Sigmund Freud believed that the psyche, what we call our personality, has three structures: the Id, the ego and the superego. The Id is the structure of personality consisting of our base instincts. It is completely unconscious and has zero contact with reality. The ego is the structure that concerns with reality and is considered as the reasoning and decision making part of the personality. Both the Id and the ego have no morality, which is ultimately taken care of by the superego. The invention of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others, paved the way for a virtual human interaction cutting across geographic racial, cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. Social media, which was once created to be a way for people to interact with people from all around the world, has turned into an isolation device for humans to interact with. We as a society and as individuals do not realize that what is known as human civilization is now characterized as a civilization living in two worlds: the real world and the virtual world. The world perceived by Freud is much different from the world we live in today. When Freud created this theory, he could not perceive a world with such advancements in technology, especially those having the ability to change a human’s mental state. Social media is used to foster communication. Yes, social media sounds great and it’s fun to use. But what people don’t take into consideration when using social networking sites is the negative effects it has on an individual such as: lowering self-esteem, anxiety, depression and the vulnerability to being catfished or cyberbullied. This is a problem that millions of people are facing, but don’t even realize that social media is to blame due to their lack of knowledge on the issue. This problem is growing tremendously and needs to be addressed more seriously.
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Anxiety is the feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Depression is a feeling of severe despondency and dejection, both of which if not recognized and treated properly can lead to even more serious problems such as suicidal thoughts or suicide itself. According to Jacob Amedie, social media causes anxiety and depression in two ways: by being constantly alert, and constantly trying to reach perfection. People may not realize it, but as they are sitting there waiting for a new social media message they are forcing their fight or flight limbic system to kick in which causes a release of the stress hormone, cortisol. This may not sound all that bad, but eventually enough of it can cause you to undergo some serious mental changes which could later lead to physical changes. For example, the constant release of the stress hormone cortisol, from heavy social media usage, over time causes damage to your gastrointestinal tract (gut), which opens the door to an immune-inflammatory response in the body and brain, leading to depression anxiety. When things turn physical, it all of the sudden sounds more serious.
Another way that social media causes anxiety and depression, Amedie argues, is through the idea of perfection. The social anxiety of stress is portrayed by trying to project a perfect self at all times. The continuous stress from constantly trying to project an image of perfection? ”a perfect career, perfect marriage, perfect life??”leads to the release of the exact same hormone, cortisol. This idea of trying to be viewed as perfect leads people to create a false intimacy. Primarily because social media promotes putting up a facade that highlights all the fun, excitement and success we seem to enjoy but tells very little about where we are struggling in our day to day life (Amedie 9). Many would rather embrace this happy illusion of virtual connection rather than share and develop real life relationships. An example showcasing the damage of the false sense of intimacy created by social media is that a friend of mine who goes to the gym often, posted a selfie and it was not received very well on facebook. It started out fine with twenty or so likes, and friendly, encouraging, congratulatory remarks about her getting into shape. But then someone commented negatively on the photo, jeering about her current weight. Other spiteful comments followed, first by Facebook friends she had that I knew about, but then strangers started to insult her appearance as well calling her with ethnic slurs. Eventually she was forced to take the photo down, because the comments were becoming too obscene and could not be ignored any longer. Whether or not social media creates or promotes this issue, people still participate in it partially because they fail to see the dangers in doing so.
In a recent study, Joanne Davila and a few of her colleagues conducted an experiment on social networking and depressive symptoms among youth. During the study they came across two related variables: co-rumination and depressive rumination. Co-rumination refers to excessive discussion of problems within friendships, including repeated conversations, conjecture about causes, and heightened focus on negative emotions. Given the frequency that young individuals engage in social networking activities, they are more likely to be involved in co-ruminating. For example, imagine the life of a teenage girl. Social media is the perfect go to medium for these repeated discussions because it allows for the constant rehashing of the conversations over these girls’ problems, which ultimately causes them to obsess over the problem and prevent them from moving on in life. In the past, girls would write about their problems in journals or confide in peers over the phone. But now social media is the primary source for teens to vent current problems in their lives. This is where the issue comes into place. When a teen posts a problem online it is likely to receive both positive and negative feedback and comments, which causes an obsession to develop on this post. Once something is shared online, it can never be taken off; even if the post is erased it can still be taken as a screenshot on another device, leading the sender to further into anxiety and depression. Davila discovered that adolescents involved in co-rumination, are associated with a more immediate and direct negative effect of depression and may encounter more severe symptoms. Depressive rumination refers to passively focusing on symptoms of distress and their possible causes and consequences, leading to a fixation on problems and negative feelings. Davila discovered that individuals who are prone to depressive rumination are more likely to use social networking sites because of their dependent nature and have negative social networking experiences because of their interpersonal problems, and those experiences may be particularly depressogenic because of their tendency to ruminate on them (Davila 2).
Besides the fact that social media can cause anxiety and depression, it can also cause other serious problems that are psychologically related. In Online Social Networking and Mental Health, Pantic deals with the affects social media has on the mental health of its users. Pantic states that some scientists have indicated that certain social networking site’s activities might be associated with low self-esteem, especially in teens. One of the explanations regarding the negative relationship between social media and self-esteem, is that all social networking platforms where self-presentation is the principal user activity, causes or at least promotes narcissistic behavior. This indicates that individuals with lower self-esteem are more active online in terms of having more self-promotional content on their social media profiles (Pantic 5). For example, the typical Facebook user will every day have multiple visits to his/her own profile page during which he/she will view his/her already posted photographs, biographical data, relationship status, and so on. All of these events, especially in light of similar data obtained from other users’ profiles, may lead to either a short-term or a long-term reduction in self-esteem. It is probable, however, that the overall impact of social networking sites on self-esteem is much more complex. Constant self-evaluation on an everyday basis, competition and comparing one’s own achievements with those of other users, incorrectly perceiving physical, emotional, and social characteristics of others, feeling of jealousy, and narcissistic behavior??”these are all factors that may positively or negatively influence self-esteem.
Social media is not only capable of shaping or changing a person’s personality, but also capable of shaping and changing a person’s physical features as well. Kim Harris, a teacher at a Korean school, wrote an article regarding social media’s impact on a person’s psychological well-being. Harris wrote that social media can shape a person’s views and beliefs and the way they see things through adaptation and imitation. Violent content, whether it’s from an online video game, a live video, or a made-up cartoon, can affect an individual psychologically by encouraging antisocial attitudes and aggressive tendencies among adolescents and adults. Social media exposure is found to be associated with the outcomes of negative self-perception, eating disorders and substance abuse (Harris 3). Looking at the effects of social media on the brain one can see how this has a negative effect on the psychological aspects of one’s life.
Psychological effects take place due to popular activities online. Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. Paul Malcore stresses that cyberbullying occurs when individuals use technology to write aggressive, embarrassing, or hateful messages to and about peers in order to intimidate, harass, shame, and control them. Malcore states that approximately 80% of teens use a smart-phone regularly, 92% of teens report going online at least once a day, and 56% go online several times a day (Malcore). With social media having such high activity, teens will either witness cyberbullying, be a victim of it, or become a perpetrator. Statistically speaking, 81% of teens state that cyberbullying is easier to get away with than with face-to-face contact. The rest believe that it’s just entertaining or funny. Many teens also bully because of anger, revenge, or as a way to vent frustrations. Teens have also been known to cyberbully because they are bored, have too much time on their hands, or an abundance of tech toys. Cyberbullies may also participate to avoid being bullied themselves. Cyberbullying comes in many different forms. Teens and even adults partake in excluding others from an online group, cyberstalking, gossip, outing/trickery, harassment, impersonation, cyber threats and flaming which is known as fighting online that involves hateful or offensive messages. Cyberbullying is one of the most important and most common forms of social media issue. People don’t take into consideration when bullying someone on social media is that cyberbullying often leads to suicide which has in fact increased severely over the years. According to Malcore, cyberbullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide. Another popular activity on social media is catfishing. This is a trend that is increasing as people are putting more of themselves and their life on social media. Catfishing is the act of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona. Sue Scheff, a blogger on Huffington Post, wrote an article on catfishing and the issues behind it. Scheff states that catfishing is a trend that is especially popular with predators such as pedophiles, human traffickers and other criminals. Catfishing is an easy method to prey on people, especially those who are uneducated on the problem. A lot of human traffickers use catfishing to entice teens into an industry which holds fake promises of modeling, traveling, becoming famous, and receiving a lot of money (Scheff). Social media is an easily accessible way to indirectly lure children and teens into being kidnapped. In conclusion, cyberbullying and catfishing are two dangerous issues that should be discussed more in depth on ways to resolve this problem.
While some people believe that social media only negatively affects an individual psychologically, others seem to believe that social media can also have positive effects on an individual’s psyche. When considering the positive effects of social media, it is important to remember that individuals in today’s society are hardwired for socialization, and social media makes socializing easy and immediate. Individuals who struggle with social skills, social anxiety, or who don’t have easy access to face-to-face socializing with other teens might benefit from connecting with other teens through social media. For example, teens in marginalized groups, including LGBTQ teens and teens struggling with mental health issues, can find support and friendship through the use of social media. When teens connect with small groups of supportive teens via social media, those connections can be the difference between living in isolation and finding support. Although Kim Harris’s main focus was on the negatives, she did however provide a counter argument. In “The Impact of Online Social Networking on Adolescent Psychological Well-being,” Harris states that certain kinds of media can actually produce positive and pro-social attitudes. It’s been proven that social media can even be used to teach problem solving skills. Harris mentions that social media creates learning opportunities, greater access to health promoting information, and ways to socialize. Jacob Amedie focused mainly on the negative effects, but he did mention some positives. Amedie states that social media allows for groups of like-minded people to work together and connect. He expresses that social media also benefits students. Social networking sites help students do significantly better in school by allowing students to connect and interact with one another on assignments through social media platforms. For example, some schools successfully use blogs as teaching tools, which also has the benefit of reinforcing skills in English, grammar, written expression and creativity. Some social media sites have even been known to help raise self-esteem and increase a sense of belongingness. While there are some positives to using social media, the negatives can however, heavily outweigh the positives.
Where there is a problem, there must be a solution. The first step in solving this crisis, is to educate individuals on the proper use of social media and the dangers associated with the improper use of sites. Parents should be more responsible with monitoring their children’s social media sites. With the help of parents, cyberbullying and catfishing can be eliminated tremendously. In schools, social media is required to be used by the children for numerous reasons. Instead of only relying on parents to educate their children on the issue, schools should be required to provide social media education classes. Another way to educate people in a much faster way would be public service announcements. All people whether they are children, teenagers or adults, should be educated on the proper use of social media. However, educating people isn’t enough; we should also hold social media creators more accountable for the content they allow on their sites. As a last resort, laws could be created to enact, oversight, and enforce penalties on social media abuse. Overall, there isn’t much that can be done regarding the use of social media without interfering with the people’s rights as well as those of the corporations. The improper use of social media can have horrifying outcomes that requires our attention. It’s a major part of our world today, and will likely become even more so in the future, which is why these issues must be addressed. If these issues remain unsolved the psychological issues people are facing today will only continue to evolve eventually leading to creations of new psychological disorders.
What effects does social media have on an individual. (2019, Apr 05).
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