The presence of social media is a controversial topic when it comes to its potential harms and benefits. Opinions on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook vary greatly especially when it comes to different generations. It’s generally common to see older generations more skeptical of the idea while the younger generations have grown up around this advancement and have become accustomed to it in their everyday lives.The perceived harms and benefits of social media affect the way generations see these platforms and the way they live with them.
While it is more common to bag on social media platforms for its negative attributes, positives exist and influence recent generations. The demographics speak for themselves: social media is mainly used by teenagers. According to The Pew Research Center, “the most common social-media platforms among teens were YouTube (85 percent), Instagram (72 percent), and Snapchat (69 percent).”These platforms have are a major part of the teens daily lives. One benefit to the widespread reach that connects teens everywhere is the awareness of current events and important issues. “Teens want to be aware and informed just as much as adults. Using social media allows teens to follow organizations and causes that they believe in” says AJ Argwal from Forbes. The communal aspect of social media allows teens to get involved with ideas that interest them. Weather that be sharing a post about climate change or helping spread awareness about what’s happening in the world. Social media gives kids the opportunity to share their opinions on important issues and spread awareness through their account to their followers. ”The amount of times I’ve seen posts reposted on peoples stories about the wildfires is crazy. “ says south student Ben Dorighi. “I think social media can be used to effectively spread news and awareness about the issues in the world.” Especially with the teen dominant demographic for social media, it’s now easier and more common for young people to get involved and educated on world issues.
Another aspect of social media’s positives is its opportunity for business. With largey populated spaces like instagram and twitter, businesses find a plethora of marketing opportunities. “It is the most cost effective way to reach mass amounts of consumers.” According to Forbes article It’s not all bad: the good of social media. The use of branding and company exposure on social media has revolutionized how companies reach out to consumers. From being able to come in closer contact with customers to solve issues, or from a publicity standpoint where companies can apologize and defend their public image when controversy hits. Not to mention the blatant use for advertising. ‘People play multiple – sometimes simultaneous – roles as receivers, creators, critics, advocates, transformers and transmitters of messages.” says Hank Willims, an advertising industry expert. It’s undeniable that the prevalence of social media has changed the news and marketing landscape in a positive way. However, masses of people are still skeptical about the benefits. A lot of people ignore the benefits and immediately associate social media with negativity. “ I feel like older people and adults are quick to blame problems that teens face on social media.” says student Grace McClung when asked about the perceptions of Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. “Social media isn’t as negative as adults make it up to be.”
While benefits become clear when you open your mind to possible positives, the negatives make a harsh comeback. The evidence about the negative side of social media mainly revolves around its impact on teens mental health. There are countless studies that prove detrimental effects on self esteem, body image, and mental health. For example according to Newport Academy “a 2018 study compared the mental health of 14- to 17-year-olds who used social media seven hours per day to that of teens who interacted with it for only about an hour a day. The frequent users were more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with depression, been treated by a mental health professional, or taken medication for a psychological or behavioral issue during the 12 months preceding the study” On social media there is a standard of perfection. Whether that be how you look in a picture or the way you present yourself through the app, it can be damaging for young people to compare their lives to those they see on the app and not fully comprehend the lack of reality within the app. Not to mention the exposure to things like cyberbullying, harassment and potential privacy invasion that happen on these apps and compromise safety and security. It’s understandable where skeptics come from when dismissing social media as harmful.
There’s a lot of criticism about how social media is affecting how younger people interact with each other and the world. “American teenagers spend an ‘astounding’ nine hours a day with digital technology, entertaining themselves with streaming video, listening to music and playing games” as stated by the west virginia education association. It’s no lie that social media has changed the way we live. Nowadays every teenager has a phone and the age that it’s normal for kids to get one of their own is going down. Phones are essential for life these days, not just for communication but for work and school. Social media is just a piece of the larger puzzle of technological innovation. However the widespread use of online media is a big part of the way people identify and express themselves as well as the way people spend their time and interact with each other. There are unspoken rules about social norms on snapchat now and apps to meet new people with the swipe of a finger. There is no going back to when social media didn’t exist because everyone just accepted it as part of their life now. That’s why older generations are skeptical because they have seen both sides, the before and after and are comparing the modern way of life to the one in the past. The concerns with social media are valid but the solution isn’t always clear, we can’t abolish the use of social media because we are too far in and the whole world has adapted to the ways of technology.
Whether you believe in the good in social media or see the negatives, it’s hard to deny the prevalence of this technology. It’s interesting to see the differing perceptions from a generational standpoint because it’s all rooted from familiarity. People grew up without access to technology we have today, so of course they will be skeptical. However everything is changing in this new age of technology and social media, marketing, the way we communicate, the way we interact with each other and ourselves. To pit humans against the advancement of technology seems unnecessary. Whether we like it or not technology is here to stay and will continue to develop and become a dependable part of our lives. We shouldnt be working against social media, we should be working with it.