Social media or social networks include online platforms used by people to share posts, pictures, and other material. Social media platforms are highly popular among people of different age groups and occupations. For instance, Twitter is widely used by government officials to improve online presence and image, whereas Tumblr is popular among writers and artists wanting to share their work with others. Despite the popularity of social media, whether or not it is beneficial for society is a debatable topic. For instance, whereas some people insist that social networks are a great way of connecting with people from all over the world, others blame social media for promoting unrealistic beauty standards, providing a path for cyberbullying, and triggering fear of missing out (FOMO) in young people. Indeed, while social media is beneficial for some people, it may have a negative impact on others. The present report will seek to explain the various effects of social media and reflect on them to build a personal viewpoint on the issue.
The topic of social media is rather broad due to the number of platforms available and the services they provide to the public. Popular social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, and others. Each social network provides different features to users, and thus the effect of social media differs depending on the platform. The topic is considered debatable as it has a variety of effects, both positive and negative. For example, Ahmad states that social media provides numerous benefits, including the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world, get support and advice from the community, and obtain information on various issues and topics. In addition, social media is highly beneficial for businesses and communities, if used appropriately.
For-profit companies can use social media sites to promote their products or services, whereas non-profit organizations can attract the attention of people and advertise their cause (Ahmad). Therefore, social media can have a positive impact on individuals, communities, and businesses by improving connectedness and spreading information. The positive impact of social media can be both short- and long-term, depending on the platform and the needs of users. For example, individuals can use sites such as Facebook to connect with friends or family living in other cities and countries, thus gaining immediate support and connection. However, by advertising their cause on social media, charitable organizations can make a long-term positive impact on communities.
Nevertheless, there are also significant negative effects associated with the use of social media. According to Ahmad, social media facilitates hacking, fraud, scams, and identity theft, thus putting individuals at risk. Besides, the recent Facebook controversy revealed some privacy concerns, as the company was accused of selling users’ information to third parties. Privacy and security issues can affect individuals and communities in the short-term by facilitating cybercrime. However, there are also long-term psychological effects caused by social networking. For example, Pappas reveals that social media creates opportunities for cyberbullying, which leads to depression in teenagers. Moreover, many people complain that social media supports unrealistic beauty standards.
Photos uploaded on social media are often heavily edited; seeing these pictures can affect the psychological well-being of users, causing anxiety, depression, and eating disorders (Smith). In particular, Instagram is famous for having a significant number of famous fitness and lifestyle bloggers that post pictures of themselves, affecting the user’s perception of health and beauty and imposing beauty standards that can be damaging for young boys and girls. Another common effect of social networking that is widely studied in research is the fear of missing out (FOMO). FOMO is a common impact of social media, and it occurs when “people are concerned that others may be having more fun and rewarding experiences than them” (White par. 3). The fear of missing out leads to anxiety and the feeling of inferiority (White). Moreover, it contributes to addiction and causes people to spend too much time online, missing out on real-life opportunities. Overall, the psychological side effects of social media are long-term and may have a significant impact on users’ life and health.
Some of the harmful effects of social media can be fixed. For example, to ease security and privacy concerns, social media platforms can choose to enhance security protocols and avoid selling the personal information of users to third parties. The psychological side effects of social media, on the other hand, are much more difficult to address. For instance, although some social media sites have features allowing to file a complaint about a user, this cannot help to prevent cyberbullying completely. Targeting the issue of unrealistic beauty standards is also challenging; however, social networks can try to address the issue by supporting blogs promoting diversity and body positivity, thus encouraging their users to see a new side of social media. Lastly, it is hardly possible to address the FOMO, as it is connected to individual online behaviors rather than the concept of social media and features provided by the platform.
Social media has an indirect dominance on the life of people in various societies. People from all over the globe use social media to stay connected and obtain information about what is interesting to them. The dominance of social media produces some positive and negative effects on users, many of which are discussed above. Nevertheless, I believe that social media is good for society and that its positive effects outweigh its negative consequences. It is true that social media platforms should seek to address existing problems to minimize harmful side effects caused by them. However, if the adverse effects are reduced, social media can provide numerous exciting opportunities for individuals and communities in different societies.
Ahmad, Bilal. “10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media for Society.” Titchmarsh, 2016, Web.
Pappas, Stephanie. “Cyberbullying on Social Media Linked to Teen Depression.” Live Science, 2015, Web.
Smith, Paige. “How Social Media Impacts Beauty Standards for Boys and Girls.” Medium, 2017, Web.
White, Justin. “Research Finds Link between Social Media and the ‘Fear of Missing out’.” The Washington Post, 2013, Web.