The Lifeblood of Social Media
Social media platforms can fill users minds with false realities. The way society is expected to look, expected to act, and what material goods people should yearn for, are all a big influence from social media sites. Having all these expectations to live up to at the touch of a button make it easy to get discouraged when reflecting on their own life. With this comes a lower self-esteem and self-worth. Suicide is too often the tragic result when insecure users compare their actual lives to the supposedly glamorous lives of the people, they follow on social media.
Sites like Instagram and Facebook rely on heavy traffic to keep afloat. Users of the site use likes and comments to keep their profiles on the sites popular and attract other users. Most users fall in the age range of 17-28 years old and are the generation to be most influenced by others. Social media sites now even have people they call “Influencers” who are basically advertisers of products just on a third-party site. These influencer users wear or talk about a certain product and make it look good in order for the general public to want that same thing. In turn online shoppers and users of the particular site think the influencer actually relies on the product in their daily life, when in fact it’s just an ad. These posts just like others receive likes, and with enough likes, it makes the page more popular and generates more users to that page. Many people have started to aspire to be influencers and believe getting a lot of likes on their page the main way to become one. If likes didn’t exist and capture the audience’s eye, there would be no competition online amongst users. People wouldn’t bother to post if there was nothing to compete with making them the lifeblood of the platform. If likes diminished, would the competitive nature of posting content molding themselves into someone they aren’t stop as well?
Since likes and comments are what users strive for, self-esteem will obviously be the first thing effected. Some users are prone to need more attention, positive feedback and affirmation from friends. If these type of people aren’t getting as many likes as they see fit it could tear down their self-confidence. Even with positive feedback and lots of likes, a person will never be satisfied because there will always be a user with more than them. It’s a never-ending cycle of not feeling good enough. In these situations, it can be easy to see that people who rely on online affirmation to fulfill them could become depressed and anxiety stricken.
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.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth aged 10–24 years old globally. Many of these people have never even met with mental health services or showed any signs. Many questions were asked to figure out the cause. Research showed that there was an association between increased social media/internet use and suicide in this age group particularly. It seems to be that social media sites have potential to both suggest and reinforce negative thoughts and behaviors. Social media’s influence on suicide is a public health problem that was created and needs addressing. Many organizations are trying to make that a reality from the internet. Seems very counterintuitive.
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 media sites will not be going away anytime soon, so it only makes sense to take this as an opportunity to learn about it and improve.
How social sites effect the world is a multi-level structure. There are several outcomes that differ upon the individual. Not all people are negatively affected by social media or feel the need to receive likes to be validated. Paid influencers of these sites changed the social media game and made receiving likes popular and the goal. Young social media users that aspire to be influencers and need constant affirmation, can find themselves in a lonely place when not receiving the reactions they expect. Social media can become drug like and addicting because of these needs and therefor result in lower self-worth. Lower self-worth then turns into anxiety, depression, and has even been seen in the worst of cases, result in suicide. 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. These issues will lead to further problems and the cycle will continue on. Social media and its “likes” cease to see an end, so for now the vicious effects will continue on.