Negative Effects and Disadvantages of Social Media

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Over the years, advancements in technology created an incredibly powerful social force and have significantly influenced modern culture. In today's world, it is clear that social media plays an important role in impacting culture and economy. Many people turn to social media to share information, ideas, videos, connect with others, etc. One of the most popular social media sites, Facebook, has 1.4 billion users around the world, therefore helping people to learn and share information instantaneously. Although there are many benefits to social media, there are also a lot of downsides and detrimental side effects that have impacted society and culture. Social media is turning society into one of the most antisocial generations, replacing the emotional support of human companionship with virtual connection. According to research, social media can become easily addictive, can create an obsession with self-image and can destroy interpersonal relationships, leading to antisocial behavior. It is also an easily accessible tool for criminals and terrorists allowing them to commit illegal acts. All these effects of social media can lead to physiological, emotional and psychological issues such as depression.

In the past ten years, there has been a significant rise in depression rates. In a society like today’s, it is undeniable that these significant rises in depression have to do with social media. According to the study by Primack, Barrett & Colditz (2017), about 90% of young adults in the U.S. use social media, and the majority of users visit these sites at least once a day. In their study they found that individuals who engage in social media reported a 70% increase in depressive symptoms and a 42% increase in social anxiety.

Social media plays a big role in affecting an individual’s sense of identity and how they view and portray themselves. When people base their identity on what others perceive, they develop a twisted version of their own worth and value. For example, the increase in depression results from the loss of self-esteem, especially in young girls, when they compare themselves negatively with models on social media platforms. They constantly compare themselves to modified and photo-shopped images of women, where they appear to be skinny and flawless. Those with poor self-image or self-esteem are those at greatest risk for depression, suicide, delinquency, and many eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. According to the study by Slevec & Tiggemann (2011), 31% of women aspired to look like actresses Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie, which were nominated for their attractive appearance (95%; e.g., slim, attractive, beautiful hair, nice smile, gorgeous figure, natural beauty). The study also found that 80% of women are unhappy with their appearance and approximately 45% are dieting on any given day, developing an obsession, which is contributing in to depression among women.

Many individuals are also accustomed to creating the impression that everything in their life is picture perfect and are trying to project this unrealistic perception of perfection within their social network. But it becomes too difficult to maintain this facade, resulting in increased levels of stress, anxiety and other mental and emotional problems. The constant stress from constantly trying to project an image of perfection leads to the release of the stress hormone cortisol. As a result, the constant release of the stress hormone cortisol, from heavy social media usage, over time causes damage to the gastrointestinal tract, which opens the door to an immuno-inflammatory response in the body and brain, leading to depression (O’Reilly, Dogra, Whiteman & Hughes, 2018).

These social media platforms can serve as a digital looking glass lens. The "looking-glass self" is a psychological concept coined by Charles Horton Cooley, that suggests that individuals develop their concept of self by observing how they are perceived by others. According to Geccas (1983), having this mindset often leads to obsession with self-presentation and constant thoughts of judgements that people make. The rise of social media makes the process of the looking-glass self even more complex because they have brought with it the concept of “cyber” self, which is the version a person chooses to present on any social media site (Gecas, 1983). These unique qualities of the cyber self can eventually lead to a lot of psychological issues. For example, they may be too involved in creating their online identities, instead of developing their real-world identity which can result in depression.

The constant use of social media can result in Internet Addiction Disorder. The addictive aspect of social media is mostly associated with the fear of missing out (FOMO). FOMO is the fear of not being connected to the social world, and that need to feel connected sometimes trumps whatever’s going on in the actual situation. This is also a major risk for social isolation. Social media sites are designed to help people connect but causing the opposite effect to make feel users more alone. People are so distracted on several social sites that they will often neglect to have actual face to face human interactions. Consequently, this denies people of human contact and interferes with the formation of interpersonal relationships. The study by Primack, Shensa & Rosen (2017), assessed 1,800 young adults, on the frequency of use of social media networks, and their total amount of time on them. The people surveyed who were the most frequent users of the network spent at least two hours each day and had twice the odds for perceived social isolation. In addition, those who checked into the networks 58 or more times in a single week had three times the likelihood of isolation than those who checked in just nine times in the same period. A lot of individuals depression develops when individuals spend excessive amounts of time on social media sites. Staying connected with peers is an important element of social life. However, social media requires constant engagement, which creates a factor of self-awareness that may trigger depression in some people.

It is clear that social media can lead to many emotional and psychological problems, but it can also lead to many physiological problems such as loss of sleep. The study by Fuller (2017), found that late night usage of technology with light-emitting screens before bed impacts quality of sleep. The blue light of screens was found to inhibit the release of melatonin, which the body uses to regulate sleep. According to Fuller, one of the most common contributors to depression in teenagers is sleep deprivation which can be caused by social media. His study has shown that 60 percent of adolescents look at their phones in the last hour before sleep, and that they get on average an hour less sleep. These adolescents are more prone to difficulty falling asleep, less REM sleep, grogginess, even after a full night of sleep (Fuller, 2017). Since the quantity and quality of sleep is important for adolescent development, this kind of social media usage can negatively affect youth cognitively and developmentally.

Another major issue of social media is the enabling of criminal activities. Many criminals have taken advantage of social media platforms to lie, scam, attack, and hurt others. In addition, they hide their identity and commit several crimes such as cyber bullying and cyber terrorism. With the advancements in technology, new form of bullying has emerged, called cyber-bullying. In cyber-bullying, aggression occurs through social media that puts individuals in emotional and social danger. Cyber bullying has become a major issue over the years, as it allows people to hide their identity posing as someone else, through false identities to terrorize or humiliate their victims. This has left people with deep mental scars and has been associated with an increased risk of suicidal behaviors, as well as an increased risk of depression. Kowalski & Limber (2013), examined the relationship between adolescents' experiences with cyberbullying and psychological health and physical health. They found that 21% of respondents were involved at least once within the past couple of months with cyberbullying as victim. They stated that cyberbullying results in low self-esteem, depression, self-harm and behavioral problems (Kowalski & Limber, 2013). This research indicates that there has been an increase of mental health issues over the past view years, including rises in the numbers of depression, anorexia, and cutting, all having something to do with the internet.

Another dangerous aspect of social media is that it’s an easily accessible tool for criminals and terrorist groups. Terrorists adopted the use of media for the purpose of recruiting members, gathering information, fund raising, and for propaganda schemes. According to Weimann (2008), over the last 16 years, media platforms used by terrorist groups has increased from 12 to over 9,800 terrorist websites. After the tragedy of 9/11, many terrorist groups, such as the Jihadist movements and al-Qaida moved to cyberspace. Furthermore, recruiting new members has become easier with the growing use of social media. For them it’s a useful source to target the young and emotionally weak for recruits. For example, the movement “lone-wolf terrorism” is taken advantage of social media through the virtual packs behind them, in which there is somebody who trains, guides, and launches them. The tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the Tsarnaev brothers, were recruited and radicalized through social media (Beydoun, 2018). Authorities were able to trace their online footprints on twitter, Facebook and YouTube and found that the brothers may have aspired to be more formally linked to an existing terror network. They were subscribed to extremist Islamic beliefs developed through online material and messages. Because of their continuous exposure to extremist views through social media, they developed emotional and psychological problems such as isolation, disillusion, and depression, thus becoming easily influenced and radicalized through the online content of social media. All in all, one can infer that social media is one of the many sources of emotional issues such as depression, isolation and unstable personality. 

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Negative Effects and Disadvantages of Social Media. (2020, Apr 17). Retrieved June 20, 2024 , from

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