Today, we live in an age of social media. So many teens in America spend an excessive amount of time on social media. I know I definitely am. So with the growing interest in social media, the question needs to be asked: Is social media hurtful? Many people tend to think that it is.
Facebook says that the average user spends about 40 minutes per day on Facebook. We tend to believe that this has to be bad. It's "fake interaction" with others around us. Despite this, we all still continue to do it, even when it means sacrificing things in real life. Many college students worry that it is distracting them from school work. But are there also benefits to social media? Well, it turns out, yes, if you use it in the right way. Here are a few that I've discovered.
Having the internet at the touch of your hands can be beneficial in many different situations. Here's an example: Say you are on a very casual date. You're just hanging out at the park when the conversation starts to dwindle. While it might not be helpful to just turn to your phone and go off into cyberspace, social media could serve as a topic generator. Maybe you show your date something you found interesting, a trip you went on or a new activity that you two could do together. In a situation like this, social media could serve as a tool rather than a distractor.
A group of researchers studied how taking photos affects enjoyment of experiences. Their experiment imitated exactly what many social media users focus on in day-to-day life ― taking pictures of the things we experience. Many people want to take pictures of their lives so that they only seem happy and exciting. While this might negatively affect others in that they will feel their lives are less happy or exciting, how does it affect the picture-taker and their experience? This is precisely what these researchers looked at.
Through a series of nine different experiments in multiple locations, they discovered that taking photos often enhances the photographer's experience. In one of these experiments, they invited students to go on a bus tour in a large city and gave half of them a camera to take pictures with, while the other half was deprived of taking pictures. The cameras were taken at the end to control the joy of reminiscing on the pictures. Participants who were allowed to take pictures reported more enjoyment in the entire experience than those who didn't take pictures. This was recreated in different ways, both in and out of the lab, and each time results led to the same conclusion ― picture-taking enhances the enjoyment we get out of experiences.
They hypothesize that it makes the person actually pay closer attention to where they are and what they are doing. This creates more engagement with the event and therefore more enjoyment.
But there have to be downsides to being on social media, right?
That is correct. While benefits to social media use have been found, we have also found many issues with it.
Various studies have found that social media might provoke mental health issues. One states that, even among those individuals who are extroverted, if the need for approval on social media is highly prevalent, they tend to have more anxiety. They also observed that people who spend more time on Facebook will often have more negative outlooks on life.
Another issue social media users could face is privacy. Privacy is important to us as a human race, and social media makes it somewhat more difficult to have that privacy. We don't always recognize it, but many people have access to our information who we never intended to have access to it. This might include potential friends, employers or even ex-relationships. Social media also can make "moving on" much harder. If you have access to see what your ex is doing, it can sometimes be very hard to not look. This stops distance being created and therefore might exacerbate the mourning process.
While the Photo Taking and Experiences study showed that practices that we find social media users doing, like taking pictures for social media posting, can be positive, another study has found that maybe Instagram isn't the best way to enhance our well being. The picture-taking, though, isn't the issue they found. It is the actual act of "liking" the pictures and trying to get likes in return.
They found that adolescents don't necessarily "like" the pictures that they prefer. Instead, they like those that have already been liked by a larger number of people. For this experiment, they created a program that looked very similar to Instagram. They then had adolescents go through over 100 pictures with a predetermined number of likes on them. They were told these likes were given to pictures by their peers who had participated before them. Participants liked the pictures with more likes more often than those with less, even when these depicted illegal or immoral behaviors.
This can prove to be problematic because it shows that adolescents are more worried about the number of likes than the content of their pictures. In turn, it could also make these people think that problematic behaviors are more likable. This study showed us that even though it's online, peer influence is still a big deal and peer pressure could be continued even in subtle ways on social media.
So, is social media a problem?
I'd say yes. It can decrease self-esteem, increase risky behaviors and create social problems. It's truly not helping us to be more social for a large part of the time. That doesn't mean that we should all stop using social media completely. There are still benefits, such as a distraction when you're bored or stressed. Overall, social media is a tool with benefits and consequences. It is important that when you are using social media sites that you check in with yourself and make sure your use is contributing to your life positively rather than negatively. As long as you do this, social media is less likely to become a problem in your life.
Good luck and have fun posting!