Opinion: We need to reevaluate the value, risks of social media

Every disruptive technology comes with unprecedented consequences, both positive and negative. The same can be said of the internet, or more specifically, social media, which has created false isolation and false connection, the growth of political turmoil and misinformation, and the erasure of individual privacy and wealth.

Fifty-four percent of 130 high school students who were victims of cyberbullying stopped using social media, according to a study by the Institute for Family Studies. Researchers also found that cyber-victimization and time spent online made the strongest contributions to explaining depression onset by social media use.

The Indian Journal of Psychiatry found that suicidal and self-harming youth utilize social networking sites as a medium to communicate with others suffering from similar mental health issues and seek social support. They also discovered that social media increases exposure to and engagement in self-harming behavior.

Google and Facebook have created programs and departments to maximize the usage of their platforms among users. These elements, such as endless scrolling and exploitation of the mere exposure effect, motivate users to constantly check their social media feed. The mere exposure effect describes that the more often one is exposed to a certain thing or application, the more they like it, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Dating sites such as Grindr and Tinder exploit the primal instincts of human desire. While they have good intentions, they are, at the end of the day, businesses. And they have to attract new customers and maintain returning customers to allow their service to continue.

As of 2020, 30% of U.S. adults say they have used a dating site or app, and only 12% of those users ended up in a committed relationship with a partner they found online, according to Pew Research Center. However, 45% of them said the experience left them more frustrated, compared to 28% feeling hopeful.

Unfortunately, increasing the number of choices does not increase the likelihood of selecting a partner.

As the options an individual is presented with increases beyond a reasonable point, the ability to make a satisfying decision decreases tremendously, according to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. When a user comes across a seemingly infinite number of potential matches, it becomes significantly harder to choose a single person.

However, these grim statistics and scenarios do not mean social media has zero benefits. It has become a useful communication method and allows individuals to instantly connect with others all around the world.

Users must be aware of what happens if they use a tool to an extreme. Social media can be used for good, but in its current state, with how it affects mental health and the well-being of its users, it must be reworked and reevaluated.


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