Why Social Media Severely Impacts Modern Society

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Introduction

The modern world is significantly different than a couple of decades ago, and the leading cause of the dramatic change in our reality is social media platforms. They enforced globalization, made communication quicker and more efficient, grew various businesses, and influenced people’s values worldwide. Such a rapid change in societies has never happened before, and many experts argue that humanity was ready to adjust their lives to the digital reality without severe consequences. Scientific and medical evidence revealed that our brains, bodies, social values, and laws were not prepared, and therefore now there is an emerging demand in addressing the health issues, conflicts in communities, and legislative difficulties. The problems experienced by individuals combined with the fact that almost everyone dedicates hours to spend on social networks lead to the conclusion that the whole society is threatened.

The progress continues to update social media platforms and increases the opportunities to influence our minds and values. Digital presence becomes more important than real, making people addicted to scrolling their Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter feeds in a desire to consume more entertaining information (Dufva and Dufva 21). The platforms force individuals to make wrong choices, follow unrealistic examples of others’ images and risk their safety by sharing private data. In this paper, I will argue that social media severely impacts modern society.

Literature Review

The steady development of technology and increasing significance of social media presence in people’s lives demands that scientists from various fields explore the impact of the novelties. Medical research and social studies revealed that digital platforms cause individuals’ health issues, seriously influence communities, and provide space for the crime. The lack of regulative practices, negative effects on society, and a threat to wellbeing caused by the digital platform’s usage are revealed in the recent peer-reviewed literature.

Indeed, the article “Impact of social media on youth mental health: Challenges and Opportunities” written by Jacqueline Nesi provides evidence-based statements about the physical and mental health conditions that are being severely affected by social media overuse by adolescents. The scientist states that “mobile screen time before bed causes a range of poorer sleep outcomes, including shorter sleep duration, poor sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness” (Nesi 118). Another study, “Is Social Media Bad for Mental Health and Wellbeing? Exploring The Perspectives of Adolescents,” was conducted by Michelle O’Reilly for the Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry journal issue in 2018. The research was based on interviewing young people to discover if they feel the impact of platforms’ on their mental conditions, and the results showed that constant social media presence leads them to anxiety and depression (O’Reilly 610). Moreover, the author highlights that “the participants reported that social media exposes people to bullying and trolling, thereby negatively impacting mental health” (O’Reilly et al. 611). Healthcare-related peer-reviewed articles suggest that social media negatively impacts the younger generations’ well-being.

Various studies about the addictive nature of social media platforms were conducted to find ways of avoiding the severe impact on individuals’ health and society. Waseem Akram and Rakesh Kumar published “A Study on Positive and Negative Effects of Social Media on Society,” where they listed the most popular platforms and explored their impact on health, education, society, and business. Akram and Kumar mentioned that the crucial drawback is “the addictive piece of the online networking that can squander individual’s time that could have been used by profitable tasks and exercises” (Akram and Kumar 352). The New York Times reporter Bianca V. Brooks wrote the article “I Used to Fear Being a Nobody. Then I Left Social Media” with the description of her personal experience of eliminating Facebook usage and the outcomes of living only in reality. Brooks discovered that “we feel we need as many people as possible to witness our lives, so as not to be left out of a story that is being written too fast by people much more significant than ourselves.” Addiction to social media influences many life spheres and is born from people’s desire to share their experiences and create a perfect image.

Social scientists and legislators explore abuse and cyberbullying that occurred with digital platforms’ development and severely impacted modern society. NATO specialist Beata Biały published the “Social Media – From Social Exchange to Battlefield” in The Cyber Defense Review to show the threats of sharing data and using the most popular platforms. The expert compared social media to the battlefield, listed the strategies like targeting, distorting, and trolling, and concluded that cybercrimes occur due to the lack of defense from international legislators and protective technology (Bialy 89). The reasons and outcomes of the increasing crime rates related to the digital world were explored in “Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime,” written by German scientists Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz in 2018. The experts revealed that “social media can act as a propagation mechanism for violent crimes by enabling the spread of extreme viewpoints” (Müller and Schwarz 2). According to the study, governments and legislators must address the impact of digital platforms’ posts and interactions as significant causes of real crimes that threaten society’s safety.

Social media platforms developed to customize users’ experiences turned into tools to influence their choices and opinions about politics, values, and product preferences. Political studies explore the effect of digital platforms on voters’ decision-making attitudes and discuss modern society outcomes. In the article “Election Campaigning on Social Media: Politicians, Audiences, and The Mediation of Political Communication on Facebook and Twitter,” Sebastian Stier et al. analyzed the vocabulary politicians use for influencing the audience on social media. Scientists revealed that the real-world campaigns’ statements might differ from digital programs’, leading society to confusion and improper voting decisions (Stier et al. 70). Joan Donovan also studied the negative effects of social media advertising algorithms in the Harvard Business Review article “How Social Media’s Obsession with Scale Supercharged Disinformation.” Donovan claims that “billions of advertising dollars were lost to fake impressions and clicks as more and more bad actors leveraged openness as a financial opportunity.” The article highlighted that fake information could be promoted and discussed the severity of such occasions based on the Russian influence on the U.S. election in 2016 and the Q-Anon community’s existence.

Arguments

The literature review assisted me in developing five arguments supporting the thesis that social media severely impacts modern society. Primarily, frequent digital platform usage leads people to worsen mental health conditions and puts the younger generation at the highest risk as they cannot control the amount of time spent online. Adolescents’ mental health is fragile, thus it can be easily disrupted when they spend more time on digital platforms than with actual activities useful for their age. The research conducted by O’Reilly et al., where people 11-18 years old were interviewed, revealed that “participants felt that social media directly causes ill-mental health such as depression and suicidal ideation” (610). Moreover, the study results showed that 90% of adolescents use smartphones to spend time online day and night, and 37% lose sleep because of it (O’Reilly et al. 611). The lack of sleep affects overall health conditions and prevents young people’s bodies from growing up properly. The generation of that age is humanity’s future, and their mental states are crucial for society to thrive, therefore they need to be educated to control their digital platforms’ usage.

Secondly, social media severely impacts modern society because of its addictive nature which causes individuals to lose control and underperform in reality. It is well-known that checking our Facebook feed gives us a shot of dopamine that releases when we are entertained, and frequent doses cause addiction (Nesi 118). Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into the trap of giving oneself instant pleasure, and individuals cannot control their time spent on social media. As Akram and Kumar stated in their article described in the literature review above, one of the most crucial drawbacks of addiction to digital platforms is that scrolling them replaces real valuable activities. Moreover, modern society struggles to thrive because people’s attitudes changed under the pressure of social media addiction. They became easily distracted, less physically active, and developed poor eating and sleeping habits. Consequently, if the problem is not addressed and social media influence continues to increase, humanity will face a health crisis.

Thirdly, society struggles with the unrealistic standards created in the digital world as people get the wrong self-perception. We tend to share our best experiences on social media and create a perfect image of ourselves for our followers. Such an attitude led us to develop a habit of comparing our lives with others, thinking that their conditions, health, fitness, and wealth are significantly better than ours (Fung et al.). Consequently, people make wrong choices and chase unnecessary goals in their desire to be like someone. Furthermore, the ability to see others’ homes, bodies, food choices, and life values severely impacts personal self-perception. In the study initiated by Fung et al., the participants were offered to see more of certain content in their feeds like travel or fitness images. As a result, people who “were exposed to fit inspiration images reported greater body dissatisfaction and lower state appearance self-esteem” (Fung et al.). Indeed, the body image, values, and lifestyle standards created by the world of social media profiles prevent society from developing as people waste their lives trying to adjust themselves to the unrealistic frames.

Fourthly, social media became a prosperous space for cybercrime, bullying, and abuse that is not controlled at the legislative level and therefore emerges social conflicts and threaten individuals’ safety. As digital platforms require users to share their private data, it can be used against the latter because of hackers’ attacks or the if the collectors illegally sell the information. Moreover, social networks’ open nature makes them suitable for increasing hate between different groups and causing conflicts in real-world society. Ekman studied the radical communities created on Facebook and suggested that they “must be taken into consideration when addressing the causes of anti-immigration and racist sentiments in contemporary societies” (616). Furthermore, the lack of law regulation increases bullying and abuse rates and harms individuals’ lives and mental health. These reasons support the argument that social media platforms hurt society as they do not provide enough security for their users of various ages, races, and communities.

Lastly, digital platforms operate with the customization and advertising algorithms used by businesses and politicians to influence society’s choices which can be harmful. Social media plays a significant role in promotion because people there are easily reachable. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are free to use, while their founders earn on advertising and improve the algorithms by learning about users’ habits, preferences, and socioeconomic status. The Russians’ intervention in the U.S. presidential elections in 2016 is the brightest example of how social media tools severely affect society. The customizing nature of digital platforms’ algorithms also threatens humanity by narrowing people’s awareness of the world based on their values. Allcott claims that “social media may create ideological “echo chambers” among like-minded friend groups, thereby increasing political polarization” (630). Indeed, it is difficult for society to make proper decisions when a customizable Facebook feed shows only the advantages of democracy without revealing its problems to an individual while another person sees the opposing posts. Social media must be regulated at the legislative level, as when clear boundaries are set, they will balance companies’ influence on politics and the economy.

Conclusion

Today, social media’s impact on our lives is inevitable, and we continue to dedicate more time to spending in a digital world. These changes have their advantages: communication became more accessible and connects people from distant parts of the world, technology develops, and innovations will improve other sectors like healthcare, businesses thrive, and help economies move forward. However, we must address the price we pay for the benefits we get because the range of unsolved issues expands and can lead humanity to health, social, or security crises in the nearest future. Scientific studies, medical research, and other works would help develop approaches to deal with the rapidly evolving world of new technologies.

This paper revealed various points where social media severely impacts modern society and provided peer-reviewed articles as evidence. According to the conducted research, individuals’ mental and overall health conditions worsen due to the frequent use of digital platforms, and younger generations suffer the most. Moreover, social media platforms are addictive and led users to replace crucial real-life activities with wasting time scrolling feeds and entertaining themselves. The digital world also lacks legislative regulation and therefore threatens our safety due to the possibility of cyber crimes and bullying. Lastly, the algorithms that help social media platforms’ owners earn on advertising are frequently being used for influencing users’ choices related to politics and buying decisions to their advantage instead of overall wellbeing. Every person experienced at least one of these adverse effects of social media, and, as members of various communities, we must care about our health, safety, and stability. Modern society benefits from technological progress, however, it is crucial for people to address its problematic causes.

Works Cited

Akram, Waseem, and Rekesh Kumar. “A Study on Positive and Negative Effects of Social Media on Society.” International Journal of Computer Sciences and Engineering, vol. 5, no. 10, 2017, pp. 347-354.

Allcott, Hunt, et al. “The Welfare Effects of Social Media.” American Economic Review, vol. 110, no. 3, 2020, pp. 629-76.

Biały, Beata. “Social Media – From Social Exchange to Battlefield.” The Cyber Defense Review, vol. 2, no. 2, 2017, pp. 69-90. JSTOR.

Brooks, Bianca Vivion. “I Used to Fear Being a Nobody. Then I Left Social Media.” The New York Times, 2019.

Donovan, Joan. “How Social Media’s Obsession with Scale Supercharged Disinformation.” Harvard Business Review, 2021.

Dufva, Tomi, and Mikko Dufva. “Grasping the Future of The Digital Society.” Futures, vol. 107, 2019, pp. 17-28.

Ekman, Mattias. “Anti-Immigration and Racist Discourse in Social Media.” European Journal of Communication, vol. 34, no. 6, 2019, pp. 606-618. Web.

Fung, Isaac Chun-Hai, et al. “Public Health Implications of Image-Based Social Media: A Systematic Review of Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Flickr.” The Permanente Journal, vol. 24, 2020.

Müller, Karsten, and Carlo Schwarz. “Fanning the flames of hate: Social media and hate crime.” Journal of The European Economic Association, 2018, jvaa045.

Nesi, Jacqueline. “The Impact of Social Media on Youth Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunities.” North Carolina Medical Journal, vol. 81, no. 2, 2020, pp. 116-121.

O’Reilly, Michelle, et al. “Is Social Media Bad for Mental Health and Wellbeing? Exploring The Perspectives of Adolescents.” Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol. 23, no. 4, 2018, pp. 601-613. Web.

Stier, Sebastian, et al. “Election Campaigning on Social Media: Politicians, Audiences, and The Mediation of Political Communication on Facebook and Twitter.” Political Communication, vol. 35, no. 1, 2018, pp. 50-74.

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