The Social Media Muddle
Social Media platforms are used by one in three people in the world and continuing to rise in popularity. Social sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, rule the web with user generated content. The content that is uploaded then receives likes and comments which are the lifeblood that keeps the sites alive. Social status outside of the internet has now started to be determined due to the amount of likes and followers a person has online. 90 % of social media users fall between the ages of 18 and 29 years old. This age group is most easily influenced and if their social status is affected negatively from social likes, their vision of self-worth could be as well. This could soon become a much bigger issue and become associated with psychological problems such as depression, stress, anxiety, and vulnerability. People with depression are more likely to have suicidal thoughts compared to those who are not depressed. With that being said, if social media sites were to get rid of allowing the amount of likes a user gets on to be shown on their uploaded digital content, suicide rates will lower, and self-worth will improve all due to a more equal appearance of social status.
Although there is no specific statistic to show just how many American teens commit suicide and lay the blame on social media available, we can look at suicide as whole first. A recent CDC study found that teen suicide jumped 56% from 2007 to 2017. Suicide claimed the lives of 5,016 males and 1,225 females between 15 and 24 in the United States during 2019, researchers from the Journal of the American Medical Assn. report. It only can be assumed that the rise in rates can be correlated with the rise in social media platforms and technology. This is a giant problem for American citizens. Suicide has become the second leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 10 and 34 throughout the U.S. Cutting off social media, which will take away hurtful comments and the “like” contest and in turn taking time to focus on ones self, is looking more and more detrimental to the mental health of society.
52% of students have reported being the victim of cyberbullying with 84.2% naming Facebook as the site through which they have been bullied, followed by Instagram (23.4%), Twitter (21.4%), and Snapchat (13.5%). This bullying can stem from photos posted, the number of likes a picture has or how many followers a user has. Students who range younger in age take this sort of bullying into a different head space. Middle school children who are victims of cyberbullying are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide than a high school student. A different 2016 study found that overuse of social media as an adolescent may decrease success in relationships later in life as online communication hinders the development of conflict management skills and awareness of interpersonal cues. In turn, this can cause low self esteem and a lot of future issues with self-appreciation. Instead of doing away with being able to see the amount of likes a user is getting to assist in bringing these statistics down, opposing viewpoints say to get off of the site completely. This is not possible and would never work in today’s society.
Many people would refute the idea of social media not having likes as part of the site. Anyone that uses the platforms for business, school, or to promote themselves, benefit from allowing likes to be seen which attracts users to visit the profile. These opponents would say that those negatively effected by the likes, cyber bullying, and abuse from other users should just remove themselves from social media completely. But to just drop social media isn’t actually a solution at all. Teens need social media to complete schoolwork and familiarity of social media is a needed life skill. Social life and friendships flow through these platforms and cutting them off would not be ideal. Even the option of removing users who are most effected by negative online comments, and fall victim to lower self-worth because of these circumstances, teens could still not be monitored 24/7 to stay offline.
Deleting social media all together seems like a peaceful getaway. Sure, it’s a semi permeant solution to end cyberbullying, low self-esteem and suicide caused by social media, but not an everlasting one. Parents think they have full control over their children at all times and can limit what they are seeing online. Facts are, they don’t. Kids will never stop migrating to new apps that are foreign to parents. Banning social media just isn’t realistic. All that is needed to be a new user on a social site is an email address and internet access. With this being said, students would still be able to access the sites and find themselves in the same position they are now. This could also end worse than if likes were just deleted because the young users would have no one to turn to if they were being bullied and felt low since they have been hiding the accounts. This is the ultimate backfire and would be the opposite of what success would look like.
Not only would banning teens from social media be nearly impossible, it can also lead to issues in school. There’s a risk of social marginalization for kids who are not allowed to socialize in this way that’s now so embedded in social lives. If a teenager is at the age where all of their friends are on social media it can lead to feelings of being left out, isolated and socially ostracized from peers. As previously stated, this could lead to self-harm and irreversible neurological damage. Just another reason banning social media can have the reverse effect.
Another reason the argument of banning social media is invalid and unattainable in today’s world is due to work and school flow through the sites. 48% of job-seekers credit social media for helping find their current job and 69% of students use social media when finding internships. Ignoring these sites would hurt the value that they bring to the table. Social media is also sometimes required for school research and to network with fellow students. In the United States more than 80% of college and university faculty use social media; more than 50% use it for teaching; and 30% for communicating with students. This is a need and another reason deleting the site as a whole would hinder students and not aid to their success.
Social media is seen for all of its negatives at most times but deleting it would be detrimental in case of emergency. Federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals surveyed say that they use social media to notify the public of emergencies or disasters. Facebook also allows people to mark themselves safe in the event of a crisis which notifies the friends list that the user is okay. This would be otherwise impossible without an account.
The critics who emphasize the concept of deleting social media as a whole have a ridiculous concept. Sure not only is this nearly impossible but the negatives surely outweigh the positives. A parent can “ban” their child from social media, but they can still sneak on anyway and see worse effects in isolation and becoming ostracized. Businesses thrive on social media existence and taking it away completely would only create a collapse of them. Schools (especially since COVID) have been using social media sites to communicate with students and allow students to get in touch with one another as well. Taking away this avenue could affect learning completely. Lastly, it all sounds amazing to live a social media free life until a crisis occurs. Marking ourselves safe and becoming aware of surrounding dangers in the world in a timely manner would be taken way if social media wasn’t in Americans lives. Deleting social media as a whole is just not the answer. Maybe doing the lesser of two and taking away the likes social media presents to users would be a perfect, intermediate point. Not showing likes would allow for the use of social media for all the positives, without giving users a reason to feel insecure and low.
Times have changed since the advancement and availability of technology. Social media sites have taken over the internet, drawing people of many different backgrounds. Users consist of several races, genders, ages, and sexual orientations, growing the sites diverse crowd. Younger users are the most frequent visitors to most social media sites. This age group is still developing in many areas so they seem to be most effected by social media; whether that be for positive or negative reasons. Some negative effects of social media interaction have even been proven to lead to depression, anxiety and even suicide among teenage users who do not feel verified enough through their profiles.
Developing teenagers are not only trying to find their place in the world, but also who they want to identify as. Social media is only making this even harder. There are certain body standards represented through social media, as well as the goal of becoming an “influencer”, and getting enough likes on posted content. Gaining approval from peers online is what everyone wants, but heavily weighs on teens due to their development. During the teen and young adult years, a person is developing emotionally, physically and mentally which can lead to stress without a solid network of support. Without this network, or when troubling situations occur, someone without such provision can fall through the cracks leading to a hefty consideration of suicide. Teen suicide has been on the rise for years. In 2019 the highest amount of suicides among teens was recorded. Teens and young adults have stripped the title of group most likely to take their own lives. Teen suicide is clearly a large issue that needs to be solved. There are tons of warning signs that need to be caught and addressed as a way to prevent such a sad outcome.
Since teens are most likely to seek approval from peers and these days anyone online, negative responses or disapproval can really crush one’s ego. Teens in general are looked at to suffer from a lower self-worth and self-esteem than that of an older, more matured age group. They are more easily influenced by other’s opinions of them, which makes teens an extremely vulnerable group. Once negative self-image has crept in it takes over every thought and can affect everyday life. Over 70% of girls age 15 to 17 avoid normal daily activities, such as attending school, when they feel bad about their looks. The teenage brain is also nowhere close to developed which could be one of the reasons they are so easily influences by other people’s opinions. The frontal lobe doesn’t develop until mid-twenties, which is in charge of processing and reasoning and making rational decisions. As for self-esteem and social media platforms, that also goes hand in hand.
Social media sites are one of the main places people, especially teens, experience judgment on posted content. Users thrive on fitting in and social acceptance in the public eye. Social media sites will always be known to host rude comments and contain bullying. Its inevitable even with anti-cyberbullying programs in place. 90% of teens have been known to use social media sites. If their profile is left with social disapproval, this could be detrimental to one’s self-esteem. Cyberbullying is particularly dangerous because it takes away the human interaction aspect. Those who bully cant see what its doing to the person on the other side of the screen. Empathy among this community is being lost. Students who do experience a form of cyberbullying are nearly 2 times more likely to attempt suicide.
Likes on social media are the driver and reason people post content. Seeing which users like and comment on the media posted gives a feeling of instant gratification. Some people view every like as positive affirmation. The likes become addictive and stimulate the brain, believe it or not. Likes and comments begin to symbolize reputation and social status. Users can easily compare themselves to others with more likes them. Comments online can also be misinterpreted. Not enough comments or likes as well as certain emojis being used can be misunderstood and lead to the beginning of a downfall, not only on a user’s profile but internally in their head as well.
Social media platforms are leading down a rabbit hole of negative effects. Teenagers interaction with the sites and how easily they are influenced and seek approval is just the start of the volatile mix. Teens are the neediest group that seeks constant approval leading to lower self-esteem and bigger reactions. They misinterpret content from other users and therefor become the most effected all together. Suicide is also on the rise for this age group making the mix of these triggers high and putting teens at risk. Social media needs to be placed on a lower pedestal in everyday life, in order to save teens lives and mental health.
According to Igor Pantic’s online article called “Online Social Networking and Mental Health,” anxiety, depression, psychotic disorders and low self-esteem are all the likely results of social networking sites, especially Facebook. These sites have high probability for cyber bullying and the ability to spread rumors and inappropriate pictures. Social media sites have also been seen to be used to try and combat loneliness but often lead to becoming more dissatisfied. All social networking platforms where self-presentation is the principal user activity cause or at least promote narcissistic behavior among users. This toxic mix that social media creates among users give insight to why a impressable teen may take their life because of it.
The type of satisfaction that social media brings users is an addiction similar to one of drugs. Highs and lows of the platform keep people returning to the site. Users get hooked on the feeling of being recognized through social media. Jen Hillard, who wrote an article about social media addiction on the Addiction Center website states “Similar to drug addicts, excessive social networking site (SNS) users display a preoccupation with social media platforms when they are not using them, mood modification when they access these sites, and tolerance to the social rewards obtained on these sites from interactions.” This can be attributed to the standard society has set. Social media sites themselves also have no incentive to decrease the amount of people coming to their sites or want to take away being able to view the interactions that take place. They are in the business to encourage users to become addicted to their site. They do not care about each individual, only their sites success. Therefore, taking likes away would not be something on their horizon, even if it would benefit the welfare of society.
Many social media sites have teamed up with agencies to try and prevent suicide and increase the self-worth that society and social media platforms destroyed in the first place. The American Academy of Pediatrics warned that social media use can cause depression. Since many negative claims about social media have come to fruition, they are trying to now flip the script. Several social sites are teaming with suicide watch hotlines to create a difference. Facebook even made a new feature which allows users to flag posts that seem suicidal. Mental health researchers are also increasingly analyzing tweets and Facebook messages to find out who is suicidal and try to take steps to better understand suicide prevention. Social sites will never stop the amount of likes they get because that would be counterintuitive to their mission, so instead they team with suicide prevention to keep the sites popular.
Social media is so relevant in todays society that it can’t just be washed away, nor would businesses, schools or anyone who likes to communicate over the web, allow it. The next best thing would be getting rid of and removing likes from the platforms. This would greatly benefit teen users that have low self-confidence, are bullied, and who feel attacked over the use of them. Instead of having teens who are anxiety ridden, depressed and contemplate suicide, removing these likes would lead to a more stable mental health state among users. An enjoyer of these sites would no longer have to worry about their image or how many people are paying attention to their content. Its time for big names like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to make the change. Taking away likes on uploaded digital content to social media sites would drastically drop suicide rates in teens and raise morale and self-worth among users due to a more equal appearance of social status.
Alblooshi, A. (2015, December 16). Self-Esteem Levels & Selfies: The Relationship between Self-Esteem Levels and the Number of Selfies People Take and Post, and the Uses and Gratifications of Taking and Posting Selfies. JEWLScholar@MTSU Home. https://jewlscholar.mtsu.edu/handle/mtsu/4760.
Bonds, D. (2019). Cyberbullying Defined [web log]. https://socialmedia160wrt.weebly.com/cyber-bullying.html.
Burrow, A. L., & Rainone, N. (2016, September 14). How many likes did I get?: Purpose moderates links between positive social media feedback and self-esteem. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103116303377.
Jan, M., Soomro, S., & Ahmad, N. (2017, September 5). Impact of Social Media on Self-Esteem. SSRN. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3030048.
Larry, B. (2016). Self-Esteem Levels & Selfies (dissertation). Retrieved from http://jewlscholar.mtsu.edu/handle/mtsu/4760
Luxton, D. D., June, J. D., & Fairall, J. M. (2012). Social Media and Suicide: A Public Health Perspective. American Journal of Public Health, 102(S2). https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2011.300608
Mirsky, Elizabeth L. and Omar, Hatim A., “Cyberbullying in Adolescents: The Prevalence of Mental Disorders and Suicidal Behavior” (2015). Pediatrics Faculty Publications. 170.
Ruder, D. B. (2008, October 16). The Teen Brain. Harvard Magazine. https://harvardmagazine.com/2008/09/the-teen-brain.html.
Tierney, L. (2019, March 29). Perspective | Why it’s a mistake to ban social media – and what to do instead. The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2018/06/12/why-its-a-mistake-to-ban-social-media-and-what-to-do-instead/.