Social media is a great place for the spreading of information, and in today’s age of information, we quite literally can’t get enough.

How many of us checked for snow day updates or liked rainbow pictures on Facebook or Instagram? Who hasn’t texted Mom what’s for dinner?

Some of the people who understand the effect of social media best are the political candidates.

In the 2012 presidential elections, Obama’s campaign team was far superior to Romney’s when it came to social media, and many believe that is what won him reelection.

The view espoused by American politicians is known as the instrumental view of social media.

This view sees social media as a tool (or the “instrument”) to take information out to the oppressed masses.

During the Cold War, the United States smuggled Xerox machines behind the Iron Curtain in an attempt to spread anti-Communist propaganda in the name of freedom of information.

That same mindset is what prompts the U.S. government today to denounce the censorship of Google, Wikipedia and similar sites. But is information alone really the key to bringing down the repressive regimes of the world?

The opposing view is known as the environmental view. This view recognizes that media itself does not change peoples’ opinions, but seeing their peers’ reaction and opinions on that media does.

The argument is that the true value of social media comes from allowing an environment where discussion of information is possible, thus making communication—not information— the actual catalyst of successful social reform.    

Think back to the Paris bombings. Why did you put the French flag filter over your profile picture? Was it because you read a news article, or was it because your friends were doing the same?

So if communication is the real power of social media, what have you been communicating lately? Has it been rants and semester stress, or has it been gratitude?

Our communication creates the environment we live in and the one others have to live in too.

The Collegian staff challenges their fellow students to be positive with the use of social media. If difficult things must be said, consider the way in which you say it. We have been given great power to influence our world. Let’s not waste it.