From reconnecting with long-lost acquaintances, and watching beautiful pictures of other people, the use of social media has transcended even the initial imagination of the builders, and sometimes, the results are not fantastic.
Back in 2005, when social media was still in its infancy, only a fragment of users existed in the United States. In 2019, that number grew to about 70 percent, and today all over the world, there are an estimated 4.9 social media users. There’s a forecast of 5.85 billion social media users worldwide by 2027.
A survey found that while the most-used social platforms for adults are YouTube and Facebook; teens prefer Snapchat and Instagram, while TikTok is reportedly the fastest-growing social network among younger users with 13- to 17-year-olds using at least one of seven major online platforms.
The amount of time spent on social sites is astounding. One report indicates the average teen ages 13 to 18 spends about nine hours on social media each day; tweens ages 8 to 12 are on for about six hours a day.
Like most things, using social media has its positives (the good), its cautionary tales (the bad), and dangers (the ugly) that lurk and impact the lives of many, but especially teens.
It is important that everyone takes a cursory look at this phenomenon.
The good side of social media:
The original technology was meant to offer us greater convenience and connectivity.
- Staying connected with family and friends worldwide.
- Quick access to information.
- Faster transactions from the comfort of your location.
- Online learning, job skills, content discovery.
- Involvement in civic engagement, such as fundraising, and social awareness.
- Opportunities for remote employment.
The negative side of social media:
Along with the good comes the bad. With all of its benefits, the nature of social media presents a range of potential issues.
Fake reality: social media itself is not the problem. It is the way people use it in place of actual communication and in-person socializing. “Friends” on social media may not actually be friends, and may even be strangers.
Uncontrolled usage: When more time is spent on social media, it can lead to cyberbullying, social anxiety, depression, and exposure to content that is not age appropriate. Some social media platforms are making efforts to help users control the time they spend watching the screen.
Addictiveness: When you’re playing a game or accomplishing a task, you seek to do it as well as you can. Once you succeed, your brain will give you a dose of dopamine and other happiness hormones, making you happy. The same mechanism functions when you post a picture to Instagram or Facebook. Once you see all the notifications for likes and positive comments popping up on your screen, you’ll subconsciously register it as a reward. But that’s not all, social media is full of mood-modifying experiences.
Fear of Missing Out: Called FOMO for short, this has become a common theme, and often leads to continual checking of social media sites. The idea that you might miss out on something if you’re not online can affect your mental health.
Self-image issues: Social media sites provide tools that allow people to earn others’ approval for their appearance and the possibility to compare themselves to others. It can be associated with body image concerns. The “selfieholics” and people who spend most of their time posting and scrolling are the ones most vulnerable to this. In fact, most college girls who use Facebook at least five times a day are likely to link their self-worth to their looks. That doesn’t mean that the main problem is social media; it only provides a medium for it, which further elevates the problem.
Cyber Bullying: Every 7 minutes a child is bullied. Unfortunately, intervention is rare, with an adult intervening in only four percent of cases, and a peer in 11 percent. An astonishing 85 percent of all cases of bullying are not addressed. The statistics is overwhelming
Social media and suicide: Sadly, the cons of social media can take a toll on young minds. Suicide remains among the leading causes of death of children under age 14. In most cases, young people die from hanging.
What can be done to reverse the trend?
- Influencers should attempt to model healthy behaviour.
- Parents can set boundaries the right way when they give their children their first phone, parental controls on their phones, with limited screen time.
- Have conversations with children on why some things should be kept private.
- Take time to actively engage with kids face-to-face.
- Adults should learn to talk to kids without glancing at their phones.
- Be aware of privacy concerns and cybersecurity issues and push for policies that punish bullies.
Do you have any question or comment? Do share with us in the comment section.