It’s something that is so heavily ingrained in our daily lives now. We use social media so often that the current generation is practically raised immersed in it. However, what is social media?
The term ‘social media’ can be defined as “websites and computer programs that allow people to communicate and share information on the internet using a computer or mobile phone” (Cambridge English Dictionary, 2018). In actuality, the term is more often used to describe and refer to the platforms and applications that we post and share information on, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
Social media and social networking have provided everyone with a range of benefits, and opportunities to express themselves. People can maintain social relationships, whether it be with friends, family etc., in ways that would otherwise be impossible, or difficult without social media. The communities and social interactions that people form online can be important to one’s self-confidence and social skills. However, as with everything, there are issues that can be found with frequent social media usage.
Psychologists have conducted studies that focus on how social media affects and is affected by our behaviour and moods. One study, conducted by Primack, Shensa, Sidani et al. in 2017 found that people who use social media more frequently also report feeling more socially isolated and alienated. According to the study, people who were frequently on social media – for two hours or more per day – were twice as likely to feel more socially isolated in comparison to people who spent less than half an hour per day on it. To add to this, other studies have also found that the more time that is spent on social media, several psychological issues such as depression, jealously, low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority are also reported.
The psychological issues that can occur with frequent social media use can negatively affect one’s mental health, thus affecting their human dignity and perceived self-worth. People tend to post moments that are considered to be ‘highlights’ on their social media profiles, sharing moments in their lives where they are seen to be happier and keep more unpleasant or unexciting moments ‘out of the spotlight’. However, others may create comparisons between themselves and others based on the social media posts seen. An example of this could be, seeing pictures of people on vacations could invoke feelings of jealousy, whilst pictures of people, especially close peers, at fun events could invoke feelings of exclusion. Sharing photos and posts of idealised representations of our lives can negatively affect people around us, possibly inciting feelings of envy. This could lead to people having a distorted belief that the lives our peers lead are more successful, or that they are happier in comparison to ourselves. Thus, increasing the degrading feelings that are perceived unto ourselves, further damaging our self-esteem and loss of human dignity.
Social media is now heavily ingrained in the way we socialise and communicate with others, whether it be with people who are overseas and are long-distances away from us, or with people who you see often. Social media has given us a way to communicate and connect with others all around the world almost instantly, decreasing the reliance that we have on other forms of communication, such as snail mail. However, it also encourages the development of ant-social behaviours, as the easy access to online communication can be used as a replacement to offline, face-to-face communication. To add to this, social media has also introduced a new form of harassment and bullying: cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can be defined as aggressive acts that intend to harm someone and involves a power imbalance between the victim and the bully, all through the use of electronic media (Kowalski & Limber, 2007). Bullying, in all forms, is a horrible act that can be associated with the increase of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, whilst also increasing certain behaviours such as substance use, violent or unsafe sexual habits, and suicidal thoughts and tendencies. When someone bullies another, they are denying them the dignity that they deserve.
The introduction of social media has heavily influenced the way that we communicate and share information. However, the effects of social media on our mental wellbeing, our relationships with people and our human dignity can be subjective. Our usage of social media can heavily affect our psychological health, and depending on how we use it, it can dictate our sense of self-worth and acceptance and can affect how we view our lives to be.