Social media has grown at an extraordinarily fast pace. The first email was sent in 1971 and 45 years later one in four people use social networking sites worldwide according to an article written in Medical News Today by Honor Whiteman. Social media has both good and bad attributes like anything else within our society. The ability to connect instantly with someone and know the personal details about them is irresistible. The Lord created us to fellowship with one another so it’s a natural instinct to crave attention and companionship.
Is Social Media Harmful?
The problem lies within each individual’s ability to exhibit self-control and sadly the majority of social media users are teens between the ages of 13 and 17. According to Internet Safety 101 over 72% of teens have a social media profile with 47% having it viewable by the public. As a mother of five girls this is a frightening statistic. The thought that sexual predators have such easy access to young adults is unnerving. This same site states that 1 in 7 kids will receive a sexual solicitation online. In my personal experience teenagers as a whole are not making wise decisions about their personal safety and morality. Their transition from child to adulthood during their teen years is like a ship being tossed back and forth in a storm. One day they seem wise beyond their years the next they’re behaving like an irresponsible kid. And the irony of it is they don’t even know why they do it. 😯
There isn’t just the concern about stalkers or predators when using social media, there’s also a mental health consideration. Facebook Addiction has become so prevalent that researchers in Norway have published a “psychological scale to measure Facebook addiction.” It is called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale. This scale has six basic questions with answers ranging from 1 to 5 with 1 being “very rarely” and 5 being “very often.” If you answer four or more questions with “often” or “very often” you would be classified as addicted to Facebook. Another researcher states that the term Facebook Addiction is already outdated and that another psychometrically validation tool is needed to assess overall “social networking” addiction.
The internal need to feel accepted as part of our peer group happens even at the adult level. A doctor friend of mine said she recently deleted her Facebook account because she realized how it was making her feel inadequate. She said one of her FB friends was always posting her family, home, parties, and vacations which made the doctor feel she wasn’t as accomplished as the “Super Mom.” This is a doctor of rheumatology with two small children who is happy and well-adjusted. The doctor deleted her FB account after dropping by the FB friend’s home unexpectedly and seeing the reality. A messy house, screaming unkempt children, and an in-house nanny cooking dinner. 🙂 We discussed that online posts are the “best moments” in a home and not the normal everyday life we all live with each day. It’s a fantasy world that everyone, adults included, can become entangled in very easily.
Teenagers struggle most with this level of social media, the fiction versus non-fiction. Teens inherently believe that everyone else is better than they are in some way. When they become engrossed with social media platforms they feel that “everyone” is doing something more exciting than they are or that they have more friends, or more fun, or more whatever. It places a heavy burden on the shoulders of these kids who want to excel. They feel pressured to be the best student, athlete, or social butterfly. Parents (myself included) unknowingly place these pressures on their children just wanting the best for them. We all want our children to achieve more than we ever thought about in our lifetime. Now, social media increases that pressure by creating a competition among their peers with parents knowing other children’s accomplishments. Life as a teenager is more difficult now than ever.
Cyberbullying is another harmful aspect of social media today. Internet Safety 101 states that 95% of social media using teens have witnessed cyberbullying and 43% said they have experienced some sort of cruel behavior online in the past year. All five of my daughters have witnessed or been the victim of online attacks. All of my girls are well-adjusted and open (sometime to open, but that’s another post) with me. I am saddened by the cruelty that kids are capable of and I am certain that if they were face to face with the person that many of the vicious words would never be said. Children are being emotionally beaten down by others which will lead to a loss of who that child could become. Their futures are being damaged by the media driven frenzy to have notoriety. The worse the offense the more famous they become today.
The Helpful Side of Social Media
In the study Happiness is Viral, Thanks to Social Media it was determined that a positive post to social media networks would cause additional positive posts. In fact, the addition of positive posts versus negatives was an increase of 0.5% indicating that the happier people were the happier their friends were too. The other obvious positive aspect of social media is the ability to share joy with others even over a long distance. Families and friends can live around the world and still connect regularly through the internet and social media.
Another key component of the helpful side is networking within business circles. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are mega sites that are being used for business connections. This allows companies to find that special person for a more precise fit within their area of expertise. Networking is being used to help boost sales and create meetings with key people. It can also be a useful tool with target marketing. Target marketing is when a business aims all of its marketing towards a specific well-defined group. The intent is to focus only on customers that are most likely to buy. This allows for smaller marketing budgets with higher returns.
Also a positive benefit of social media is information. Information that can help you locate the best budgeting software, or help you find ideas to decorate your home, or maybe even a blog like this with a variety of home life topics. Pinterest is one of the best social media sites for creative ideas. People post ideas from all over the world which gives you so many different perspectives from your typical local views. We now have an abundance of information at our fingertips. No more driving to your local library or pulling out your encyclopedia just ask the question and you will get more answers than you bargained for.
Social Media: Harmful AND Helpful
The bottom line is social media is both, harmful and helpful. I would place it right there with food, both harmful and helpful it just depends on us. Food can be healthy, good for your body and mind or it can be damaging. Eating lots of junk food with no real beneficial fruits and veggies leads to a huge amount of issues. Not only physical health issues, but mental issues as well. Poor body image and illness is harmful for our overall emotional health. If our bodies aren’t healthy our minds won’t be either. The same analogy holds true for social media. If online interaction is balanced with face to face contact the effects of social media should stay on a positive helpful level. If you feel yourself becoming a little too consumed with the online attractions be sure to set some limits. Monitor your children’s online usage closely and encourage face time (no pun intended) with others without their phones, ipads, or tablets. Be sure that you have healthy every day face to face interaction with your family, social media is not a substitute. Exercise, eat healthy, and have fun!
Till Next Time,
**Disclaimer: The information within this post are my personal views and feelings.