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Social Media and its (Positive & Negative) Effects Essay
Social media is defined as any internet platform that allows online social interaction. Lauren Davidson (2015) reported that an average person has five social media accounts each and spends 100 minutes surfing such networks daily. From this data, any digital native who uses social media to this extent is bound to be affected. Life with social media is very different from life without it. The growing millions of active users on social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others supports the notion that social media is becoming increasingly popular. Its influence and its effects on individuals are of uprising concerns. This essay will discuss three possible effects of social media’s influence on individuals; communication and information, the risk of cyberbullying, and social media addiction.
Nowadays, people can gather and send information to anyone, anytime, anyplace through social media. Communication takes seconds, costs almost nothing, enables contact with people all around the world and is very efficient and convenient. This is a remarkable change as before social media, it took weeks to send letters overseas, and cost many dollars to make a single call to someone out of the country. Thus, this effect saves a lot of time and money. It is generally observed that people use social media often for exchanging important information about work, school, their everyday lives, hobbies and other topics. Anne Osterrieder (2013) stated that social media has caused a possible and easier way for like-minded people to come together, exchange ideas and expand their minds with new knowledge and different opinions. Thus, individuals can support societal causes more effectively, allowing them more chances to be a well-rounded and helpful global citizen. Osterrieder also noted that “… social media can provide a highly personalised and relevant ‘Table of Contents’ to keep up to date with current research, popular science and broader issues…” (para. 4). She explained that digital natives are provided nearly trouble-free access to the information they want. This can promote self-education and self-directed learning, causing people to be more well-read as more data is available. However, in reality, this advancement in communication has also helped scams, spam and fake news to thrive. These pesky side-effects can be remedied if one is better informed about these downsides. Another drawback from accessing information through social media is that it positions people to become overly accessible to any friend, foe or stranger.
Such accessibility links to next point of increased cyberbullying. Social media is an online playground – where people can have fun, but also where bold bullies exist and weaponize their text messages to hurt people. Individuals have to be extra careful with their comments, or they may unintentionally insult people and become a hate victim. One such victim was Justine Sacco. According to Jon Ronson (2015) masses of people ruined Justine Sacco’s life, trashed her reputation and caused her to get fired over a tiny mistake; a poorly-written, misunderstood satire joke on Twitter. Judging from this case, saying that social media might affect life outside of it is a sound fact. Sadly, this is not a stand-alone case, Justin Patchin (2016) claimed that out of 5707 people surveyed, 33.8% said they have been cyberbullied. Students surveyed by Dianne L. Hoff and Sidney N. Mitchell (2009) voiced out that individuals may be tempted to be meaner and more aggressive online than in real life. The said bullies are braver online as they believe in hiding behind the veil of anonymity social media provides, so they may assume that they escape punishment. Thus, anyone can be bullied more frequently and severely by words online than in real life. This cyberbullying may evoke emotions of stress, depression and powerlessness in the receiver of this anonymous, lashed-out hate (Hoff & Mitchell, 2009). It can be argued that cyberbullying can be ignored but this is only a temporary solution; the communication and information the individual needs are often on social media. It is a pity that the enhanced communication granted by social media can be used for cyberbullying. However, this is not the only negative side effect; another is social media addiction.
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Social media is like a personal secretary. It caters to and notes down each of its users’ unique needs to satisfy them with information of everything that matters to them, like news, food or politics (Zeitel-Bank & Tat, 2014). It lets people peek into other people’s preferences, lives and happenings, anytime, anywhere. Due to social media’s designed pandering to each consumer’s personalised wants, it is tempting to spend hours on it. Not surprisingly, this may cause social media addiction sometimes. Nicole Goebel (2018) reported that “Some 2.6 percent of [about 100,000] German youths aged between 12 and 17 are addicted to social media apps like WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat, a representative study by German health insurance firm DAK found.” Thus, the threat of social media is very real and not just a hypothetical scenario. One may find that some people are so addicted to social media that they do not second-guess their actions of posting supposed-to-be private information for potentially hundreds, maybe millions of strangers to view. One example is Robert Scoble, one of the most popular individuals in the social media world (Keen, 2012). Scoble is a famous social evangelist who fully got rid of his privacy, due to him posting literally everything about his life too often. It can be concluded that this is because he is obsessed with social media. Rachel Ritlop (as cited in Careers In Psychology, n.d.) asserted that one reason social media can be obsessional is positive reinforcement; digital natives have grown used to referring to the number of likes, shares and follows they get on their social media posts and accounts to feel good about themselves and feel validated. This can be detrimental to one’s self-esteem as basing one’s validation on other people’s opinions and thought instead of one’s own is a shaky ground; For what other people on the Internet think can also be negative and very inconsistent because it consists of many different individuals. Social media addiction can take up too many more hours of someone’s time than necessary. Considering this fact, this can also lead to lack of sleep, increased disconnections in real-life relationships, and less time to spend with friends and loved ones for the individual. Therefore, it might reduce the quality of an individual’s life, making it less meaningful and less fulfilling.
This essay has discussed three possible effects of social media’s influence has on individuals, namely the advancement of communication of information, the threats of cyberbullying and social media addiction. The paragraphs above have explained these effects of social media impacting people, as a large group and on a case-by-case basis. One limitation of this essay is that it has touched on only three aspects of the issue due to word count limit. There are other factors, like the effect of fake news and online scams which have not been covered. The essay also implies that up to some extent, it is usually up to the individuals to determine how helpful or harmful the effects are on themselves and other people. This is solely because the individuals are the main factor of social media’s happenings affecting people. Notably, social media is only a platform and a tool. A recommendation would be to educate the public on how to minimize the negative effects of social media. Thus, it can be concluded that social media affects individuals’ lives in many ways, yet it can be partially regulated by the individuals themselves.