This week alone, how many times have you consumed online user-generated content—or shared some of your own?
Welcome to the internet, where you’re bound to kill some time and make choices you will regret. It’s not all that bad though; sometimes you’ll learn something interesting or build new friendships. Once you open the door that is an app or a website, you are greeted with endless possibilities that may or may not do you well. At some point, you will find yourself stuck on the interactive web.
Social media is a group of websites and applications that enable users to share and view content, as well as build virtual networks and communities. Ever since the advent of the internet, it is undeniable that social media has become such an integral part of our everyday living. As we start to spend more time with it, however, we begin what is essentially a love-hate relationship. Here are some examples of how social media can hurt, but also how it can help:
Hurts: Overuse and Addiction
Some of us get excited when we see a notification, hoping someone has liked our post or perhaps has followed us back. Positive social feedback in social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram fires up the reward centers in the brain similar to how the brain reacts to drugs. Other than that, these sites adapt to your habits, feeding you curated content chosen specifically for you, making it hard to look away and stop scrolling. These are what makes social media so addictive. Excessive use of social media is bad as it can interfere with your life outside of the one you built online.
Helps: Communication and Connectivity
Thanks to social media, we can communicate in ways that were once unimaginable. With just a few taps on our smartphone screens, we can keep in touch with our loved ones, reunite with our old pals, and even make new acquaintances. Social media allows us to connect with people virtually anytime and anywhere. We even have the option to send typed messages or to voice call with them and even show our faces if we are comfortable. Facebook, Messenger, and Discord are but a few of the many apps one can use for sending and receiving calls and messages.
Hurts: Cyberbullying and Online Shaming
Even the internet is not safe from bullying and harassment. Like in real life, there are people on social media who can possibly stalk you, tell you hurtful words, or spread false rumors about you. Public shaming exists online as well, nowadays commonly in the form of “cancelling” or removing support for a public figure in response to questionable behavior. Though the intention might be good, taking justice into your own hands can sometimes lead to more harm, especially when one’s reputation is on the line. These are some examples of how social media can be used as a breeding ground for negativity.
Helps: Communities and Engagement
On the interactive web, you don’t have to enjoy things by yourself. Speaking from experience, it’s fun to openly express your love for a certain fictional character with someone else. Don’t be shy; it’s fairly simple to find an assembly of fans and enthusiasts who like and support the same things as you do. Whether it’s a Facebook group sharing recipes, a fandom on Twitter supporting an artist, or a subreddit on Reddit dedicated to your favorite book series, there is a welcoming home out there waiting for you. So, come join a community and geek over your shared hobbies and interests!
Hurts: Decline in Mental Health
Social media can be detrimental to one’s mental well-being and lead to the exacerbation of symptoms of depression and anxiety. It can lower one’s low self-esteem and awaken your fears and insecurities, from your body image to your life circumstances. Some can’t help but compare their lives to that of others, even though what people post on social media tends to be just their highlights or best moments. The need to feel accepted or recognized may cause individuals, especially impressionable teens, to adopt negative behaviors and make risky choices they otherwise would not be making.
Helps: Learning and Education
We often cite social media as one of the distractions that keep students from doing their work. You can point fingers all you want, but if used right, social media can be a nifty tool for learning. For instance, there are many informative videos on Youtube that are great for visual learners and can be supplementary to class discussions. For the language learners out there, you might want to check out Tandem, where you can practice conversing with native speakers of your target languages. Besides that, social media goes beyond the physical limitations of distance learning, allowing opportunities for Think-Pair-Share and other collaborative learning strategies.
Hurts: Fake News and Misinformation
Unlike way back when information is now quicker to search for and more readily accessible. The internet in itself is already a large collaborative knowledge hub, but the social media landscape has made it easier for us to navigate through it. That being said, not everything we see online is true. It’s not rare for one to stumble upon fake news and false information. Tricking the public with false claims can have dangerous consequences. Individuals who unknowingly encounter false or misleading information may actively spread it further by engaging with it through likes, shares, or comments.
Helps: Social Awareness
With the use of social media, we can help raise awareness for important issues that we need to address and take action upon. Social media provides a platform for the oppressed to be heard and also helps educate the public to become more knowledgeable about the many different issues in our society. These include racism, gender inequality, and the government’s shortcomings, which in the grand scheme of things, barely even scratches the surface. Through the sharing of hashtags, informative threads, and petitions, social media serves as a powerful tool for people and movements to share their struggles and their stories, reaching global audiences.
Social media is like a double-edged sword, so take care of how you wield it. While its disadvantages can’t completely be avoided, the power to control a substantial amount of your social media experience lies at your fingertips. As strange as this sounds, we can make the most of social media when we spend less time on it; take breaks, and know our limits. Also, be kinder to yourself and others. Be a responsible netizen; don’t tolerate what you know is wrong nor imitate them. Think before you click. Stay away from bandwagons and learn how to decide for yourself.
Instead of just letting social media shape the way we act and think, we should also change our actions and mindset towards it. Let’s do our part in making it a safer, more wholesome place, explore the different ways we can incorporate more of its advantages in our life, and make each of these a habit. With these tactics, one can learn how to use social media to the fullest.