It is almost impossible to imagine a world without social media, but it once existed. In this data driven age, interactive technologies such as social media are digital channels that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, interests, and various expressions through virtual communities and networks.

Friendly interactions on these platforms release dopamine in our brain’s reward centres, triggering us to repeat the behaviour. With this said, social media has provided the opportunity for unlimited interaction. This infinite interaction exploits our natural inclination for social contact, equally as sweets, for example, defeat our innate drive to eat ripe fruit.

The famous saying goes: “too much of anything is bad for you”. While many studies around the world suggest that most individuals cannot maintain a healthy balance being online versus enjoying life beyond the confinement of electronics, one is inclined to believe that our priorities have shifted. Gone are the days when a normal conversation took place without the interruption of a cell phone with constant notifications that need our attention.

As with everything in life, there are advantages and disadvantages. However, we must make a concerted effort to strike a balance that will allow our mind to rest from the constant need to post, respond or keep up with updates and notifications.

Advantages of online social media platforms:

· Eliminating barriers caused by distance, which allows people to contact friends and loved ones.

· Using platforms as a tool for online advertising to grow businesses.

· Keeping abreast with worldwide information instantaneously.

· Building your brand and social equity through a reputable online presence.

· Soliciting national or global support for worthy initiatives by creating awareness.

These noticeable advantages can be attained if social media is utilised positively with a clear objective in mind. However, not everyone utilises social media as a positive tool. Lately, issues around privacy and data have become a critical debate worldwide.

The instant shareability of content has made it almost impossible to afford an error, which is human nature after all. As a result, this places a lot of pressure on individuals to assess the impact of any post on their brands, employer, or family.

Disadvantages of social media:

· Research shows that social media harms the emotional wellbeing of individuals and can lead to anxiety and depression.

· It takes away the personal contact between individuals.

· Because of its scale, social media is being used as a tool to harm people emotionally and create perceptions that are not true.

· There is no opportunity to validate facts because instant shareability has become habitual.

· Social media is utilised to invoke envy and competition amongst friends and family, which can cause destructive relationships.

· Accounts can be hacked, and fictitious accounts can be created.

· The platforms have also been synonymous with providing insights that can advance the cause of criminals that aim to inflict harm on society.

These are some of the consequences of the observation that have had a significant impact on individuals and, at most, are irreversible. As we continue to enjoy the opportunities that come along with social media, let us be attentive and cautious before engaging on these powerful platforms.

The following are some tips worth considering when using social media:

· Read and understand your employee’s social media policy.

· Stay away from sharing personal information that compromises your safety for example sharing your whereabouts can prompt fraudsters to target your home when you are on holiday.

· Be alert and report suspicious activities such as fictitious accounts on social platforms.

· Be of sober mind when engaging on social media.

· Always validate information before sharing it further.

· Ensure that you continue to build a positive online presence as employers often review online profiles of applicants.

They say an individual’s social media profile reflects their character; it is advisable to leave a positive mark.

Happy texting and continue to be good ambassadors of your brands and that of your employer when interacting on social media.

By Bank Windhoek’s Executive Officer of Marketing and Corporate Communication Services, Jacquiline Pack.