There is no shortage of debates on whether or not the pros of social media outweigh its cons. While social media is beneficial in some ways, evidence is mounting that it does more harm than good.
A common complaint about younger generations is that they spend far too much time on their devices, mainly on their phones. The average person spends two and a half hours on social media every day, and the average teenager spends up to seven hours. These are hours that could be better spent learning something new, exercising, or communicating with others face-to-face. Instead, we are practically consumed by our phones. Who knows if Newton’s laws would even exist today if Isaac Newton had a phone to be preoccupied with?
The cloak of anonymity that social media provides can also be troubling. A University of Georgia study by Kathryn Kao found that “Teenagers who are addicted to social media are more likely to engage in cyberbullying, as well as those who spend more time online.” In fact, over one in three online users have been victims of cyberbullying. People are less likely to feel guilty about their comments on social media because they are unable to see the effect their words have on others from behind a screen.
Rather than creating real-life connections, people turn to social media in their free time. This has proven to have a negative effect on social skills and has hindered people’s abilities to interact successfully and meaningfully with others face-to-face. The Liberty Classical Academy recognizes these effects under five different categories: eye contact, phone skills, conversation, spatial awareness, and attention span. Studies have shown that the more time spent interacting online, the less capable people are of holding eye contact, speaking clearly, reading social cues, being aware of the surrounding world, and maintaining focus.
This is not an easy issue to address. “Due to the effect that it has on the brain, social media is addictive both physically and psychologically,” an article by Jena Hillard of the Addiction Center said. “According to a new study by Harvard University, self-disclosure on social networking sites lights up the same part of the brain that also ignites when taking an addictive substance.”
For the majority of people, social media does not reach this level of concern; however, these problematic effects play out to some degree in everyone. Have you ever noticed yourself struggling to focus while watching a movie or in class? Studies have shown that this is likely a result of social media usage, as apps like Instagram and TikTok dispense never-ending streams of short videos and pictures at the control of a single swipe.
In our current age of influencers, the unrealistic standards that are being presented on social media apps every day are also quite worrisome. Most people choose to broadcast only the best parts of their lives – their vacations, the pictures they believe are most flattering, their fun memories – leaving out the parts of their lives that don’t fit the aesthetic of their online personas.
Unfortunately, this has led to self-esteem issues for many, most notably women and girls, contributing to eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and a slew of other mental health problems.
Social media also allows for the rapid spread of misinformation. People are drawn to what affirms their beliefs, caring less about the factual truth than about being right. A study by MIT found that, despite some efforts from fact-checkers, incorrect information is 70% more likely to be reposted than truthful information. This data usually peaks during election years, contributing to the concerning polarization of the media and politics in this country.
Social media is quickly consuming the world, bringing a multitude of problems in tow. Upticks in cyberbullying, false information, unrealistic beauty standards, and its effect on our interpersonal skills prove that the human race is headed in a worrisome direction.