JagWire reporters discuss the positive and negative effects of social networking
Social media is a great platform for building relationships, but hazardous in misunderstandings
November 10, 2017
Social media comes with unique advantages
Social media has taken communication and outreach to new heights
In just a few years, all current Mill Valley students will have graduated. While phone numbers and promises of checking in will be exchanged, the likelihood of maintaining most of the relationships you build drops after graduation. Social media has provided a quick fix to that problem, letting people reach a wider audience that would have never been possible otherwise and making information more accessible than ever.
I should say upfront that I’m an avid social media user, to a fault. I know that social media is detrimental to me in some ways. However, the accessibility of these platforms has paved the way for benefits that far outweigh the cons.
Nearly all of my family lives overseas. While I visit them every few years, I don’t have the opportunity to communicate with them as much as the average kid. It’s hard to know where most of them are at in their lives, especially because I’m one of the youngest family members, but being connected with my cousins on Facebook and Instagram has given me a window into their lives that I never would have gotten otherwise. Furthermore, Skype has let us talk to each other more easily than just the phone. I will never forget seeing the pure joy that came from my mom and my grandmother as they talked through the computer screen.
Social media has also changed communication on a larger scale. Spreading information about which areas are hit during natural disasters, missing persons or even basic updates on events has never been quicker or more efficient than it is now. As Hurricanes Irma and Harvey impacted the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Twitter put me and many others on the forefront of impacted areas, letting me hear the stories of people that would have otherwise gone forgotten. Social media amplifies the words of those who may not have a voice otherwise.
Facebook and Twitter also provide easy and quick ways to get news updates. Social media has definitely pushed fake news to the forefront, but it has also let news reach wider audiences.
On that note, social media has also let people organize social movements or fight for change in completely unprecedented ways. For example, social media started the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline and allowed communities that would be negatively impacted (such as the Standing Rock Sioux) to receive help they otherwise would not have had access to. Similarly, both the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter started on Facebook and rippled outwards, turning into a national movement. These were pushed by people whose voices were largely invisible and marginalized, but social media has created space for diversity to flourish.
However, I can’t overlook the role that social media played in pushing forward protests like the one hosted by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia. Social media’s role in organizing movements for social change is a dual-edged sword.
Because of how common social media has become, it has never been easier to learn new skills or be informed about what’s happening in the world. YouTube platforms, such as CrashCourse or VSauce, have made education more accessible to anyone with an internet connection. So many people are unable to receive a good education or struggle with learning, but there are so many avenues to discovering new skills and improving yourself. While online resources can’t replace physical ones, people who don’t have access to all the things we do can get so much more from the world around them — from artwork to a better understanding of science.
Social media has also made me a better person. I have discovered so many diverse perspectives through the internet that I can say, without a doubt, that I would have remained largely ignorant of any point of view that wasn’t my own if I hadn’t stumbled upon platforms like YouTube or Tumblr. Even if I disagree, being able to read posts by other people has helped me become a more empathetic and kinder person. I also love to read analysis and interpretation of music, TV, books and other narrative forms of media, but I never would have discovered or developed my own critical reading skills if not for blogs that analyzed books and shows.
Advertising and building an audience has also changed due to new networking platforms. When I published my book two years ago, I had basically no way to promote myself or share anything about it besides word of mouth because it was self-published. However, through social media I had the opportunity to share my work with people all over the world. While traditional publishing of any kind has a wider audience, social networking has made it possible to find new audiences and create stories that explore topics that you might not see in mainstream media.
Finally, as a writer and avid reader, I follow a ton of poetry and writing accounts on Instagram and Twitter. On these platforms, I see new writing and music styles growing and finding a wider audience, plus more and more resources about how to learn different skills being shared. Arts have been growing and developing in new directions, leading to more and more innovation in multiple fields. Creativity is fueled by an ongoing dialogue that connects us to voices from all over the world.
While there are definite downfalls to social media, the accessibility of these platforms lets anyone with an internet connection experience so much more of the world than ever before. Creativity and communications grow through the use of different platforms. Social change and education become more accessible to anyone with an internet connection, letting more people be informed and be engaged in the world around them. Social media is powerful. The advantages that come with it are only going to grow.
Social networking isn’t as great as it seems
From fake news to exclusion, social media can have toxic effects
To preface, I use social media as much as the next person. I use everything from Twitter to Tumblr to Pinterest to Snapchat to Reddit to Instagram. Houseparty and Oovoo are on my phone, too. I even joined in on the Sarahah madness (but didn’t like promoting it via Snapchat). Social networking consumes a big part of my life — bigger than I’d like to admit. In fact, in the past week, according to my phone, 44 percent of my battery was dedicated to social networking platforms. That’s higher than I anticipated.
There’s no denying there are benefits to social networking: it’s a platform for change and (mostly) great for communication. I met my Internet friend through Instagram and I’ve learned about her life across the Atlantic in the Bristol, U.K., so I can’t say that nothing good has come from social media. However, social networking’s rose-colored filter doesn’t mask everything.
I can’t approach this opinion without touching on fake news — it’s everywhere. One share on Facebook of an article with incorrect facts can start a wildfire. We saw counselor to President Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway’s Bowling Green Massacre explode, crushing the credibility of Conway and associated parts of the government. The JagWire newspaper even covered the rise of fake news and the lack of national trust that stemmed from it. It’s no secret that, for a lack of better phrasing, people make stuff up. Sites like PolitiFact and FactCheck are outlets that prove social media needs to be taken with a grain of salt, which is what most people don’t do. If you ever get the chance, scroll through those websites and see just how much false information you can round up.
While this seems like old news, social networking has been proven to be detrimental to mental health. According to Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, there is “a statistically significant positive correlation between depressive symptoms and time spent on [social networking sites].” This starts the vicious cycle of using social media as a cure, and when you don’t get the boost you had hoped for, you end up back where you started. In addition, self-esteem is also affected by the overexposure of social networking. I’ve experienced these effects firsthand. In ways, says Cyberpsychology, social networking promotes narcissistic behavior, which has dangerous outcomes. While my social media overexposure hasn’t turned me into a narcissist, my self-esteem has definitely suffered because I have the tendency to compare myself to other people.
As a side note, it’s worth noting that Cyberpsychology referenced a separate article about how social networking can have a positive influence on self-esteem.
To switch gears, a couple years ago, I wrote an opinion about jealousy and how it can be used to help us grow as people. However true that may be, my time on social media has made one thing increasingly clear: social networking is one of the biggest roots of jealousy. Admit it — you’ve seen pictures of your friends burying their toes in the golden sand, surrounded by the seemingly endless stretch of crystal ocean waters. Your stomach probably knotted and you probably thought, “I wish I was there.” That’s jealousy at work. A more notable example of social media jealousy is seen within relationships. Psychology professor Ira E. Hyman, Jr., Ph.D., of Western Washington University thoroughly evaluates jealousy of a relationship through Facebook and how “the ability to access a partner’s social network may not improve the quality of one’s relationship.”
A big thing I’ve had a problem with on social media is misconceptions in messages. If you know me, I can be incredibly sarcastic; I try to make it clear with my tone and over-exaggeration. On social media, sarcasm is much more difficult to detect because, obviously, you can’t hear their voice. It’s easier to understand when people type “!!11!1!!!!1!” or are being ironic with their emoji usage. A girl on Snapchat, whom I’m associated with, posted a video of some Bonner Springs kids throwing baby powder at a football game with (something to the effect of) the caption “Come on, Mill Valley.” Because I legitimately thought she didn’t understand why we had baby powder banned from football games, I told her the reason why we couldn’t use it. Some boy grabbed her phone and responded for her, essentially telling me, in the rudest way possible, she was being sarcastic. Because I couldn’t wrap my head around how that could be sarcasm, I went back and watched the video again. This time, I turned the volume up and heard my friend say something obviously sarcastic in the background. I apologized to the girl for the misunderstanding and went on with my night. I sort of hated myself for a while after that, and I’m even more wary on social media because of it.
Finally, a big negative effect of social media I’ve faced is the feeling of exclusion and loneliness. For some reason, I’ve done a good job of inserting myself into groups of tight-knit friends who do everything together. I see how much fun they’re having on Snapchat and Instagram all the time. I see how they have sleepovers and go to movies and go shopping and all those girly things. A thought crosses my mind: why wasn’t I invited? Throughout middle school and high school, I’ve talked to my mom about my exclusion and she has insisted they just don’t think of me and that I need to put myself out there more. This isn’t a rare occurrence for me, which is why whenever I notice myself feeling a little out of place in the friend group, I simply avoid those Snapchats or Instagram pictures. The exclusion hurts, and the feeling almost triggers unprecedented resentment.
As many negative effects of social networking there are, it’s important to realize the other side of the spectrum. Social media does connect people and build relationships, but there are so many things that can go wrong on social media. People and their feelings are crushed, and so many people enjoy hiding behind a username. As a result, cyberbullying is a massive effect of the social media culture. The psychology of social media — like group polarization, groupthink, deindividuation, social traps, aggression and such — comes into play and hits where it hurts. There is so much to lose through social networking, and it’s impossible to overcome or stop it.