By: Diya Varma, Contributing Writer
The Oxford Dictionary defines social media as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking”. Contemporarily, even though the meaning of communication through social media has remained the same, social media has become something that it was never intended to be. When it was initially launched, it was meant to be an enjoyable platform to share images and social updates. However, now it has become increasingly competitive. Although social media has its many benefits, it has caused an alarming amount of negativity as well. There have been countless reports in relation to this, as well as documentaries, one of them being “The Social Dilemma” (available on Netflix).
Platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat and Twitter are the most common amongst adolescents aged 11 (sometimes younger) to 18 right now. The majority of the children that fall into this category are too young to be using social media in the first place, as it can negatively impact emotional and social development. A report composed in 2015 by the UK Office for National Statistics describes how children who spend over 3 hours on social media are nearly twice as likely to suffer from poor mental health compared to children who do not. The adolescents on these social networking sites also tend to compare themselves to one another. One particularly alarming ramification of this is the 62% increase in hospitalisations of American females aged 15-19 and in females aged 10-14 due to self harm between the years 2010 and 2015. Instagram was launched in 2010, Snapchat was launched in 2011, and Musical.ly, now known as TikTok was launched in 2014. Therefore,the increase in hospitalizations may not be as coincidental as it seems.
The documentary “The Social Dilemma” explains how news uploaded on social media is predominantly fake, as it gains more attention. Examples of this include conspiracy theories such as “pizzagate” and the flat earth theory. Social trends like these are reflected in teenagers’ behaviours, because they are easily influenced at this age. This statement can be further explained by algorithms. Social media algorithms are a method of sorting posts in a user’s feed based on relevancy. In simpler terms, when a user “likes” a post on social media, the algorithm is implemented in a way to show the user similar posts. This can be harmful, because younger children cannot appropriately differentiate from what is wrong or right. So, for example, if a child sees a political-based post, and like it (on purpose or even by accident), the algorithm will begin to show them more of the same kind of posts. This can have a great impact on the way they think and view important issues as they get older.
Social media can also cause mental health problems for its users due to things like cyberbullying and a decrease in real-life interaction. FOMO (fear of missing out) can cause anxiety in teenagers who use social media frequently and is also the reason that many of these teenagers use these platforms.
Social media is not without its advantages, but lately it has been the cause of so much controversy. Many of these platforms are toxic, especially for growing children. It is important to ensure that a child is of appropriate age before they are allowed to have a social media platform, for these reasons.
Link to cover image:
Report on how social media can delay emotional and social development in children: