of a button, you can tell George Clooney how much you loved his latest film, or tell Anne Hathaway how much you hate that dress she’s wearing at the Oscars — which you’re currently watching live. In the celeb world, Twitter often becomes a public venue for feuds — one that everyone can read all about. With the effect of instantaneous posting, even messages that are immediately deleted never truly disappear. For example, singer Miley Cyrus seemingly threatened to expose her father’s alleged extramarital affair when she posted a picture of herself and a woman with the posting, “@billyraycyrus since you won’t reply to my texts I’m giving you an hour to tell the truth or I’ll tell it for you.” Cyrus soon deleted the message, later writing, “My twitter was just actin all types of cray!” But with thousands of others instantly re-posting her message, the damage had already been done.

With great power comes great responsibility, and on the World Wide Web, it’s everyone out for themselves. There are wonderful benefits available with social media, but like most things, is best when used in moderation. Bottom line: Be respectful — to your friends, to strangers, and to yourself.