With almost ⅔ of the world’s population having a social media account, many questions get asked about its effect on society.
Social media can be a positive way for people to reconnect with loved ones, make new friends, or discover new hobbies. It’s been extremely important for mental health during recent world events.
Downsides include social isolation and health issues. Hackers can also use social media to find people online in the hope of scamming them, and Internet trolls scour the net for vulnerable profiles to attack verbally.
Is social media inherently good or bad for society? Let’s find out.
The Benefits of Social Media
In recent years social media has been getting a bad rep for causing social issues such as isolation and anxiety. It’s been touted as a reason younger generations choose not to exercise as much as previous ones.
Everything changed in 2019 when the coronavirus hit the world, forcing many governments to enforce strict lockdown scenarios. For many people, social media came to the rescue.
A 2020 Harvard university study discovered that routine social media use benefits social well-being, positive mental health, and self-rated health.
An Isolation Cure
During the lockdowns of 2019–2021, the damage to the mental health of people who lived alone appeared to be not taken into account.
Going to work or school daily was the only social outlet many had. With that taken away, solo people felt lonely and depressed.
Social media has become a blessing. Medical professionals insist that social media use became the perfect emotional outlet for many people during lockdowns and continued to be afterward.
Social Anxiety or Awkwardness
For highly introverted or socially anxious people, social media can offer a safe space to connect with others at their comfort level.
The Harvard study showed that 20% of participants felt more confident and less socially awkward due to social media use.
One of the fastest-rising demographics of social media users is senior citizens. From only 2% exposure in 2008 to 42% this year, seniors use these platforms to keep in touch with family and as a way to feel connected to the changing world.
Some seniors claim that the transfer of many former print mediums to digital has encouraged them to get online. This demographic also joins interest groups with like-minded people on social media.
The Hazards of Social Media
Social media use has been held responsible for the lack of sleep and increasing obesity in young people.
Cyberbullying, hackers, and internet trolls make social media unsafe for some.
Overuse and Addiction
Young people, in particular, tend to spend more time on social media than any other demographic. Overuse can lead to various problems, including addiction, social isolation, an inability to switch off enough to sleep, and physical laziness.
Psychologists recommend becoming ‘mindful users’. Limiting the time spent on these platforms, being aware of who they’re interacting with, and combining online hours with an equal amount of offline.
Hackers and Scammers
Hackers often target social media accounts as ways to extort money through scams. Cyber-criminals prey on lonely or vulnerable people, posing as others to build trust and loyalty, then they cause harm.
Bullying and Trolls
Unfortunately, social media has also become a ‘safe space’ for bullies and trolls to hide out, as they can remain anonymous while inflicting damage. Playground bullying has moved online, where a single upload or share can destroy a reputation in seconds.
Internet trolls spend their days scouring through online posts, looking for any reason to attack or ridicule personally. They derive pleasure from insulting others.
Social Media and Society
There are good and bad with most things. Social media often makes headlines on both sides.
Positively, social media can help solo people feel less isolated and more connected. Socially anxious people can learn interactional skills, and senior citizens can keep up with family activities.
On the downside, overuse can lead to a lack of sleep and obesity. Attacks from bullies, hackers, and trolls can lead some people to have negative experiences.
With the proper controls, moderate use can make social media the best experience for everyone.
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