If we take a trip down memory lane, we would definitely notice that social media has gained quite a vast amount of power. It has the ability to shape every human being on earth, from our grandparents to our grandchildren. Back when technology was still gaining its popularity, social media outlets weren’t yet created and if they were, were found as something unusual. I mean if you would go back in time and tell any person in the 1700s to take a “selfie” and post it on Instagram for the sole purpose of everyone to see it, they would probably laugh at such a thought. However, social media outlets have gained popularity and went from being a luxury to a part of our lives. There are arguments that are trying to debunk myths about how social media affects us on a daily basis but the truth is, social media, whether we like it our not, is found all around us, our children, parents and friends. Hence why it is called the 21st century of technology. So while some people believe that social media has many benefits, there are others who believe that the bad outweighs the good. Therefore, it is highly recommended that we understand the psychological effect of social media, to explore how social media affects us on a daily basis and which type of users are most affected.
Changes in technology have brought a major change in the way we go about our days. An example: children used to go to malls, school and each other’s houses to visit one another. But nowadays, they can simply “catch up” by a click of a button via Skype or any other outlet. But who is to say that this affects them badly? If you think of it, it actually just facilitates life. Other benefits are: 1) A growing number of children are documenting personal experiences, and expressing their ideas and opinions on social media websites such as Facebook (Storm, p. 50). And Paris Storm added that: “Having someone pay attention to your opinions and give honest feedback can support growth.” This means that children no longer need to suppress their feelings and can find somewhat of a comfortable place behind their screen. 2) The Millennials Report Blogs (Storm, p. 50.) At this website, students are given the freedom to discuss frequently changed topics. “The users are expected to read and provide background information about the topics before expressing their views on the blog.” (Paris Storm, p. 51) This just goes to show that some social media outlets such as this blog can be used as a tool to benefit and progress a child’s ability to research and discuss topics in a safe environment.
Unfortunately to every good there must be a bad. As we’ve mentioned earlier, the bad outweighs the good and this is because it is easy to find fault in anything that is new and not yet fully understood. However, the reasons to why some people believe social media affects us negatively are: 1) Public display of unhealthy behaviours (Fernandez, p. 31). Lewis Fernandez and his colleagues have analyzed the top 100 self-injury YouTube videos during their research on this issue. And the results showed that these videos have been viewed more than two million times combined recently. With the popularity of gadgets, comes the freedom of children to search and look up anything on the Internet, so when children see videos such as these ones (and as frequent) they might in the near future attempt to copy it. This does not only affects the person’s psychological train of thought but also their well-being. 2) Selling drugs over Instagram (BBC, p. 1). Many journalists have uncovered pictures and videos on instagram that displayed drug-dealers advertising their sale. “[…] A picture showed a variety of pills, adding: “$2 a pop for xans, $10 a pop for roxys.”” (Refer to image below). Says a journalist in an interview with the BBC. Xanax is a psychoactive anxiety treatment and Roxicodone is used as a relief for pain. Clearly this shows that something as simple as Instagram can be used as a gateway to bad influence.
Adults are obviously more aware of the amount of time they spend using these social media outlets and whether or not what they are displaying is inappropriate to other viewers or not. However, children may not have that privilege, to them it’s a game of “Simon says” but in this case it’s “Instagram/Facebook/Twitter says.” Which means whatever they see, hear, and do is acceptable. Though, this is not only limited to age but also to gender. According to a study done by Andrew Schwartz and his colleagues, their complete dataset was consisting of approximately 19 million Facebook status updates that were written by 136,000 participants. The participants generously agreed to share their status updates as a part of the “My personality test” that the researchers were conducting. The results showed that there was indeed a difference in the types of vocabulary used among the genders and they concluded the existence of the language of age and language of personality. Which means that people of different ages, genders, and backgrounds responded differently to their Facebook statuses. Females used more affectionate words like “my love, I like, shopping, baby etc…” while males used words like “fight, battle, himself, football etc…” Again this draws our attention back to how an outlet like Facebook affects each and every individual differently. Some in a positive way and some in a negative way depending on what can attract them as consumers.
At the end of the day, we are responsible to what we let affect us and in whichever way (good or bad). In the case of children and upcoming generations, we need to monitor their daily social media intake and limit their usage to websites that will only help progress their state of mind. Also, many social media outlets have been aware of these negative impacts and have implemented options such as “report abuse, block, delete, spam etc…” to help the viewers enjoy their websites in a safer environment. Therefore, I suggest to anyone who thinks anything on the internet is harmful to report it, to limit the amount spent on such websites and most importantly, not to be the person spreading such things around because he/she will not only be affecting themselves but innocent people around them as well.
Lau, Annie Y. S., et al. “Social Media In Health — What Are The Safety Concerns For Health Consumers?.”Health Information Management Journal 41.2 (2012): 30-35. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.
Unknown reporter. “Instagram blocks some drugs advert tags after BBC probe.” BBC News. 7 november (2013). 15 march 2014.
Schwartz, H. Andrew, et al. “Personality, Gender, And Age In The Language Of Social Media: The Open-Vocabulary Approach.” Plos ONE 8.9 (2013): 1-16. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.
STROM, PARIS, and ROBERT STROM. “Growing Up With Social Networks And Online Communities.”Education Digest 78.1 (2012): 48-51. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.