The growth of technology has led to social media being an integral part of society. Today, over three billion people own and operate Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts among other social sites. Studies show that on average, folks spend at least two hours on social media daily (Woods and Scott 41). It implies that people share over 500,000 electronic messages and images per minute (Lup et al. 12).
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With social media occupying a big part of people’s lives, one wonders if society is forfeiting its time and health in the name of socialization. The concept of social media is somewhat new, hence, there lacks sufficient research on its impacts on the public. The majority of the available information regarding the effects of this technology is drawn from self-reporting, thus, it is liable to errors. Additionally, most scholars who have explored this subject focused mainly on Facebook, disregarding other social networks such as Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Despite the challenges in finding comprehensive data on the impacts of social media, the majority of the researchers agree that this technology has severe effects on the public. It is more harmful than valuable to the community.
The prolonged use of social media results in people developing stress. Woods and Scott maintain that the public uses social networks to discuss diverse issues, including politics and consumer experiences. The negative aspect of this interaction is that the discourses occasionally appear like an infinite stream of stress (42). A study conducted by Pew Research Center found that social sites like Twitter contribute to people suffering from stress (Lup et al. 16).
The interviewed participants, especially women confirmed that social networks enabled them to learn about the struggles that their friends were going through, therefore becoming anxious. Lup et al. cite the ability of a person to communicate via social media without revealing their real identity as one of the shortcomings of this technology (14). Today, many people, especially youths suffer from trauma due to being bullied.
Some predators use social platforms to prey on and harass teenagers, especially girls. According to Woods and Scott, perpetrators of cyberbullying start by befriending their victims to win their trust (43). The friendship grows to an extent that they begin to share private information without worrying that it may be used for malicious purposes. It becomes quite traumatizing for one to realize that a person that they trusted took advantage of their truthfulness. The cases of youths committing suicide due to cyberbullying are frequent across the globe.
Spread of Misleading Information
Organizations use social media for different purposes, including interacting with clients and sharing information regarding certain products or services. Today, the cases of people using social media platforms to spread false news are on the rise. This problem has had severe impacts on many businesses, as customers no longer know which firm to trust. Lup et al. contend that the application of social media in the corporate world has harmed the image of many companies; resulting in some organizations operating at losses (17). Corporations have created online sites to allow customers to assess products and share their experiences.
The information obtained from these social networks is invaluable in assisting clients to make informed decisions. However, not all reviews found on social media platforms are true. Some dishonest clients use these online systems to share false information, thereby, misleading customers who wish to use a given product or service. Perloff argues that all companies are susceptible to making mistakes (365).
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In the case of an incident, institutional leaders must work hard to prevent the spread of news that could harm their company’s reputation. In most cases, disgruntled customers or workers take to social media to complain about events that happen in their organizations. Some of these individuals may even distort their message to make the affected company look bad. A business encounters challenges to salvage its image once negative information about it leaks to the public.
Researchers have discovered a connection between the period that a person spends on social media and depression. An analysis of over 700 learners concluded that the nature of online interactions contributes to people suffering from despair or exhibiting depressive signs like feelings of dejection and worthlessness (Best et al. 29). Scholars maintain that individuals who have negative relationships on social media experience elevated levels of melancholic signs (Best et al. 29).
Cyberbullying and the perception that staying on social media was a waste of time are some of the factors that lead to people feeling depressed. Woods and Scott posit that most of the literature on social media identifies social comparison as the primary issue that leads to depression among youths (43). According to Lup et al., teens and young children are at a high risk of suffering from nervousness due to the use of social media (23).
As Best et al. noted, adolescents endeavor to emulate their peers as a way of associating with them (31). Technology exacerbates this problem, particularly if one is from a poor family and they want to connect with kids from affluent backgrounds. Many times, youths like to share photos of their best moments on social media, making others envy them. Woods and Scott identify going to social gatherings, achieving a specific goal, and attending concerts as the major items that adolescents post on social media (44). It is hard to see them publishing anything about their low or negative experiences. Whenever some teenagers login to social media and learn about the progress that their friends have made, they feel isolated, thus developing depression.
Doctors encourage people to have adequate sleep because it facilitates metabolism and protects one from developing illnesses like insomnia. In the past, people could have enough slumber due to the lack of advanced lighting systems (Best et al. 34). Today, the availability of artificial light enables one to stay awake for many hours. Research shows that prolonged exposure to the laptop or mobile phone’s light prevents the body from generating the hormone melatonin, thereby, leading to a person developing sleeping disorders. In other words, if an individual spends time going through their Twitter or Facebook accounts before sleeping, they are likely to experience restless slumber.
A study by the University of Pittsburgh found that the use of social media at night causes sleep disturbances (Best et al. 36). Psychologists have found a connection between the rate at which a person logs in to their accounts and the quality of sleep. They argue that recurrent entrance into social media accounts affects a person’s circadian rhythm, hence experiencing sleeping problems.
For decades, society has criticized women’s magazines for causing self-esteem problems among females. As Perloff states, publishing skinny and photoshopped celebrities is blamed for triggering this challenge, particularly among young girls (367). Today, social media has functionalities that enable people to edit images depending on their preferred taste. Lup et al. argue that a person can use lighting and filters to alter their photos, making them appear differently (31).
A study by disability charity Scope found that social media platforms lead to over 50% of women feeling unappealing or inadequate (Best et al. 35). Research by Penn State University concluded that social media has a significant impact on people’s confidence. The study found that many people, particularly women exhibited low self-esteem after seeing photos of people who looked happier than them (Best et al. 36).
Those females that exhibited this problem wondered why it was difficult for them to be as happy as the persons in the pictures. Woods and Scott argue that women are mostly affected by social media because they measure their self-worth based on the photos of other females (45). People tend to compare their lives to that of the individuals that they see on Facebook or other social sites. Some persons develop low self-esteem due to the belief that they are less fortunate.
Many people use social media to draw the attention of their friends, and one can develop low self-esteem if one does not achieve their goal. According to Lup et al., most youths associate the compliments that they get from their friends with self-worth or approval (14).
Therefore, whenever people fail to like or comment on their photos on social media, they become anxious and wonder what could be wrong with them. Perloff alleges that failure to get many friends on Facebook may result in a person feeling rejected, hence showing low self-esteem (368). Psychotherapists point out that social media “can give people false sense of belonging and connecting which is not built on real-life exchanges” (Perloff 375). It becomes possible for a person to accord virtual relations unwarranted attention.
Social media wrecks relationships because it hinders effective communication between people. For instance, it is hard for one to engage in a meaningful talk while scrolling through Facebook or Twitter. A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships stated that the sheer existence of a phone can hinder interactions, mainly if people are discussing important matters (Lup et al. 31).
This study found that the use of a mobile phone during a conversation makes it hard for one to recall what the other person said (Lup et al. 31). Moreover, it injures the connection between the communicating parties. Woods and Scott claim that uncontrolled use of social media breaks ties between family members (45). People do not get time to sit at a table and share meals or have a conversation. In addition, it becomes hard for parents to monitor the behavior of their kids or notice when they have a problem. Research by the University of Guelph found that social media breaks romantic relationships (Perloff 376).
The researchers discovered that many couples become resentful if their partners accept friend requests from people of the opposite sex. Moreover, addiction to social sites deprives people of the opportunity to spend quality time with their spouses. The love that they share starts dwindling and eventually dies, leading to them parting ways acrimoniously.
Benefits of Social Media
Despite the numerous disadvantages that are associated with social media, this technology helps to bring people together across the globe. It becomes easy for a person living in one country to learn and appreciate the cultures of other nations. The increased use of social media has led to the world turning into a global village. Today, one can share their emotions, ideas, and life experiences with people residing in different cities and receive an immediate response. Anderson claims that an individual can use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay connected to their friends or relatives living in different parts of the world (380).
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Alexander argues that social media is invaluable to people who are looking for jobs because it links them to potential employers (721). Most companies have social media accounts which they use to interact with and source experienced workers. Moreover, businesses utilize Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to network with customers and gather feedback. Indeed, social media assist companies to collect information about consumer behavior, which is helpful in the formulation of marketing strategies. This technology is not only helpful to job seekers and companies but also to persons who need different forms of assistance.
For instance, in the case of disaster, organizations such as the Red Cross use social media to mobilize people (Alexander 724). They keep updating the public on the situation, therefore making sure that aid is directed to where it is most required.
Even though social media has enabled people to connect with friends across the world, it has paved the way for hackers and fraudsters to swindle unsuspecting individuals. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook do not limit the number of accounts that a person can own (Anderson 375). Moreover, they lack the mechanisms for verifying the authenticity of an account holder. Therefore, many criminals use pseudo names to open multiple accounts that they use to defraud people.
Most hackers can log into people’s social media accounts and steal vital information. Hence, it is not a wonder to find a stranger who disguises themself as a famous person and uses that opportunity to dupe the public. Anderson claims that organizations are not immune to fraudsters (379). Some criminals masquerade as potential clients or investors and solicit information from business persons without their knowledge. In the end, they use the data that they acquire to steal from companies or their customers.
The popularity and high use of social media have adverse effects on society. The ability of people to hide their identity when interacting on social networks creates room for cyberbullying. Today, people have difficulties believing in the information that is disseminated via social media, as malevolent persons use the technology to peddle rumors. Indeed, many companies have lost consumers due to disgruntled workers or clients venting their anger on social media.
Scholars allege that there is a correlation between social networks and depression. Many users compare their lives to that of the people whom they encounter on social networks. They become depressed upon realizing that they belong to a low social class. Multiple accesses to a Facebook account before sleeping leads to one experiencing disturbed slumber. Most people gauge their self-worth based on how many likes and friend requests that they get on their social sites. The failure to attract people’s attention results in some individuals developing low self-esteem.
Social media is criticized for ruining relationships since couples or families do not get time to engage in significant conversations. Supporters of social networks argue that technology helps to connect persons with their friends who live in different parts of the world. They fail to acknowledge that this technology is vulnerable to hacking and fraudsters. Despite the negative impacts of social media, people should not dispose of this technology. Instead, they must use it in moderation and always determine the veracity of the information that is shared on the various platforms before trusting it.
Alexander, David E. “Social Media in Disaster Risk Reduction and Crisis Management.” Science and Engineering Ethics, vol. 20, no. 3, 2014, pp. 717-733.
Anderson, Ashley A. “The “Nasty Effect:” Online Incivility and Risk Perceptions of Emerging Technologies.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 19, no. 3, 2014, pp. 373-387.
Best, Paul, et al. “Online Communication, Social Media and Adolescent Wellbeing: A Systematic Narrative Review.” Children and Youth Service Review, vol. 41, no. 1, 2014, pp. 27-36.
Lup, Katerina, et al. “Instagram ♯Instasad?: Exploring Associations Among Instagram Use, Depressive Symptoms, Negative Social Comparison, and Strangers Followed.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, vol. 18, no. 5, 2015, pp. 12-38.
Perloff, Richard M. “Social Media Effects on Young Women’s Body Image Concerns: Theoretical Perspectives and an Agenda for Research.” Sex Roles, vol. 71, no. 12, 2014, pp. 363-377.
Woods, Heather Cleland, and Holly Scott. “♯Sleepyteens: Social Media Use in Adolescent is Associated with Poor Sleep Quality, Anxiety, Depression and Low Self-Esteem.” Journal of Adolescence, vol. 51, no. 1, 2016, pp. 41-49.