Since the introduction of social media, life, as we know it, has changed. Social networking technology has become a cornerstone of today’s society. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have expanded human-interconnectedness to amazing new heights. These firms, as well as their competitors, boast enormous user bases. In the third quarter of 2017, Facebook’s monthly active user count came in at 2.1 billion people. Because of how large and quickly these sites have grown, it can be easy to forget that online social networking is still a relatively new phenomenon. And with this abrupt change, some groups have begun to take a closer look at this technology and how these companies have affected society. As a result, many interesting questions about the topic have been raised. Can social media be abused or become addictive? Can usage of these sites be linked to depression, low self-esteem, and increased stress? As skeptics of social media and major news outlets bring these issues to the forefront, the perfect time to have an open, honest conversation about these sites appears to be now.For years there has been a dialogue surrounding social media. For the most part, public concern has been centered on mental health. Alice Walton, a contributor at Forbes who covers health, psychology, and neuroscience, addresses in her article,”Six Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health” the harms we have become exposed to. Armed with numerous sources and various studies, Walton holds no punches as she tells the hard truth about the social media sites we have grown accustomed to. Immediately, she addresses the addictive nature these platforms may possess. However, Walton notes that there is a general disagreement amongst experts about the existence of a “social media addiction” but then sites a study supporting her claim and passing judgment on to the reader. Another focus of the article is how social networking has created the unhealthy habit of “life comparison”. “One study looked at how we make comparisons to other posts, in ‘upward’ or ‘downward’ directions that is, feeling that we’re either better or worse off than our friends.”(Walton) It is easy to see how this could lead to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, or even depression. And that is why this article is a fantastic source. The author clearly and directly introduces the concerns involving social media and provides numerous studies for these claims. This article also happens to be from Forbes, published by contributor AJ Agrawal. This source does not attempt to refute the claims of the previously mentioned article but does take a conflicting stance on the effects of social media. Agrawal has a more optimistic view on how these platforms affect us, in his article “It’s Not All Bad: The Social Good of Social Media”. Agrawal argues that by keeping the masses informed and aware of global events, social networking creates a net positive effect on the human population. The first standout example he uses is Teen Awareness. “Teens want to be aware and informed just as much as adults. Using social media allows teens to follow organizations and causes that they believe in.”(Agrawal) Normally, reports about social media and teenagers convey a troubling message about how their generation will be ruined by this technology. This article provides the great counterargument that these platforms are providing teens with knowledge and a sense of inclusion in global topics and events. Facebook and Twitter have empowered the millennial generation by providing tools for awareness. Another topic discussed by Agrawal is the power of social media marketing exposure. Using the example of charities, he highlights how use platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube are used by these organizations to create buzz and spread their message to a wide user base. Not only do these sites provide a system to spread their message but also ways to contribute to the organization. Agrawal basically repeats this point later on in the article when discussing global natural disaster relief support. Overall, this source by AJ Agrawal does a great job of balancing out the conversation on social media. No, it does not combat the points brought up by Alice Walton in her article. However, the ideas discussed here succeed in establishing an intriguing opposing narrative to the “social media is bad” viewpoint.In the interest of a balanced conversation, the final source chosen presents an equal representation of both the “beneficial” and “harmful” arguments. So far, sources on user psychology and large-scale application have been presented. In this final source, a Washington Post article by Joshua Tucker, Yannis Theocharis, Margaret E. Roberts and Pablo Barbera, the conversation of social media takes on the topic of government. The main discussion is centered around how social media can empower democracy while also undermine it. The motivation of this source comes from the controversy that still surrounds the 2016 Presidential election and the use of sites like Facebook to facilitate the spread of harmful misinformation. The writers begin by explaining how social media is used by those under authoritarian control as a tool for liberation. “Social media can help those opposition actors figure out how to work together, solving what political scientists call ‘collective action problems’.”(Tucker, Theocharis, Roberts, Barbera) An example of this application of social media is the Arab Spring. Protesters and activists can find refuge in communication through social networking platforms when faced with opposition from state-owned media outlets. In existing democracies, small movement groups can take advantage of the same tactics. However, intolerant individuals or hate groups can also spread their message through these platforms and recruit like-minded people. Adding to this problem is the fake account or “bot” phenomenon. These tactics for shaping public opinion are extremely effective on sites like Facebook where the spread of information can happen rapidly. The authors of this Washington Post article effectively explain how sites like Twitter can become the biggest ally for democracy or an opponent. This article’s use of history and current events as examples provided a nice sense of scale to the impact these sites have. The first article by Walton seemed like an intimate story about “You and your phone”. By comparison, this article lets the reader understand just how big this situation is.