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Please grab your iPhone. I’m sure you won’t have to move. Open up your settings and scroll down to the “Screen Time” section. Tap on Screen Time to see your usage statistics. What does it say? Last week, I spent an average of 6 hours and 38 minutes a day browsing the many apps our latest technology has to offer. On average, the majority of teenagers and young adults spend 9 hours a day using their phone. It is no question that our generation is addicted to Social Media and wake up every morning ready to get our fix.
What many do question, is how this time consuming device is affecting our lives. The ability to present a highlight reel of one’s personal life or professional brand on social media is both a blessing and a curse because it can be harmful to one’s overall health but beneficial to businesses.
One of the many detrimental effects of social media is the shift from real life experience and face to face conversations to technological comparison and text messaging.
While many teenagers and young adults are now highly capable of sending an inspiring text, the minority are comfortable with confrontation. Why say something uneasy to someone’s face when you can just text it instead? This is the very question that trains young adults to poorly communicate. Lack of communication can create many conflicts and resort in many losses.
Another harmful effect is the constant comparison of one to another that has taken a toll on society.
The amount of followers on Instagram is now an unspoken determination of one’s value. This is obvious considering the most followed people on Instagram are the most aesthetically pleasing. For example, @kyliejenner currently has 118 million followers and has influenced women all over the world to receive lip injections due to her “beautiful” fillers. Kylie is famous for her family TV show Keeping Up With The Kardashians and her appearance, which has now turned her into one of the youngest billionaires through her cosmetic collection of lip kits.
The media portrayal of body image has set unattainable standards which now affect the self-esteem of women all over the world. Instagram, a photo and video sharing application is a great example of a network that unintentionally gives an impression of normality, “forcing the idea of a singular kind of beauty into the minds of all women who see it.” I can personally say as a growing woman, I have sat on a popular models account, such as @alexisren for hours in attempt to “study” how it is I can be or look more like her. With 12.9 million followers, Alexis Ren is an “Instagram model” famous for her picture perfect body consisting of the stereotypical perfection for women such as “big lips, tiny nose, pretty eyes, tiny waist, long lean legs, with no cellulite, minimal makeup and curves.” Both men and women also set high expectations when they drool over these unrealistic women, and the one photo that many don’t realize, took 300 tries and editing.
Speaking of editing, Facetune is a photo editing app that is well known online for its ability to make one appear skinnier, thicker, etc. Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Kris Jenner, Beyonce and more have been accused of using this app for obvious editing mistakes.
There are now women all over the world, including some of my dear friends, altering their bodies and faces to what they foresee is ideal. This is where I become mind blown. Rather than realizing these “perfect people” are not actually perfect, but edited, we attempt to edit ourselves too. Social media is a platform that is strongly associated with eating disorders and body dissatisfaction. Dr Tim Bono, author of When Likes Aren’t Enough explained that “when we derive a sense of worth based on how we are doing relative to others, we place our happiness in a variable that is completely beyond our control” (CITATION). Dr. Iyer Aparna, a certified psychiatrist and assistant professor discusses the importance of connection, and the increased percentage of loneliness since 1980. It is important for humans to connect, this is how we “build resilience and manage stress” (Iyer, Aparna). So, why is it that an application like Instagram helps people connect but creates stress instead of managing it? Because our greatest connections are not made through a direct message on Instagram but through a dinner with our phones put away.
In addition, teenagers and young adults worldwide are losing a good night’s sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that helps us to feel tired. My father, Dr. Jeff Viscomi says that melatonin is our “internal clock.” Staring into a screen can suppress the release of this hormone, resulting in the loss of much needed rest. A study completed by Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey researched 11-20 year old Canadian students. The data included the amount of hours they slept each night and the amount of time they spent on social media each day. The unfortunate results revealed that the more time spent on social media, the less sleep the student would have that night. Even one hour a day could seriously impact a night’s rest and as stated previously, I spent an average 6 hours and 38 minutes a day on my phone just last week. The need to be constantly updated by a platform you can instantly refresh creates pressure to stay in the loop, and the more time spent off the internet, the less you are in the loop. This idea alone can keep teenagers and young adults awake at least an extra hour each night.
The sad part is that most people know the media negatively influences them, but they can’t get away. Like any other addiction, there is a part of them that finds comfort in instant gratification. Over the last 20+ years, technology has extravagantly improved. I remember when I was old enough to get my first cell phone, the famous flip phone. The only functions were a camera and communication via text message and phone call. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and the iPhone no longer had any special features other than a nice camera, iMessage and phone calls. How would the world change? I don’t think our generation would have a clue what to do. In fact, I think our generation would lose their absolute shit. We would have to learn how to love ourselves without seeking validation from anybody else and considering we far too often feed our ego with our following, likes and engagement, this would not be as easy as it sounds. Imagine looking your best without subconsciously thinking “I need to take a selfie and show the world, rather than embracing yourself for you and only you.” Can you imagine? Think about it. Why do we post ourselves on Instagram? Is it to prove ourselves? Who are we proving ourselves to?
Overall, both men and women have become attached to timelessly scrolling on apps like Instagram and Twitter, going certain places for the “picture” rather than the experience, and seeking individual worth from how many likes their post got. We mindlessly scroll through our phones aware of what it does to us, but careless because of its deep roots in our everyday lives. This “fix” society depends on has played a significant role in our mental and physical health.
In contrast, businesses all over the globe benefit from Social Media and the opportunity to internationally attract new consumers.
Hootsuite, a social media management platform clarified that social media allows businesses to “increase brand awareness, increase website traffic, partner with influencers, boost sales, promote content and communicate directly to their audience. On Instagram alone, 80 percent of people follow at least one business. If you’re not taking advantage of socials, you’re missing out on a fast, inexpensive, and effective way to reach almost half the world’s population (Newberry, Christina).”
Social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are the best place to advertise to our generation as this is where we spend a majority of our time. Therefore, businesses all over the globe must maintain a constant, relevant online presence.
For example, let’s focus on worldwide clothing company @prettylittlething. One of my favorite social media influencers for style is @lissyroddy. One way @prettylittlething uses the benefits of social media is by partnering with influencers. Influencer @lissyroddy partnered with @prettylittlething for payment in exchange for a post to attract her 480k followers. Another way is by increasing brand awareness. The clothing company’s latest strategy #EveryBODYinPLT promotes body positivity of all shapes and sizes. This campaign encourages women all over the world to embrace the skin they’re in and empower other women to do the same. With this approach, they associate their brand with a series of looks in sizes 2-28 for women to feel included, strong and powerful. As stated on their website and socials, the goal is to “make every woman feel like they’re ready to take on the world.” With the overwhelming decrease in self-esteem due to social media, it is extremely refreshing for consumers to see businesses responding in attempt to make change. @prettylittlething has built exposure in numerous ways. The company maintains an online presence that is relevant and trendy. You may see posts from them using millennial phrases.
While posting social media influencers and models in fashionable and aesthetically pleasing outfits on Instagram helps @prettylittlethings successfully create awareness and build exposure to their brand, it is also crucial to promoting website traffic. Similar to Instagram’s business analytics, there are many tools, such as Google Analytics and UTM parameters to track who visits the company’s website generated by social media. This can also reassure business investments as it proves return efficiency. One feature on their website is that you can “Shop Instagram.” This means that there is a page on their site that replicates their Instagram feed. Therefore, if you like a photo they posted of model Hailey Baldwin wearing a silver dress with black shoes, you could click on it and see exactly what items she wore or put them in your cart!
This brings me to my next point. Social Media may help businesses boost sales, but they must take advantage of it! Social Media provides a more efficient way to identify prospects and establish relationships which in the end, accelerates their buyers. It is important for businesses to stay up to date on relevant and trending information, seeking opportunities to make a name for themselves. Nowadays, people post every thought they have online, concerns, experiences, hopes. Customers are now unashamed to tell businesses what they like or don’t like, what can improve and what needs to go. This is great for the companies who listen to their customers. When Apple came out with a new iPhone, it did not have a headphone jack. Therefore, people couldn’t listen to music and charge their phone at the same time. Customers were very upset about this to the point where it was trending online. To this day, Apple still has yet to do anything about it. But, as long as they have been paying attention, they have the information they need.
Another benefit of social media for businesses is the ability to protect your brand with crisis communication. Starbucks is a great example of this. A video caught immediate attention of the people when a Starbucks store in Philadelphia had two African American men arrested. While we don’t know the entire story, it was apparent in the video that both men were calmly sitting at a table chatting. The hashtag #BoycottStarbucks started trending, and quickly went viral. According to Hootsuite, “the hashtag was used more than 100,000 times in just three days.” While Starbucks had no control over what people said about the video, they did have the opportunity to say something for themselves. On Twitter, they reacted to the crisis immediately, apologizing to the men arrested and taking full blame for the incident. They claimed to be reviewing policies and making any changes necessary.
This example displays that social networks give businesses the chance to directly communicate and engage with their audience. Back in the day, you could turn on the TV and watch the news, but that was a one way street. Social media not only gives businesses the chance to instantly interact with their customers, but customers the chance to instantly interact with businesses.
With over 25 million business profiles on Instagram, businesses also have access to their competitors. Businesses are now able to keeping track of their competition’s branding, strategies and customer relationships like never before, giving them an upper hand. Uber Canada once launched a promotion to deliver free ice cream in Vancouver for one day. Unfortunately, the promotion fell through and people were extremely unhappy. After these customers posted numerous complaints on social media, Uber competitor Skip The Dishes paid attention and advantage of the situation. They messaged all the people that were complaining with a free credit. This resulted in a ton of angry Uber users downloading Skip The Dishes to create an account. Once they created an account, they were able to apply the credit towards the free ice cream Uber failed to provide. With how many people are on social media today, opportunities like these arise all the time.
In addition, Companies should understand the importance of social media to customers. Consumers often use social media profiles as first impressions. they also use it to communicate with fellow consumers to help each other out. It is a community. For instance, yelp is a powerful social media tool that many consumers use to not only write honest reviews about experiences they have with businesses, but to also make a decision as to whether or not they want to give that company their business. This is exactly what businesses have access to, but need to pay attention to.
What’s crazy to me is that I find myself often checking a company’s Instagram rather than their website nowadays, and I’m not alone. I did a little research study and asked 25 people which they prefer and 23 out of 25 people said Instagram first, website second. Not only is the our generation easy to persuade, we are extremely easy to locate with social networks such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As somebody who uses Instagram for both personal and business reasons – I have gone back and forth with what is right and wrong. Part of me wonders if I would even want a social media without a brand to build. I don’t think I would. At least not until the world decides to love one another’s differences instead of comparing one another’s imperfections.
The constant worry of being left out and out of the loop causes so many people to refrain from eliminating what may not be good for them. I firmly believe social media is harmful to our overall health and beneficial to businesses, but it does not need to stay this way. Social Media may be a blessing and a curse, but you can control which by how you use it.
I encourage anybody reading this with a personal account to challenge themselves and minimize their time on these networks. I encourage you to be yourself in a world where everybody is trying to be somebody else. People have the opportunity to keep in touch with their friends and family while also logging memories. Personal use of social media can truly be a wonderful thing, if you make it that way. But first, our generation needs to learn to connect with one another offline, before connecting online. We need to learn to seek validation from nobody and be content with who we are, not envious of others. If we continue this cycle of negativity and comparison, we will only dig ourselves a deeper hole.
I encourage anybody reading this with a professional profile to challenge themselves and research all the many ways to uplift and inspire other brands through positive promotions. Businesses have the opportunity to grow their brands faster now than ever before. Social media is essential for all businesses regardless of their size. The culture of business has evolved to become more interactive with customers and it is imperative for businesses to participate.
But, without confidence and control, both a business and a person can downward spiral. With the many effects of social media, it is now crucial to do your research and understand what exactly it is you are doing on social media, why you are on social media and how it impacts your life. We are the first generation to truly take on such advanced technology and social media. Due to this, we are the first to notice that there is fine line between the “real world” and the “digital world.” Wait. Did you notice?
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