Positive & Negative Effects of Social Media on Our Lives
We all witnessed the 5 year growth period of social media and how quickly we became slaves of it. People share their weekend, their food, their clothes and anything else from the most important to the most ridiculously unimportant things. It’s just how things go right now. Being present in our culture means being present on social media. We get addicted to likes and social media impressions as if they actually meant something in real life.
There is nothing wrong with the platform itself. No social media network did anything wrong, the problem is the way a lot of people use it and the role it plays in their lives. We all know a person who constantly seems to be on the hunt for approval, posting a pretty picture of him or herself every day. Using the platform this way will just make a person feel lonely and not connected. Yet the good news is that there is a way out. You can use social media very effectively and sensibly, without becoming a lurker. So let’s put aside all the messy feelings that social media ignites in us, such as jealousy, fear and the constant need for approval.
Today, we’re going to make a critical analysis on how social media affects us and how it contributes to our society. It has already proven to have serious effects on our mental health, so it’s worth digging a bit deeper. We’ll look at both the positive and negative side of things and seek to understand how we can use the platform in a sensible manner. So, without further ado, let’s get down to it!
The Toxic Reflections of Social Media (The Negative)
Social media doesn’t do anything to people, it only reveals them. Nobody says you have to be a selfieholic, it’s a personal choice. The toxic ways we use social media without even realizing it is numerous. Although, the feeling is there for everybody. We have all come to a point where we’re just fed up with it, asking „who even cares about this?” Most of us also came to a point of disgust in seeing people’s self-image issues and the fake persona they’re looking to establish about themselves.
It’s Incredibly Addictive
We have all become addicted to our computer screens one way or another. Whether it’s a game, your favorite series or social media. Most experts have already proven that internet and computer addiction is a real thing. You just have to go out to the street and see it for yourself. People are constantly hooked on their phones, seeking a distraction. By now, there might even be a Facebook addiction disorder, because it perfectly matches the criteria of an addiction.
Let me explain. 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.
The notion that advertisements, magazines and movies affect teens’ and even adults’ body image has been around for quite some time. It enforces a „thin ideal”, an idea of manliness and influences the idea people have about what they should look like.
In 2016, psychologists have found plenty of evidence in numerous cultures, on how social media affects body image concerns. Social media sites provide tools that allow people to earn other’s approval for their appearance and the possibility to compare themselves to others. Selfieholics and people who spend most of their time posting and scrolling are the ones most vulnerable to this. Most college girls who use Facebook at least 5 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. It also promotes the same sort of behavior to others.
Thanks to all the awesome social media and simple photo editing tools, all the selfieholics can now alter their bodies and censor what they don’t like about themselves. I bet you’re wondering about all the girls you saw today, who regularly put make up on at home and post an image of themselves to Facebook or Instagram. It’s like a beauty pageant every day.
The Illusion of Control
If you really double down on it and spend some time crafting a decent social media profile, you can really seem like you got your things together. It can actually make you believe that if you work at it, it can improve how beautiful you are. There are many aspects that you can’t control when it comes to how you look and that’s completely okay. But with social media, you have a choice to post a picture that makes you look thinner, or at least censor the bad parts. You can then just sit back and enjoy all the approval you’re getting for your looks through likes and comments. All that sweet attention keeps flooding in, because all the insecure girls and boys need their dose. Girls can do some awesome makeups, show their curves, while guys can play the alpha male.
In the past, you had to at least watch a movie or get a magazine in your hand to see thin celebrity bodies. But now, there’s an endless stream of such images if you just take your smartphone in your hand.
It Can Make You Feel Lonely
Ever spent some time sitting alone in a room, scrolling on social media and thinking about how utterly lonely you felt? People are having fun, going on vacation, getting married, while you’re just being you. Browsing so much on social media, waiting for your phone to give you a notification that someone sent you a message really does that.
Many people naturally come to the conclusion that while social media is made to connect us even more, it actually separates us. Imagine, that many people already have some serious urges and cravings to post and get all that sweet approval. A study have shown that not posting and not engaging on social media actually had a negative effect on the participant’s well-being. Withdrawal symptoms maybe?
These participants have said that they feel excluded from what’s going on in the world and felt less important. But in reality, nothing has actually changed and they weren’t more important in the first place.
Yet, on the positive side a Carnegie Mellon University research has shown that people who regularly use Communication tools felt less lonely. In fact, as they’re writing a post, commenting on their friend’s photos and hitting the „like” button, are less likely to have feelings of loneliness.
A Fear of Missing Out
Studies conducted in 2016 have shown that people, especially teens and young adults who spend more than two hours on social media sites, are much more likely to show psychological distress. Constantly seeing their friends and even people they don’t know having the time of their lives can be quite depressing. It makes them think that they’re missing out on so many things while others are enjoying their lives. They follow a sort of „compare and despair” attitude.
This is partially why people feel isolated when using social media. They’re constantly comparing themselves to others as they scroll through the news feed. Judging others and themselves how they add up in the crowd is pretty unhealthy. We constantly seek to find out whether we’re better or worse than our friends, which will make us feel bad either way. Self-comparison in itself is a very destructive habit. It is also linked with other depressive mental symptoms.
It Drives More Sadness than Happiness
By constantly using Facebook as a distraction and to establish a feeling of connectedness, we achieve the exact opposite. A study conducted in 2013 with young adults has shown that a constant use of Facebook brings less moment-to-moment happiness. The fact that people are able to instantly connect is pretty awesome, but in continuous use it actually brings a feeling of social isolation. So in reality, the more time people spend on social media sites, the more social isolation they experience.
The Delusion That It Elevates Your Mood
Since it’s addictive, we keep coming back to social media, seeking that extra dose of dopamine, thinking that it actually makes us feel good. It’s a similar addiction to alcohol or any other substance. We think that another hit will help us, clear our minds a little and get us rolling on the right track. While in reality, we just made an error in predicting our own behavior and response. By now, you probably know that scrolling social media after a bad day will only make you feel worse.
The Rise of Cyber Bullying
Cyberbullying is a growing concern, due to the horrific effects it had on teens over recent years. With growing social media platforms, anyone can be subjected to trolling and bullying. Everyone had at least one friend who posted an unwanted picture of him or her. Sometimes it doesn’t stop there and people are made laughing stocks in a matter of hours.
You just have to look at the comment section of a post that ignited any kind of conflict. People are much more confident about throwing around insults than they are in real life.
The Improvements Social Media Brought About (The Positive)
Social media isn’t all about establishing fake identities and self-image issues. It can be a tool of great benefit for everyone who’s using it, if it is used sensibly. The possibility to instantly connect with the ones you care about has brought about many positive changes to people’s lives.
It Can Save You In Case Of an Emergency
During a tornado season, the interconnectedness social media platforms offer can be of great help. If people see bad weather approaching on the horizon, they can report it instantly on Facebook or any other platform. This has already saved hundreds of people in the United States in 2011.
Having the information about the approaching tornados sooner allowed people to get to safety faster and they had more time to prepare. The same can apply to any other disaster scenario, where quick communication can be the key to avoid any harm or even to survival.
The line between enhancing our communication and relying on social media for it is very thin. It necessarily doesn’t have to take us out of the real world to provide us with some useful tools. In fact, it can definitely do what it was made to do. To cultivate and strengthen relationships with others, because what better option do you have to stay updated with friends on the other side of the world?
Or if you feel in a really bad mood, social media provides you with the possibility to engage with a friend, which can be a life saver sometimes.
It Can Be Used As a Voice to Reason
A lot of people are using social media to create a voice to the voiceless. These people seek to bring awareness to certain social issues. They help people with disabilities and less advantageous social backgrounds.
It’s a Place for Content Discovery
Social media makes it infinitely easy for you to find content that serves your interests. It also offers an opportunity to creative individuals to showcase their work or market it as a product. This makes people think outside the box and allows them to come up with content that shares valuable information. Facebook can be a great place to discover amazing educational materials regarding various topics. It can also help people discover skills that are necessary in the real world. You just have to first dig through all the useless commentary.
Helps in Getting Help
You can share your issues and interest or connect with a group that shares them with you. It’s easy to post questions regarding specific problems and have someone help out. It was never this easy to get our hands on helpful information, so we best make use of it.
Provides an Awesome Marketing Tool
Social media has created a brand new phase in marketing, because it provides interaction. Today, marketing isn’t just about broadcasting information, but engaging in a conversation with potential clients. Businesses use Facebook and Twitter to establish a reputation, a stronger online presence and to build their brand.
Social media doesn’t change anybody into an egoistic selfieholic, it only reveals them. While there may be too much personal broadcasting going on through these sites, that’s not what they are all about. They can both genuinely connect us and help us communicate more efficiently, or just feed our egos and our need for others’ approval. At the end, how we use it depends on each of the individual decisions we make.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and that we helped you establish a new perspective on the marvel we call social media!