Seventy-eight percent of adults have some form of social media, ranging from just a Facebook account to having multiple accounts (Instagram, Twitter, etc). Social networking has found a way into everyone's lives, affecting them in a variety of ways, both positive and negative. With 63 percent of people logging into their social networking sites daily, it is easy for these sites to have an effect on their audience.
Individuals use these kinds of social networking sites to remain in touch with friends and family, and perhaps meet others that they would have no way to otherwise. While it can be a good tool to maintain relationships, social media use has been linked to some negative effects on the individual's mental health. Depression and anxiety levels are higher among those who use their social media more often.
People compare their lives to others' through the differences in their posts. Individuals often evaluate themselves against their friends and family that they are connected to, judging by what they do or do not do compared to others.
How social media affects cultural standards
Social media is representing unrealistic standards to others by the posts that are shown or have the most "likes." The standards that are created on these social media sites are causing some people (especially those with depression and anxiety) to conform to society's standards. An opinion that is stated that is out of the norm can cause that user to be shunned or for arguments to break out for the world to see, generating embarrassment for the individual.
Teenagers seem to be affected the most by social media, with some reporting a lost of sleep because of their need to be "on" with their peers, in their community. Social networking has had a larger impact on today's teenagers because they are growing up with it as a constant present compared to past generations who are just now being introduced into it after their brains are fully developed. 2
How social media affects communities
Social media is beginning to affect our community as well. Conversations that are held face-to-face are beginning to transform. Messaging over social networks and text messaging is causing conversations to lack in depth and complexity. Not only does it create a change in the way we communicate with each other, it is making it harder for people who have anxiety to have conversations. They can no longer hide behind the screen of their phone or computer and think about what they want to say or how they want to present themselves. Their crutch is gone.
Why users like social media
On a positive note, social networking can spread happiness to others. Cheerful posts or videos that are shared among friends can bring people together and spread some much needed smiles. Social media is also a terrific tool to remain in contact with friends and family, while also providing a forum to reach out and meet new people. This is producing a new sense of community among the people who are subscribed to these sites, allowing people from all over the world to be able to meet virtually.
Social media keeps people coming back to their respective sites through positive reinforcements. The "likes" we receive create a feeling of well-being that our brain will begin to naturally crave, after all everyone appreciates praise. The brain releases the same chemicals at these virtual rewards as it does when we eat fast food or use drugs. When our posts don't receive the attention we think it deserves it affects us negatively.
Social networking has undeniably affected our society, producing both negative and positive outcomes on both an individual level and for the entire community. It is still too soon to know if there won't be any more positives to come out of social media use, but for now the negative effects it can have outweighs the positives.
Whiteman, H. (2014, April 16). "Social media: how does it affect our mental health and well-being?". Medical News Today.
Edorie, J. E. (15, September 16). Social Media is harming the mental health of teenagers. The state has to act. Retrieved July 30, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/16/social-media-mental-health-teenagers-government-pshe-lessons