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The Upside and Downside of Social Media

New Harris Poll indicates online connections help with job and home searches, but drawbacks include offensive posts and images.

No doubt social media is ubiquitous in today’s society, and Americans see that as both beneficial and detrimental, according to a Harris Poll released Tuesday.

The poll, covering an online survey of 2,276 adults, found that half of Americans believe they have received a  “good suggestion for something to try.” That compares to 40 percent of adults who thought so five years ago.

In addition, more Americans also say social media has been responsible for making an employment opportunity connection (21 percent now versus 15 percent in 2010). Also, 11 percent of social media users say it has been key to helping them find a new apartment or house, up from 9 percent five years ago.

In all cases, millennials — adults born after 1980 — said they have benefited the most from social media while the oldest adults (those born during and before World War II) are least engaged. For example, 37 percent of millennials report they made a connection regarding a job opportunity because of social media while just 6 percent of those 69 and older did.

Yet while social media overall is resulting in more positives, negatives likewise have increased. For instance, more than half of users — 51 percent — say they have been offended by posts, comments, or images seen online, up from 43 percent in 2010. Furthermore, 27 percent of social media users say unintended persons have viewed links they posted or comments they made.

Additionally, 8 percent say they have gotten into trouble at school or work because of pictures of them posted online, while 7 percent have lost a potential job because of photos or posts they have made on the Internet. Men are more likely than women to encounter difficulties with such actions: 12 percent of males compared to 5 percent of females say they have experienced discipline at work or school for pictures or posts and 10 percent of men versus 3 percent of women report missing out on a potential job because of social media activity.

Mark Forrester, director of Public Relations and Communications for the Assemblies of God, says social media, as with any form of communication, provides opportunities and challenges.   

“With nearly a billion active social media users, we now have a unique window in time to take the gospel to the ends of the earth with the tap of a finger,” Forrester says. “Our lives are on public display in a way which would have been inconceivable even a decade ago. As Christians, we should be willing to think before we post and ‘tweet others as we would like to be tweeted.’ ”

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.