Social Media

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Social Media

photo by flickr

photo by flickr

photo by flickr

photo by flickr

David Dorward

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Social media connects the modern world, with approximately 2.5 billion accounts over all platforms. It provides a method of communication that’s not hindered by distance and inspires self-expression and individualism. But recently social media has been under fire, being blamed for depression, social isolation, and in general, deteriorating mental health. Is there any truth in these claims? If so, how serious is the threat it poses to its users, specifically the younger audience?

A study posted in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in March 2017 by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine wanted to see how social media use (SMU) affects an individuals’ perceived social isolation (PSI). First, they recruited close to one thousand eight hundred U.S. adults aging from 19-32. Then, they monitored the time spent and frequency of use on various social media platforms. After this, they assessed the individual’s PSI by asking a series
of specific questions designed to enhance the effectiveness of communication between the physician and patient. The results showed that increased SMU directly related to higher PSI. Those patients found in the top quartile for the time were twice as likely to have greater PSI than those in the lower quartile, and the patients found in the top quartile for frequency of use were more than three times more likely to experience greater PSI than those found in the lower quartile for frequency. How are platforms created to connect people doing just the opposite? Well, it’s not quite that polarizing. Social media is actually a great place to discover new people and stay in touch if you use it right. I think the real problem arises when people on these platforms go “content snacking” or they consume loads of content without producing any of their own. This can cause you to feel further and further removed socially.

In addition to causing increased social isolation, social media has been blamed for an increase in teen anxiety. Once again, the answer is more complicated than a simple “yes or no.” Social media isn’t creating anxiety for people; it’s just amplifying the anxiety that’s already present from everyday life. It takes the anxieties of your social life and puts them in your phone so they’re essentially always there, sticking with you. A bully doesn’t have to see a kid in person to harass them; they can abuse them from the safeties of home. It also presents you with essentially a highlight reel of people’s lives which you then compare to your own life, making you feel worse about yourself and what you do with your time. In addition to this, when you do post, you’re basically opening yourself up to the scrutiny of your peers. But each user is different, so their social media experiences won’t be the same.

Despite all the negativity people associate with social media, it can be incredibly useful. You can get a message out to tons of people in relatively no time at all, get all your news at once no matter where you are, and as I mentioned before, you can communicate and interact with people you would have never had the chance to meet in real life. There is practically an endless supply of content for people to consume, which, again, is both a good and bad problem.

I think that social media is inherently a good thing, intended to provide people with a way to come together, but which can be misused in ways that make it dangerous. But in a system like social media, which is so large that it’s become a fundamental component of society, there really isn’t a way to prevent danger entirely, so we should just learn to accept it.

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