The Deleterious Poison that is Social Media

Louisa Rux                                                                                                                                                  1/22/16

Social media is an immense part of our culture. It reflects our current pop culture, our friends, our political views, what we choose to believe in based on our culture’s trends, and much more. CEO and founder of Common Sense James P. Steyer stated in a press release that, “Today’s thirteen through seventeen year olds are the first generation to go through their entire teen years with such an array of digital devices and platforms.” Mr. Steyer is not wrong here, as more than 95% of teens today have a social media platform of some kind, and 70% hide their online behaviors from their parents. This of course has aroused many dangers of social media, and our current statistics show that social media causes more harm to our generation than benefit.

Dangers of social media include cyber-bullying, harassment, stalking, media addiction, privacy issues, and even sleep deprivation, as concluded by researchers and organizations such as American Academy of Pediatrics, PEW Research Center, Journal of Adolescent Health, and many others.

Social media is a harmful drug and should be disbanded, due to the fact that it leads to social media addiction, stalking, and cyber-bullying.

A: Sweet Tooth for the Media

In this year, 95% of teens have one form of social media. Only 41% actually admit to feeling addicted, but in studies over the past few years it is becoming more and more apparent that addiction to social media is a real problem. MRI research has shown that the brains of regular Internet users who have trouble refraining from their devices, to exhibit changes similar to drug and alcohol abusers. A 2011 study showed unplugging from technology for one day (specifically social media), made the users go through both physical and mental symptoms, just like a drug or alcohol addict. Many will feel that social media is a convenient and easy way to connect with friends. However, research by scientists in Geesthacht Germany from the Institute for Coastal Research have found that constantly viewing images and posts of other people’s vacations, achievements, happy relationships, etc. make users experience feelings of envy and depression. Researchers even refer to this phenomenon as Facebook depression. Focus group discussions with teens show that the teens have waning enthusiasm for Facebook, disliking the increasing adult presence, people excessively sharing about their private life, and stressful “drama”, but they keep using it because participation is an important part of overall teenage socializing. In other words, they have succumbed to their addiction, their “sweet tooth”.

B: Signal Fires and Bread Crumb Trails

Another issue that has come up in social media is stalking. Social media has made stalking ten times easier, due to the excessive amount of personal info that is posted and shared. It is basically a signal fire. 26% of Americans say they post more personal information on social media now than they did a year ago. On social media, people post their interests, where they are going for the day, who they are hanging out with, where and what they are eating, their jobs, their personal life, their favorite hangouts, etc. and there is quite an array of ways to let the world know all about who you are. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 91% of social media users post a photo of themselves, 71% post their school name, 71% post the city they live in, 92% post their full name, 84% post their interests, 82% post their birth date, 62% post their relationship status, and 20% post their phone number. Only 26% of teens post a fake name, or refrain from sharing their full name. Of course, many people will argue that there is an option to keep your profile or account private, but American Academy of Pediatrics reports that all private profiles can be broken into easily, if accessed at all. For example, 66% of Facebook users did not know that privacy controls existed, or did not know how to access them. And with hundreds of different hacking websites and guides on the Internet, hacking into an account can be made easy for stalkers. Researchers also reflect that most social media users will put links to all of their other social media accounts onto their profile, basically a breadcrumb trail for stalkers. And with the option to add your location to your post, you’re lighting a signal fire for your stalker to find you.

C: A New Playground for Bullies

Cyber-bullying is one of the many things made easier through social media. It is an easy way for harassment to occur anonymously, a new, bigger playground for bullies to be cruel to their victims. Most cyber bullies will make dummy accounts and profiles so they can harass their victims without getting caught. This makes it hard for the victim to find who is bullying them. 88% of teens have seen someone be mean or cruel to another via social media, according to PEW Research Center statistics. Internet Safety 101’s research reflects that only 7% of parents are worried that their child will get bullied through social media, and yet 52% of teens have been bullied through social media. Even though cyber-bullying is a known fact, people aren’t known to stop it when it is seen. 95% of teens (in a poll taken by PEW Research Center) who have witnessed cruel behavior on social media reported that they saw others ignoring it, and 66% reported they saw others joining in. 25% of teens being bullied on social media have ended up having a face to face confrontation with their harasser, thanks to social media.

After much research it has also been concluded that cyber-bullying increases the likelihood of depression (not that this is a surprise). At the University of Alberta, studies were made examining the link between social media victimization and depression, and all of them found a connection. The research also discovered that the more cyber-bullying a teen experienced, more severe were his or her symptoms of depression. “There were consistent associations between exposure to cyber-bullying and increased likelihood of depression,” says Michelle Hamm, a researcher in pediatrics at the University of Alberta. Hamm also says teens typically suffer cyber-bullying in silence. She states, “Kids really are hesitant to tell anyone when cyber-bullying occurs… There seems to be a common fear that if they tell their parents, for example, they’ll lose their Internet and social media access.”

This not only proves that social media makes bullying all the worse, but that teens (and adults) are so infatuated with the media, that they cannot disconnect themselves from it even when they are being attacked and abused.

Social media can indeed be used for fun, and socialization. But it is an addictive, dangerous outlet that is easily accessed by stalkers and harassers. And based on our current statistics, the likelihood of these things being disbanded is slim. Adolescents have enough to worry about as it is, without having something as harmful as social media coming into their lives, and adults should be mature enough to say no. It is true there are some benefits, but our statistics more than prove that social media is a source of harm.