Social media broadens our world, but also can harm our mental health

Social media has become a fundamental part of our daily lives, shaping how we communicate, share information, and connect with others. From the rise of Facebook in the early 2000s to the widespread influence of platforms such as Instagram, X, and TikTok.

Today, social media has undoubtedly transformed the dynamics of human interaction. However, this digital overthrow has its complications, as social media simultaneously serves as both a powerful tool for connection and a driver for a societal breakdown.

For student Tayedom Hompstead, social media serves as a way to communicate with friends. (Photo courtesy of Tayedom Hompstead)There are a lot of positive things about social media such as being able to connect whenever and wherever. Social media has broken down geographical barriers, allowing people from different corners of the world to effortlessly connect. 

For Tayedom Hompstead, a Bay-Arenac ISD Career Center student, communicating with friends inspired her to get onto social media.

“I feel that there are so many benefits to social media,” Hompstead says. 

“As someone who didn’t have social media until about ninth grade, the whole reason I had asked for it was to communicate with my friends better. Everyone had stopped using normal messaging.”

Student Joshua Pelton acknowledges the tremendous impact social media has had on the world.

“There is no doubt that social media has changed the world, good or bad, but I think that it depends on the user. I think it’s very beneficial,” Peloton says.

Hompstead and Pelton are not alone.

A January study by Kepios showed that over 5.04 billion people worldwide use social media. With so many people using these platforms, they have become indispensable tools for staying connected with friends, family, and communities, irrespective of physical distance. 

Platforms such as Facebook and X (formally Twitter) enable individuals to share their experiences, ideas, and cultures, fostering a sense of global community. The ability to interact with diverse perspectives has expanded our understanding of the world, creating a more interconnected and informed society.

Teens suggested parents keep an eye on what their kids are downloading and how they're interacting with social media.Social media empowers individuals to express their opinions and amplify their voices on various social and political issues. Movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo have gained momentum through the collective power of social media, sparking crucial conversations and driving societal change.  

These platforms have become a democratic space where marginalized voices can be heard and acknowledged. Social media serves as a rapid and efficient channel for the dissemination of information. From news updates to educational content, users have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips. 

During crises or emergencies, platforms such as X have proven invaluable for disseminating real-time information, and aiding in disaster response and community support.

Although these are all amazing reasons why social media is loved today, there also is a dark side to social media. 

Since joining social media, Hompstead says she can see the downside.

“I feel it is also bad,” Hompstead says. 

“I think parents really need to start supervising their kids and what apps they are downloading because there are creepy people out there who will find ways to make this on social media not safe for kids. And not only that it can put out bad images to younger kids as an expectation on what to act, look, and feel like outside of their homes.”

The pervasive nature of social media comes at the cost of personal privacy. Users willingly share vast amounts of personal information, creating a digital footprint that can be exploited for targeted advertising, identity theft, or other malicious purposes. The erosion of privacy has raised concerns about the ethical implications of data collection and the need for robust regulations to protect user information. 

Social comparison and mental health also can suffer at the hands of social media. 

The same Kepios study shows that, on average, individuals spend over 2 hours and 29 minutes per day on social media platforms 

Lisa Forrest, a Career Center teacher, says she sees some people becoming too invested in social media interactions.

“I think that it is a useful tool but can also be dangerous,” Forrest says. 

“Too many young people compare themselves to others and may become jealous or depressed. Too many young people are obsessed with constant online interactions with friends and people they follow and miss out on the finer things in life, interacting and communicating in an authentic way that is meaningful and fulfilling. I do not like the lack of privacy, and the fact that many people do not adjust settings to keep others from creeping.”
The relentless pursuit of validation through likes and comments can have detrimental effects on mental well-being. The rapid dissemination of information on social media also facilitates the spread of misinformation and fake news. 

Statistics show that 73% of respondents expressed concerns about the spread of untrue information on social platforms.

False narratives can quickly gain traction, leading to widespread belief in inaccurate information. The consequences of misinformation are far-reaching, impacting public perception, elections, and even public health, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
'I think parents really need to start supervising their kids and what apps they are downloading because there are creepy people out there who will find ways to make this on social media not safe for kids. And not only that it can put out bad images to younger kids as an expectation on what to act, look, and feel like outside of their homes.'
- Student Tayedom Hompstead

To navigate the complexities of social media, fostering digital literacy is crucial. Educating users about fact-checking, critical thinking, and responsible online behavior can empower individuals to distinguish between credible information and misinformation. 

Digital literacy initiatives can help users make informed decisions and engage with social media responsibly. Social media platforms rely on complex algorithms to curate content for users. 

Enhancing transparency around these algorithms can help users understand how content is selected and presented. 

This transparency would not only build trust, but also allow users to have more control over the information they are exposed to, mitigating the negative effects of algorithmic bias. Encouraging positive online behavior is essential for cultivating a healthy digital culture. 

Social media platforms can implement features that reward constructive engagement and discourage cyberbullying or harassment. 

Approximately 37% of young internet users have reported experiencing cyberbullying, leading to negative psychological consequences and detrimental effects on mental health. Community guidelines and moderation tools play a crucial role in creating a safe and inclusive online environment. 

Social media stands as a double-edged sword, capable of both connecting and dividing societies. 

Its positive impact on global connectivity, amplification of voices, and information dissemination is undeniable. 

However, the erosion of privacy, negative effects on mental health, and the spread of misinformation highlight the urgent need for responsible usage and regulatory measures. 

As we navigate the digital landscape, it is essential to strike a balance between harnessing the benefits of social media and mitigating its harmful consequences. 

Through education, transparency, and the promotion of positive online behavior, we can shape a future where social media serves as a tool for unity, understanding, and collective progress rather than a force that fractures the fabric of our society.

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