Media has always had the power to influence our society, but we never saw it in this scale and magnitude until the social media boom. While it has the potential for good, social media has also been harmful to society because of how we use it.
Here’s how social media is harming our mental health, self-image, communication skills, and society at large—potentially doing more harm than good.
Social media can lead to depression, anxiety and loneliness
The uncontrollable urge to share everyday life with others on social media is beginning to have long-lasting effects. Studies have shown that the increased use of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok is leading to depression, anxiety and loneliness.
The pandemic has not only pushed more people onto the platforms, but has also forced people to spend unusual amounts of time cruising their feeds. According to Statista, by 2022, people will spend an average of 147 minutes a day on social media. That’s over two hours.
More importantly, science has found that social media can make you unhappy. Social media platforms have become aware of how to manipulate your brain’s reward response to increase engagement and time spent on the app. When you get positive feedback on a post you make or a picture you upload, it releases endorphins. This is the reason why people stay on the platform for hours. But it can also lead to increased feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
Casinos use the same type of strategy to get people to spend more time and money on their business. Giving small victories to keep people coming back but not being able to meet their needs. If everyone had a complete understanding of this concept, it could lead to healthier social media habits. The problem is that many people do not know how to strike a healthy balance.
There is a dark side to communication on social media
While not everyone on the Internet has difficulty communicating in real life, there is a good portion of introverted people who have an easier time talking online.
Social media makes it easy for those people to connect with others and learn social cues that might have been missed. This can be especially helpful for those who live in small towns and have a deep desire to broaden their horizons.
While you can’t remain completely anonymous on social media without creating a fake profile, you can create a new persona. It can help people who have difficulty coming out of their shell.
Where social media has run into trouble is when these individuals are drawn to the dark side. According to Help Guide, about 10 percent of teens report being bullied on social media, and even more claim they’ve been the recipient of offensive comments. Being on the receiving end can lead to low self-esteem and self-image.
It is also difficult to express clear and concise communication when using only the keyboard. Language gets lost in translation without much communication clues to give context, such as body language. What may have been intended as an innocent comment could have been taken personally. This can lead to an argument that could have been avoided if it had been made in person.
Communication on social media still has some maturing to do before it becomes a force for good.
Divisive effect of social media
At no time in the history of the world has it been easier to connect with people around the world than it is today. Social media has played a big role in bringing more and more people in contact with each other. These connections have fostered a whole world of communities that would not have existed without the invention of the Internet and social media. To be fair, social media does have some positive effects on society.
But at the same time, the ease of finding like-minded people through social media has proved to be as dangerous as it has been positive. Since its inception, the public has become increasingly aware of the types of groups that were forming in the dark corners of social media. Groups that could pose a threat to the well-being of others were allowed to assemble online.
The 2016 election was controversial for its use of foreign interference through Facebook ads to change public opinion. The continuing disparity between political views is a big reason why Americans feel that social media is doing more harm than good these days.
The power of social media to influence an entire nation has come under the microscope with recent events and other forms of media, such as movies. Documentaries such as The Social Dilemma have shown the kind of manipulation social media is capable of.