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Social media has been a huge part of American daily life, and for most people, it’s one of the biggest buzzes of the twenty-first century. Whether social media is good or bad for society is a conversation many people are discussing. Approximately seven out of ten Americans use social media and this number is only increasing2. In the future, it would not be surprising if nearly all Americans participate in social media sites. Although social media makes social networking easier than ever, social media also exposes information that the user wouldn’t know unless social media sites existed.
With the availability of so much information, social media has left many users with anxiety and other similar issues. The question now is if social media is beneficial or negative to society as a whole.
Social media is defined as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content to participate in social network.”1There are many different classifications of social media that are mostly distinguished in ten different types.
Social networks: to connect with people. Media sharing networks: sharing photos, videos, and other media. Discussion forms: sharing news and ideas. Bookmarking and content curation networks: discover, save, and share new content. Consumer review networks: find and review businesses. Blogging and publishing networks: publish content online. Interest-based networks: share interests and hobbies. Social shopping networks: shop online. Sharing economy networks: trade goods and services. Anonymous social networks: communicate anonymously.
The history of social media is more complex than most people think it is.
Although social media sites appear new, they are a product of many centuries of work. Two important inventions that contributed to current social media are: the telephone and the radio. With the invention of the telephone in 1890 and the radio in 18913, humans were able to communicate over long distances instantaneously for the first time. This would lead to the decline of written messages that would take longer through mail services.
In the twentieth century, technology began to advance more rapidly with the breakthroughs in modern science. The invention of the first supercomputer in the 1940s helped engineers and scientists to develop networks between those computers that would ultimately lead to the great invention of the internet.
By the 1980s, household computers were becoming more common and internet chats had started being used. The first known social media site was Six Degrees, created in 1997. Enabling users to upload a profile picture and make friends with other users. This is a very common trend in today's social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. In 1999, blogging sites became popular creating a trend that is still used today in sites such as Tumblr and Reddit.4
Today's social media has become embodied by sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. All these sites give the user ways to communicate and gain information without human interaction. This has created an entirely new way for people to communicate and share with each other across long distances. We can only speculate how the future of social media will expand but it is clear that it will continue in our society.
Many see this invention of social media as a blessing but others criticize social media as a curse. Without a doubt, this invention has caused great controversy in our society with pros and cons from many Americans. Some believe that having social media plays such a big part of our lives that we could be sacrificing our mental health, well-being, and time. In 2015, researchers at the Pew Research Center , based in Washington DC, conducted a survey of 1,800 social media users across the country. The survey concluded that women reported being more stressed than men that had used some form of social media. However, social media could be used as a coping mechanism that in some cases would help lower stress and found that men were more distant with their relationship with social media. Researchers concluded that social media was linked to “modestly lower levels of stress”.5
The argument in today’s society is that social media is having many negatives effects especially on the youth from losing touch with reality and more time spent virtually than should be. Social media alone can change your viewing of the world and the view of yourself, and not always for the better, creating a non-realistic perception of reality. Social media can lead to addictiveness where the user can't seem to stop using a social media platform constantly. This leads many to describe social media as being more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. The most addictive social media platforms being used are Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. A study done by the Northern Trent University used earlier knowledge of psychological characteristics, personality, and social media use. The research concluded,
“…it may be plausible to speak specifically of ‘Facebook Addiction Disorder’…because addiction criteria, such as neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood modifying experiences, tolerance and concealing the addictive behavior, appear to be present in some people who use excessively.” 6
Research also found that motives for social media differ according to one’s personality trait being introvert or extrovert. Another study conducted by Swansea University concluded that people experienced psychological symptoms of withdrawal when they stopped using any sort of internet usage, not just social media. Study author Phil Reed said, “We have known for some time that people who are over-dependent on digital devices report feelings of anxiety when they are stopped from using them, but now we can see that these psychological effects are accompanied by actual physiological changes.”7
The amount of time spent on social media can be directly affecting your mood. You’re more likely to report poor mental health, including feelings of depression and anxiety. A study from a group of psychologists published in 2013 found that Facebook use was linked to both less moment-to-moment happiness and less satisfaction with life as well. The authors wrote,
“Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling such needs by allowing people to instantly connect. Rather than enhancing well-being, as frequent interactions with supportive 'offline' social networks powerfully do, the current findings demonstrate that interacting with Facebook may predict the opposite result for young adults—it may undermine it.”7
Another study done by American Journal of Preventive Medicine has linked social media usage to a greater feeling of social isolation. The more time people spend on popular social media apps the more isolated they perceive themselves. This is a horrible way to feel mentally and physically. In March of this year, a survey done by the website “PR Week” reported more than a third of Generation Z out of a thousand people surveyed stated that they quitting social media and forty-one percent stated that social media platforms made them feel anxious, sad, and depressed.
With day to day use from social media, we tend to start comparing our own lives with the people we see online. Comparing yourself with others alone can cause feelings of anxiety and depression. Comparison of peers also often leads to jealousy. For younger generation feelings of jealousy are not healthy especially as we maturing to our true nature jealousy and comparison can distract and derail one's self-image if themselves in a negative way. Another phenomenon that has been born is FOMO or fear of missing out. FOMO is a form of anxiety you get when you’re scared of missing out on an experience. The more you use social media you can engage on what others are doing that very second and if someone is having more fun than you that what causes FOMO that mainly happens to teens viewing their peers' social media. That can cause the individual to start engaging in activities that others engage in that they wouldn’t to themselves like attending music festivals and going out to cities to capture themselves having a “blast” with their peers. This issue distracts the individuals from what is really important like schoolwork and other activities that will benefit the user not benefit their social media image.
One of the most important necessities to a human is sleep as we do it every day and we would literally die without sleep in a week or so of not sleeping. However, a lot of people use their phones right before bed or even still scrolling through social media in bed, which makes it harder to sleep.“Getting worked up with anxiety or envy from what we see on social media keeps the brain on high alert, preventing us from falling asleep,” explained Dr. Bono. “Plus, the light from our mobile device just inches from our face can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps us feel tired.”8 This is especially bad for teenagers when they need sleep the most as their bodies are going through changes and causing an imbalance with sleep can affect mood for the whole day. Nigh-time social media usage also creates unnatural sleeping patterns as prolonged use of social media sites is attributed to not being able to sleep at a well-adjusted schedule which then will start to affect their daily lives a whole.
Social media creates a place where people can now bully others anonymously or letting them know who it is. Bullying is most likely an issue we will have to continue to deal with in society however social media has made it even worse and more widespread. People use to bully each other face to face but know with the invention of the internet it has created a whole new world for the issue. In addition social media makes it easier to make friends that you would have never known without but it also makes it easier for an online predator to find victims to prey on. This affects not only children but adults as well. There also aren’t many laws that protect users from being bullied so they have to deal with it themselves. Some children can be already in an unhealthy state of mind in need of professional help. With continued cyberbullying some victims do commit suicide sadly and it is a very unfortunate situation that happens more frequently in today's society. Cyber bullying shouldn’t be a social occurrence but it is and is a problem many have to overcome. Schools should teach children from a young age that is not the correct to bully others and have disciplinary actions if the problem occurs.
Although social media seemingly has many issues that can cause the user disturbance. Social media has been very beneficial in our daily lives and makes many ways of communicating faster, easier, and easily accessible. If you have a business and want to reach a wider market audience, social media can make that possible with very low-cost spending. With the ability to connect with people all over the world, social media has made us more connected together in society than ever before in history. There are a lot of entrepreneurs that have taken advantage of this and created a business solely off of social media marketing. Those relatives that you only heard stories of you can now connect with them with social media applications and actually get to know your family better and create a bond that would have never been brought to light before.
The ability to communicate faster and over longer distances has always been a target for human innovation. From the pony express to delivering handwritten letters to the sender and eventually the invention of the telephone making communication an easy task to accomplish, social media is just another invention makes the ability to communicate faster and easier. This time the message is instant with the press of a button. This process has led to the spread of information faster. 78.5% of traditional media reporters polled used social media to check the news.2 Law enforcement also believes that with the ability to spread information much more quickly and efficiently that it helps with the aid of catching a criminal faster. For example the amber alters your cellphone gets after a child has been reported missing by local authorities the user now has the information to know what car the criminal has used and the general area of the incident. Social media also creates a place where people may be isolated or senior citizens that don’t really have the means to go out and about interact with their loved ones or just meet new people. They feel more connected to society which can create an overall mood boost.
Social media has also created great opportunities for students and job seekers to find a job. The social networking app LinkedIn is similar to Facebook and other social media applications but in more of a professional setting. LinkedIn creates a living form of your resume where employers can see your credentials and if they like what they see they reach out to you or vice versa as you can contact employers that you are interested and would like an opportunity to be hired. Students can also connect with each other and bounce of ideas to help them study in class or if a peer didn’t get a concept they can help each other. Skype and other similar apps can be utilized to create study groups also business meeting instead of meeting in person saving the company money and students from leaving the comfort of their homes. Overall social media platforms provide the ability to instantly communicate which makes it very approachable to use for all types of users. Individuals can now connect with people with similar interests. If you are a painter and barely beginning you can use social media applications to contact other painters you may be inspired by and ask for any tips or advice. This goes for really any interest or hobbies creating a platform for people to connect with each other easier and leading to the possibility to meet each other in real life creating a bond that would have never existed without social media.
Social media can also be used for general fun and enjoyment. Many people use social media on their breaks or while they are relaxing. Whether it's catching up on news or your favorite artist, social media seems to have an outlet that captures everyone niche. However, it is easily known that most Americans spend most of the break time on social media always having to be kept up to date with current affairs. In an age of rapid technological advancement, it is positive to keep the youth able to operate and adjust to changes since in the future it seems to be evident that the use of technology will only increase leading to the integration of our daily lives. Online dating also has become a big buzz in today's society. With many individuals being busy with work and other daily activities some never really get the chance to go out and meet a significant other. Apps like Tinder and countless dating websites people can now connect with the possibility of creating a relationship with the ease of never having to meet. Yet many believe this is strange as many individuals are hooked and some users even have met their spouse through dating social media.
The buzz of social media does not seem to be coming to a halt, in fact, you could say it's progressing bigger and bigger and whether the issue of the pros versus the cons insists. I believe that social media as a whole actually benefits our society. Yes, this could be very controversial but as we advance in society, social media provides the power to instantly connect with friends, colleagues, peers with the ease of a convenient touch. As history shows it has been one of humanity’s main goals in technology to advance the speed of communication and allow information spread faster and wider. We used to use horses to send personal letters then led to the invention to the telegraph then to the cell phone and after the cell phone and internet social media is just the next step to our technological advancement as humans. I feel the main issues of social media is the fact we have almost too much information easily available. With apps like Twitter and Facebook, we almost know what everyone is doing at almost every second. With this information, it can cause anxiety in some individuals. However, I believe we should be more aware and conscious of what we put out in the internet and at the end of the day realize we can just turn off the computer or any device and continue with our lives. The prime suspect of social media abuse is teens since they are very sensitive to certain matters and minds can easily be altered. Teens and young adults always like to be aware of what is current and have to be top of the news or feel they are going to be left out. We should help to counter this by implementing our schools to inform our youth on how to properly use social media and not take things too seriously online and how to use social media at our advantage not let it be a disadvantage to the user.
As evidence shows, I believe social media is beneficial for society. One should learn how to properly handle social media to stop any anxiety or any associated issue. Social media is just another advancement in society to communicate with others at the ease of a touch and others that would have never been known to our lives. Social media also helps out small businesses to inform the consumer of the business products. Social media is evidently here to stay and time will only show the advancement of social media most likely leading to a new technological advancement that humans will then have to adjust and adapt to again as history of technology has demonstrated over again.
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