Social media have injected their way into people’s life spontaneously. A survey conducted by Pew Research has shown that about 77% of Americans owns smartphone and 7 in 10 of them admitted using multiple media platforms (Smith). The impact of this powerful tool on the youth is undeniable. Frankly to say, social media have become unseparated from the process of developing self-identity as well as reinforcing one’s relationship with society and with each other. Similar to medicine that has side effects, social media possess positive and negative consequences. On the one hand, this communication tool makes available numerous opportunities from networking to personal branding. On the other hand, it exposes people to a tremendous amount of information that causes many issues such as invasion of privacy to an identity crisis, especially for the youth (Furedi).
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In general, social media surround topic of identity. Currently, Facebook is one of the most popular sites with 68% of 18- to 24-year-olds Americans users following with Instagram (35%), Snapchat (27%), Linkedln (25%) and Twitter (24%), respectively (Smith and Anderson). All of these apps encourage members to displace their personal information from name, gender, location to employment status. An example of this requirement can be addressed by “Facebook real-name policy” which asks for physical proofs like driver license or student ID if the authentic name is suspected (Facebook.com). Under the innocent purpose of eliminating fake accounts, this policy further emphasizes how social media are pushing their users to a hyper-transparency culture. As a result, online and offline life are pulled closer together: interaction on the Internet is a reflection of a real-world situation.
Because the world is becoming more connected than ever, social relationships are getting easier to create as well as maintain. No longer the time people have to be in the same demographic to keep a relationship on track, communication tools can take care of that obstacle. Statistic from Pew Research demonstrates that 41% of 18- to 29-year-old admit feeling closer to their partners because of daily interaction on social media (Lenhart and Duggan). More impressively, 94% of teenagers spend most of their communication with friends on some forms of social sites (Anderson, Monica, and Jingjing Jiang). The active sharing of opinions and personal experiences on social media keep people in touch informatively and emotionally. Exchanging usernames between new friends has become a traditional etiquette among digital natives (Anderson, Monica, and Jingjing Jiang). Social media also touch their magic wand on professional life. In 2015, in the article “How to separate the personal and professional on social media,” Ollier-Malaterre and Rothbard reported: “40% to 60% of hiring managers use social media to screen potential hires…” This type of self-presentation is the main purpose of Linkedin, a site for employment networking (Linkedin.com). By displacing professional resumes as profile, members of Linkedin are exposed to various working opportunities as well as chances to build valuable connections. With the right use, social media strengthens our relationship both personally and professionally.
Social media is a place where people can be vocal about their problems. By encouraging the act of sharing opinions, it pushes people’s thought process on different types of topics, resulting in a generation more opened to debate and compromise. Today activist groups operate mainly on social sites. NOW, National Organization for Women, is a national group that fights for women rights and any issues surrounding their benefits. Its members mostly are active social media users who promote their feminist ideal and attracting similar interest on many sites like Facebook or Twitter. For example, NOW is calling its members to take action on “State-Level Abortion Bans” by gathering them through social sites to form protest (Mobilize for the reproduction justice). Not judging on the topic of right or wrong, NOW has taken advantaged of social tools to spread out their ideology and make sure their opinions can create tremendous impact on relevant events.
As good side comes with bad side, the over-presenting of personal information brings more harm than benefits. Social media have their stigma of encouraging privacy invasion, which is true in many cases. It’s not easy to control the person who observing another person’s profile on the other screen, including acknowledging their intentions. While sites like Instagram or Facebook reward their users for showing off life events’ photos by the number of “likes,” people can accidently leak out personal information that shouldn’t be presented to the public’s eyes (Harnish). For instance, parents often love posting pictures of their children on social media to show their pride. This innocent action attracts pedophiles who can steal the kids’ photos and later to re-post them on dark websites, putting these children as risk of sex trafficking (Kirkey). Another example is Facebook scandal of exploiting users’ data for advertising and political campaign, affecting up to 87 million people (Chang). Even though this event didn’t directly harm any individual, it shows how vulnerable privacy can be when people practice social media.
The younger generation often looks up to social media as a personal guide, which can lead to identity crisis. Teenager years are the time for adolescents to explore their values and roles in society. This is also the age of hyper-interacting on social media with 95% of them said to be constantly online, based on Pew Research’s statistic (Anderson, Monica, and Jingjing Jiang). Social sites are full of people with “perfect life:” glamorous photos, countless partying moments, fancy events. This created a generation of obsessing to self-image and a constant need for approval (Harnish). In fact, some people rather do anything for “likes” of million “friends” that they don’t know than the person in front of them. We select picture that has the best lighting, the best angles, the best effect which barely reflects ourselves in reality just to impress others. This portrays a false illusion which only makes users losing touch with realistic connection. The acts of seeking for validation and comparing each other’s life can easily lead to depression and going against one’s judgment just to feel fit in (Cherry). Cyberbullying is an example of identity crisis fueled by peer pressure, often results in tragic events like suicide (The Life and Death Consequences of Cyber Bullying). According to American Pew Research Centre, 43% of teenagers has experienced online bullying, and these victims have 2 to 9 time more likely to commit in suicide than others (Lenhart). Overexposure to social media can cause confusion and harm our youth in their journey of discovering self-identity.
All in all, social media present powerful tools encouraging human interaction as well as opening up opportunities for individuals to raise their voices, acting as a part of society. However, the imbalance of using social media can do more harm than good. Hyper-transparent culture exposes us to multiple risks that can invade privacy and cause identity crisis. To diminish these side effects, users should be careful on sharing personal information online and distinguish between false and realistic expectations.
• Cherry, Kendra. “Could You Be Experiencing an Identity Crisis?” Verywell Mind, 23 Mar. 2018, www.verywellmind.com/what-is-an-identity-crisis-2795948.
• Harnish, Amelia, and Ariel Davis. “We Need To Talk About This Unhealthy Social Media Behavior.” Who Am I Social Media Identity Crisis Instagram Stress, Refinery29, 27 Mar. 2017, www.refinery29.com/2017/03/146733/identity-crisis-causes-social-media-fake-world.
• Kirkey, Sharon. “Do You Know Where Your Child’s Image Is? Pedophiles Sharing Photos from Parents’ Social Media Accounts.” National Post, 18 Apr. 2017, nationalpost.com/news/canada/photos-shared-on-pedophile-sites-taken-from-parents-social-media-accounts.
• “The Life and Death Consequences of Cyber Bullying.” Organic Digital Consultancy, Organic, 14 Feb. 2018, theorganicagency.com/blog/life-death-consequences-cyber-bullying/.
• Chang, Alvin. “The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Scandal, Explained with a Simple Diagram.” Vox, Vox, 2 May 2018, www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/3/23/17151916/facebook-cambridge-analytica-trump-diagram.
• Furedi, Frank. “How the Internet and Social Media Are Changing Culture.” How the Internet and Social Media Are Changing Culture | Frank Furedi, 16 Feb. 2015, www.frankfuredi.com/article/how_the_internet_and_social_media_are_changing_culture1.
• Lenhart, Amanda, and Maeve Duggan. “Couples, the Internet, and Social Media | Pew Research Center.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 7 Apr. 2014, www.pewinternet.org/2014/02/11/couples-the-internet-and-social-media/.
• Lenhart, Amanda. “Cyberbullying | Pew Research Center.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 5 Feb. 2014, www.pewinternet.org/2007/06/27/cyberbullying/.
• Levin, Sam. “As Facebook Blocks the Names of Trans Users and Drag Queens, This Burlesque Performer Is Fighting Back.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 June 2017, www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/29/facebook-real-name-trans-drag-queen-dottie-lux.
• “Mobilize for Reproductive Justice.” National Organization for Women, now.org/nap/reproductive-justice/.
• Rothbard, Ariane Ollier-MalaterreNancy P. “How to Separate the Personal and Professional on Social Media.” Harvard Business Review, 26 Mar. 2015, hbr.org/2015/03/how-to-separate-the-personal-and-professional-on-social-media.
• Smith, Aaron. “Record Shares of Americans Have Smartphones, Home Broadband.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 12 Jan. 2017, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/.
• Smith, Aaron, and Monica Anderson. “Social Media Use 2018: Demographics and Statistics | Pew Research Center.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 19 Sept. 2018, www.pewinternet.org/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018/.
Benefits of personal branding. (2021, Mar 31).
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