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Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year. A person dies by suicide about every 15 minutes in the U.S. An attempt is estimated to be made once every 40 seconds. Many who attempt suicide never seek professional care, and it has generally been found that those who post suicide notes online tend to not receive help. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are known to cause a lot of the suicides. Social media is made up of web sites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social and professional relationships. Social media are harmful to society because they lead to cyber bullying, cause low self-esteem, have no privacy, and create a lack of true, face-to-face communication among people.
Social media has provided a gateway for bullying to take place online, making it possible to bully someone wherever they are. “I’ve seen too many posts, on several social network sites, in which kids suggest that other kids should go kill themselves.” Kids are being cruel to each other online, saying things like ‘kill yourself’ can really push a person to the edge and they don’t truly realize how their words are affecting others. Kids are thinking that because they are online and hiding behind a screen, that it’s okay to bully and intimidate other kids. “Bullying was around before the Internet, but cyber bullying makes it easier.” Kids choose to bully each other online because to be a real bully, you have to be strong and intimidating; but to cyber bully all you need is a social networking account and a keyboard. Being bullied at school is something you can get away from once you go home, but cyber bullying follows you to the Internet. When kids are constantly tormented, in school and online, it can lead them to feel depressed, have a low self-esteem, develop eating disorders, or even commit suicide.
Social media has been proven to have addictive qualities, which can affect a person’s ability to develop “real” relationships. 48% of 18-34 year olds check Facebook when they wake up, with 28% doing so before even getting out of bed. “I don’t enjoy social networking, because I feel it detracts from my “real” relationships… Without a computer, I would be forced to read a book, but social networking almost always presents an excusable distraction.” The more we use social networking, the more things we may be forgetting about basic social skills. “Complexity, acuity, patience, wisdom, intimacy – are things that matter.” People are interacting with each other more through social networking than going out. In a recent study, 54 percent of teens interviewed said they electronically communicate with their friends at least once a day, but only 33 percent said they talked face-to-face with friends each day. Occasionally, the amount of Facebook communication a teen uses affects their ability to interact with people face-to-face. The more time teens spend on social networking sites, it seems to become increasingly difficult for them to pick up facial expressions and tones, such as sarcasm.
On the contrary, some believe that Facebook revolutionized the way people communicate. According to research, spending time on a social network enhances what people think of themselves. A study conducted by researchers at Cornell University showed a psychological benefit to using Facebook, revealing that people get a self-esteem boost just by looking at their Facebook wall. According to researcher Jeffrey Hancock, “Unlike a mirror, which reminds us of who we really are and may have a negative effect on self-esteem if that image does not match with out ideal, Facebook can show a positive version of ourselves.” They suggest that the fact that a user can choose what others can view on their profile gives them the ability to put their best face forward, enhancing their self-esteem.
However, their position is incorrect because studies have shown that Facebook may immensely minimize a person’s self-esteem. According to Dr. Harry Brandt, “Facebook is making it easier to spend more time and energy criticizing their own bodies and wishing they looked like someone else.” Facebook offers the perfect opportunity for teens to compare themselves to their friends and acquaintances. “Studies have shown that the more time young women spend on Facebook, the more likely they are to develop an eating disorder.” (Walton). It is also more likely for a young woman to have a low self-esteem if she spends a lot of time with someone who has the perfect body or qualities that they desire for themselves. Both young women and men have said that they compare themselves to others when they are on Facebook viewing photos or status updates.
Opponents to my position would argue that social media, mainly Twitter, is beneficial to communication. According to Bill Keller, “Twitter is a brilliant device – a megaphone for promotion, a seine for information, a helpful organizing tool for everything from dog-lover meet ups to revolutions.” He is suggesting that Twitter is extremely useful in many aspects, such as self-promotions. It is an excellent source of all different varieties of information and can be used to organize events and bring people together. “Twitter’s more fluid and anonymous setup, teens say, gives them more freedom to avoid friends of friends.” Teens find it easy to tweet their feelings and their daily routines to their close circle of friends rather than their hundreds of friends and acquaintances on Facebook.
However, their position is incorrect because there is no privacy on the internet, making it more difficult for some to communicate. “Someone with a public twitter account might, for instance, retweet a post made on a friend’s locked account, allowing anyone to see it.” Even if a person’s account is private and locked, say a friend shares their post, the post is now visible to the friend’s followers along with all of Twitter. According to Ananda Mitra, a professor of communication, “True privacy would literally mean withdrawing from textual communication online or on phones – in essence, using this technology in very limited ways.” Meaning if one wants complete privacy, they would have to nearly erase every social networking account they have, or use it in very limited ways. We have almost no privacy when it comes to social networking. Whether your account is private or public, anyone can easily see your posts and access your pages. There is virtually no privacy on the internet.
The popularity of social networking sites increased rapidly in the last decade. Students have been relying more on the information from these social networking sites, therefore reducing their learning capabilities. When students are studying online, they tend to get distracted by these sites due to boredom, diverting their attention from their schoolwork. The more time they spend on these sites, the less time they spend socializing face-to-face with others. How much time do you spend on social media?