The good, bad, ugly of social media

More than three billion people are on social media, with 11 new users joining every second.

In the United States alone, 70 percent of Americans use social media, spending approximately two hours per day on social networks.

That means social media has great power and influence, and with it, the contentious question of the implications it has for its users and society as a whole.

Social media can be divided into three categories – the good, the bad and the ugly.


The good

Social media unceasingly facilitates worldwide communication, satisfies pastimes and desires and gives users the ability to share and gain exposure to news content and different ideas, beliefs and ideologies.

It helps bring to light some prominent issues in society that would have otherwise been hidden in the dark and bring about a sense of community that would otherwise be difficult to achieve, such as the #MeToo Movement, assists in following events, such as Hurricane Harvey and the Las Vegas Shooting, and promotes the discussion of controversial issues, such as gun control following the recent Parkland Shooting.

It has also advanced participatory culture.

Henry Jenkins, author and professor at the University of Southern California, has defined the concept of meaningful participation in a participatory culture as the opposite of consumer culture.

Instead, the culture has become one of both consumers and producers of content, often media.

Society has become relatively reliant on instant media, and in some ways, participatory culture has become our way of life.

Our culture is one of instant gratification and at times, passive consumption of ideas and content.

Some individuals participate actively via production and consumption of content, namely social media.

YouTube is a prime example of a social media platform.

How many adolescents and young adults go to YouTube to consume information on how to do something, such as makeup or iron a shirt?

YouTube even played a major role in the reporting of the most recent presidential elections.

There is an opportunity for creative freedom for both the producer and consumer.

There is a strong sense of community and solidarity involved in this and like mediums by way of viewing, commenting, liking, sharing, critiquing, donating, et cetera.

No longer is it simply individuals with money and access who create and benefit from the material.

Society has instead become active participants in creating material.

This generation seems to have a general sense of their potential and impact on society.

Platforms, such as YouTube, provide an outlet to meaningfully contribute and connect with others in a way that just 10 years ago was unimaginable.

While we are not totally a participatory culture, meaningful participation is becoming the norm, which drives the direction society is moving toward.


The bad

Social media is used by a wide age range of users.

For the youth specifically, social media’s influence is important to consider, both because of their developmental vulnerability and the number of social media users their population accounts for.

Common Sense Media noted in a report that in 2012, 75 percent of American teenagers had social media profiles, with Facebook being the primary platform used by 68 percent.

Because social media allows users the ability to have anonymity, it enables cyberbullies to evade punishment and for the manipulation of identities, such as catfishing, for example.

This behavior is sustained through implication.

Teenagers also face the challenges of oversharing, a lack of privacy, disengagement with reality, the harmful and legal ramifications of sexting and the risk of leaving a negative digital footprint.


The ugly

Over time, social media usage can result in the development of false pretenses.

Social media can have adverse effects on mental health.

It can be addictive.

It also promotes and perpetuates sadness and comparison.

The scholarly journal “Computers in Human Behavior” published a research study about Facebook’s influence on emotion and mood, revealing that when compared to internet browsing, the former decreases mood as it was perceived as waste of time.

The decreased mood was reflected in negative posts made by users, which proved to be influential on other users.

When an individual compares his or her life to another’s, it can include comparing lifestyles, occupations, personalities and images.

It may even extend to comparing his or her number of friends with that of another user’s as it is believed that the more friends one accumulates across social media platforms, the more social the individual is and thus has a better, active social life.

Studies indicate that depressive symptoms have been associated with the value of online interactions and are higher for individuals who have had more negative interactions.

Something that can be forgotten in our usage is that the posts made on social media reflect the lives the user wants others to see, whether it be authentic, a version of themself, or completely fabricated.

This contributes to subsequent feelings of jealousy and an endless, toxic cycle of returning to social media even when these effects are known.

People think they can break the cycle and fix these problems by altering the way they are thought about and approached.

Though social media can affect mental health, it has also played a role in recognizing it.

Social media can to help diagnose depression through analysis of social media profiles, which provides implications for receiving treatment earlier.


by Miriam Bella-Ogunu

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