The internet is probably one of the greatest inventions of the twentieth century. It allows anyone to gather information and data, connect with others, purchase items from the comfort of their home, and many other uses all with the click of a mouse. Although there may be many positive uses of the internet, there are also many negative effects such as the use of social media. Social media is an increasingly popular trend with students. Facebook, a social networking site, is the second most popular website in the United States of America, followed by YouTube at number three. Twitter, another popular social media site, ranks number eight (Top Websites Ranking). Some other popular networks are Instagram, Reddit, and Snapchat. With the amount of social media users increasing every day, many students are experiencing the negative impact of it. The use of social media has given rise to a false sense of relationship, decrease in productivity, poor mental health, and may lead to online harassment.
Social networking has allowed many people to stay in contact with each other and interact. It is changing the way students view relationships by causing students to experience a false sense of intimacy or lead to less social interaction. During physical interactions, students often spend more time using a social network than actually interacting with the person they are currently with. This can cause many relationships to be surface level and never develop into a deeper connection. Michael J. Formica, a psychologist, states that interacting with someone, who you haven’t seen in years, through the use of social media fosters a false sense of intimacy as opposed to a connection in real life. Many students will choose to post on Facebook or Twitter and sometimes even Instagram, about negative social interactions, rather than address problems or experiences with friends or professors that they are currently having an issue with.
A person cannot accurately express themselves in a paragraph on Facebook or in a tweet which is only allowed two hundred and eighty characters. Majority of students reported that most of their communication was done using social media rather than face to face interaction. Conversing on social media instead of a physical conversation can affect the way someone’s thoughts or ideas are perceived. It eliminates facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice which is vital for humans to communicate effectively. This can cause many misunderstandings and unnecessary strife which may seep into real life interactions, and in some cases the loss of a friend.
The use of a social network has caused a decrease in productivity for many students, they claim that it takes up too much time. Eighty-three percent of people reported that they browse one or multiple networks while at school or work (personal statistics). Using one’s cellphone for social networking, during class or work can impact their life negatively. Scrolling through social media rather than focusing on a lecture can cause a student to miss due dates, homework assigned, or vital information that may be on a test. It is not only a distraction from school but also work. One may lose their job if caught using their phone during work too many times.
Despite these effects students still choose to browse social media. With information constantly being updated with every refresh, there are always new things to see or read. Instagram, for example has a “discovery page” where one can view endless photos and videos from various people they may not even know. A ten-minute break from homework can easily turn into an hour of browsing, it is easy for one to lose track of time. Many people reported that two or more hours are spent on social media daily. Shockingly, not a single person reported spending less than an hour a day browsing one of these sites.
Not only does it decrease productivity, but it can affect a user’s mental health. In the digital age where likes, followers, reposts (retweets), and friend count determine someone’s worth, students may feel they are not good enough. This takes a toll on a user’s mental health. One student interviewed stated that they feel like they are not socially accepted if they do not have a good online presence.
A study conducted with 160 high school students reported that they experienced higher levels of depression when using social network as opposed to watching television (Institute of Medical Physiology). With these sites coming increasingly popular, more and more people are striving to gain followers. Students may cave into peer pressure or pretend to be someone they are not just to acquire likes or followers. While browsing social media you generally see the best of another person’s life. This can cause someone to subconsciously compare their life to another and think that their own life may not be as meaningful (Rottenberg & Winchell 484). It may also cause someone to believe that others have a better social life. Social media has also brought rise to the term influencer.
An online influencer is someone who has gained quite a bit of following usually ranging from ten thousand people to a few million. These influencers usually post or tweet about their life or products that they sponsor. Many people idolize and compare themselves to these influencers and may feel insecure or that they are less than because they do not receive as many likes or followers which feeds the notion that their life is not as meaningful.
Lastly, these websites can be used for harassment. Every picture, post, or tweet is there for anyone to view. Some students have had their information leaked through social media or even had inappropriate photos of them spread around. People can comment or say rude things anonymously through social media, as well as spread rumors and gossip. These things can ruin someone’s reputation. Unfortunately, the option to be anonymous has caused many people to confidently cyber bully others. It does not take much time browsing one of these websites to see negativity spread throughout the comment section. Thirty four percent of students claimed they have been cyber bullied at least once and sixty four percent claimed that it had negatively impacted their mental health and ability to perform well in school (Cook). Cyber bullying even contributes to the rising suicide rates in students. Although the cyber bullying may not be the only cause for suicide, it definitely is a big contributing factor.
Although the use of social media has allowed students to exchange notes, discuss homework, and connect with friends and family there are many drawbacks. Using social media has caused many students to interact less with others as well as give a false sense of relationship. Many students also are less productive due to excessive use of social media which is a distraction from school and work. These websites can affect mental health, causing some to feel depressed or insecure as they compare themselves to the social life or social reputation of others. On top of these, many students have experienced cyber bullying or harassment due to social networking. The problem with social networks is that many students making use of it, create a habit that allows it to interfere in day to day life.