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Social media harms teens’ mental health, mounting evidence shows. what now.

Understanding what is going on in teens’ minds is necessary for targeted policy suggestions

A teen scrolls through social media alone on her phone.

Most teens use social media, often for hours on end. Some social scientists are confident that such use is harming their mental health. Now they want to pinpoint what explains the link.

Carol Yepes/Getty Images

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By Sujata Gupta

February 20, 2024 at 7:30 am

In January, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook’s parent company Meta, appeared at a congressional hearing to answer questions about how social media potentially harms children. Zuckerberg opened by saying: “The existing body of scientific work has not shown a causal link between using social media and young people having worse mental health.”

But many social scientists would disagree with that statement. In recent years, studies have started to show a causal link between teen social media use and reduced well-being or mood disorders, chiefly depression and anxiety.

Ironically, one of the most cited studies into this link focused on Facebook.

Researchers delved into whether the platform’s introduction across college campuses in the mid 2000s increased symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. The answer was a clear yes , says MIT economist Alexey Makarin, a coauthor of the study, which appeared in the November 2022 American Economic Review . “There is still a lot to be explored,” Makarin says, but “[to say] there is no causal evidence that social media causes mental health issues, to that I definitely object.”

The concern, and the studies, come from statistics showing that social media use in teens ages 13 to 17 is now almost ubiquitous. Two-thirds of teens report using TikTok, and some 60 percent of teens report using Instagram or Snapchat, a 2022 survey found. (Only 30 percent said they used Facebook.) Another survey showed that girls, on average, allot roughly 3.4 hours per day to TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, compared with roughly 2.1 hours among boys. At the same time, more teens are showing signs of depression than ever, especially girls ( SN: 6/30/23 ).

As more studies show a strong link between these phenomena, some researchers are starting to shift their attention to possible mechanisms. Why does social media use seem to trigger mental health problems? Why are those effects unevenly distributed among different groups, such as girls or young adults? And can the positives of social media be teased out from the negatives to provide more targeted guidance to teens, their caregivers and policymakers?

“You can’t design good public policy if you don’t know why things are happening,” says Scott Cunningham, an economist at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Increasing rigor

Concerns over the effects of social media use in children have been circulating for years, resulting in a massive body of scientific literature. But those mostly correlational studies could not show if teen social media use was harming mental health or if teens with mental health problems were using more social media.

Moreover, the findings from such studies were often inconclusive, or the effects on mental health so small as to be inconsequential. In one study that received considerable media attention, psychologists Amy Orben and Andrew Przybylski combined data from three surveys to see if they could find a link between technology use, including social media, and reduced well-being. The duo gauged the well-being of over 355,000 teenagers by focusing on questions around depression, suicidal thinking and self-esteem.

Digital technology use was associated with a slight decrease in adolescent well-being , Orben, now of the University of Cambridge, and Przybylski, of the University of Oxford, reported in 2019 in Nature Human Behaviour . But the duo downplayed that finding, noting that researchers have observed similar drops in adolescent well-being associated with drinking milk, going to the movies or eating potatoes.

Holes have begun to appear in that narrative thanks to newer, more rigorous studies.

In one longitudinal study, researchers — including Orben and Przybylski — used survey data on social media use and well-being from over 17,400 teens and young adults to look at how individuals’ responses to a question gauging life satisfaction changed between 2011 and 2018. And they dug into how the responses varied by gender, age and time spent on social media.

Social media use was associated with a drop in well-being among teens during certain developmental periods, chiefly puberty and young adulthood, the team reported in 2022 in Nature Communications . That translated to lower well-being scores around ages 11 to 13 for girls and ages 14 to 15 for boys. Both groups also reported a drop in well-being around age 19. Moreover, among the older teens, the team found evidence for the Goldilocks Hypothesis: the idea that both too much and too little time spent on social media can harm mental health.

“There’s hardly any effect if you look over everybody. But if you look at specific age groups, at particularly what [Orben] calls ‘windows of sensitivity’ … you see these clear effects,” says L.J. Shrum, a consumer psychologist at HEC Paris who was not involved with this research. His review of studies related to teen social media use and mental health is forthcoming in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.

Cause and effect

That longitudinal study hints at causation, researchers say. But one of the clearest ways to pin down cause and effect is through natural or quasi-experiments. For these in-the-wild experiments, researchers must identify situations where the rollout of a societal “treatment” is staggered across space and time. They can then compare outcomes among members of the group who received the treatment to those still in the queue — the control group.

That was the approach Makarin and his team used in their study of Facebook. The researchers homed in on the staggered rollout of Facebook across 775 college campuses from 2004 to 2006. They combined that rollout data with student responses to the National College Health Assessment, a widely used survey of college students’ mental and physical health.

The team then sought to understand if those survey questions captured diagnosable mental health problems. Specifically, they had roughly 500 undergraduate students respond to questions both in the National College Health Assessment and in validated screening tools for depression and anxiety. They found that mental health scores on the assessment predicted scores on the screenings. That suggested that a drop in well-being on the college survey was a good proxy for a corresponding increase in diagnosable mental health disorders. 

Compared with campuses that had not yet gained access to Facebook, college campuses with Facebook experienced a 2 percentage point increase in the number of students who met the diagnostic criteria for anxiety or depression, the team found.

When it comes to showing a causal link between social media use in teens and worse mental health, “that study really is the crown jewel right now,” says Cunningham, who was not involved in that research.

A need for nuance

The social media landscape today is vastly different than the landscape of 20 years ago. Facebook is now optimized for maximum addiction, Shrum says, and other newer platforms, such as Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, have since copied and built on those features. Paired with the ubiquity of social media in general, the negative effects on mental health may well be larger now.

Moreover, social media research tends to focus on young adults — an easier cohort to study than minors. That needs to change, Cunningham says. “Most of us are worried about our high school kids and younger.” 

And so, researchers must pivot accordingly. Crucially, simple comparisons of social media users and nonusers no longer make sense. As Orben and Przybylski’s 2022 work suggested, a teen not on social media might well feel worse than one who briefly logs on. 

Researchers must also dig into why, and under what circumstances, social media use can harm mental health, Cunningham says. Explanations for this link abound. For instance, social media is thought to crowd out other activities or increase people’s likelihood of comparing themselves unfavorably with others. But big data studies, with their reliance on existing surveys and statistical analyses, cannot address those deeper questions. “These kinds of papers, there’s nothing you can really ask … to find these plausible mechanisms,” Cunningham says.

One ongoing effort to understand social media use from this more nuanced vantage point is the SMART Schools project out of the University of Birmingham in England. Pedagogical expert Victoria Goodyear and her team are comparing mental and physical health outcomes among children who attend schools that have restricted cell phone use to those attending schools without such a policy. The researchers described the protocol of that study of 30 schools and over 1,000 students in the July BMJ Open.

Goodyear and colleagues are also combining that natural experiment with qualitative research. They met with 36 five-person focus groups each consisting of all students, all parents or all educators at six of those schools. The team hopes to learn how students use their phones during the day, how usage practices make students feel, and what the various parties think of restrictions on cell phone use during the school day.

Talking to teens and those in their orbit is the best way to get at the mechanisms by which social media influences well-being — for better or worse, Goodyear says. Moving beyond big data to this more personal approach, however, takes considerable time and effort. “Social media has increased in pace and momentum very, very quickly,” she says. “And research takes a long time to catch up with that process.”

Until that catch-up occurs, though, researchers cannot dole out much advice. “What guidance could we provide to young people, parents and schools to help maintain the positives of social media use?” Goodyear asks. “There’s not concrete evidence yet.”

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6 Example Essays on Social Media | Advantages, Effects, and Outlines

Got an essay assignment about the effects of social media we got you covered check out our examples and outlines below.

Social media has become one of our society's most prominent ways of communication and information sharing in a very short time. It has changed how we communicate and has given us a platform to express our views and opinions and connect with others. It keeps us informed about the world around us. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn have brought individuals from all over the world together, breaking down geographical borders and fostering a genuinely global community.

However, social media comes with its difficulties. With the rise of misinformation, cyberbullying, and privacy problems, it's critical to utilize these platforms properly and be aware of the risks. Students in the academic world are frequently assigned essays about the impact of social media on numerous elements of our lives, such as relationships, politics, and culture. These essays necessitate a thorough comprehension of the subject matter, critical thinking, and the ability to synthesize and convey information clearly and succinctly.

But where do you begin? It can be challenging to know where to start with so much information available. comes in handy here. is an AI application built exclusively for students to help them write essays more quickly and easily. provides students with inspiration and assistance on how to approach their essays with its enormous database of sample essays on a variety of themes, including social media. is the solution you've been looking for if you're experiencing writer's block or need assistance getting started.

So, whether you're a student looking to better your essay writing skills or want to remain up to date on the latest social media advancements, is here to help. is the ideal tool for helping you write your finest essay ever, thanks to its simple design, an extensive database of example essays, and cutting-edge AI technology. So, why delay? Sign up for a free trial of today and begin exploring the worlds of social networking and essay writing!

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We will provide various examples of social media essays so you may get a feel for the genre.

6 Examples of Social Media Essays

Here are 6 examples of Social Media Essays:

The Impact of Social Media on Relationships and Communication


The way we share information and build relationships has evolved as a direct result of the prevalence of social media in our daily lives. The influence of social media on interpersonal connections and conversation is a hot topic. Although social media has many positive effects, such as bringing people together regardless of physical proximity and making communication quicker and more accessible, it also has a dark side that can affect interpersonal connections and dialogue.

Positive Effects:

Connecting People Across Distances

One of social media's most significant benefits is its ability to connect individuals across long distances. People can use social media platforms to interact and stay in touch with friends and family far away. People can now maintain intimate relationships with those they care about, even when physically separated.

Improved Communication Speed and Efficiency

Additionally, the proliferation of social media sites has accelerated and simplified communication. Thanks to instant messaging, users can have short, timely conversations rather than lengthy ones via email. Furthermore, social media facilitates group communication, such as with classmates or employees, by providing a unified forum for such activities.

Negative Effects:

Decreased Face-to-Face Communication

The decline in in-person interaction is one of social media's most pernicious consequences on interpersonal connections and dialogue. People's reliance on digital communication over in-person contact has increased along with the popularity of social media. Face-to-face interaction has suffered as a result, which has adverse effects on interpersonal relationships and the development of social skills.

Decreased Emotional Intimacy

Another adverse effect of social media on relationships and communication is decreased emotional intimacy. Digital communication lacks the nonverbal cues and facial expressions critical in building emotional connections with others. This can make it more difficult for people to develop close and meaningful relationships, leading to increased loneliness and isolation.

Increased Conflict and Miscommunication

Finally, social media can also lead to increased conflict and miscommunication. The anonymity and distance provided by digital communication can lead to misunderstandings and hurtful comments that might not have been made face-to-face. Additionally, social media can provide a platform for cyberbullying , which can have severe consequences for the victim's mental health and well-being.


In conclusion, the impact of social media on relationships and communication is a complex issue with both positive and negative effects. While social media platforms offer many benefits, such as connecting people across distances and enabling faster and more accessible communication, they also have a dark side that can negatively affect relationships and communication. It is up to individuals to use social media responsibly and to prioritize in-person communication in their relationships and interactions with others.

The Role of Social Media in the Spread of Misinformation and Fake News

Social media has revolutionized the way information is shared and disseminated. However, the ease and speed at which data can be spread on social media also make it a powerful tool for spreading misinformation and fake news. Misinformation and fake news can seriously affect public opinion, influence political decisions, and even cause harm to individuals and communities.

The Pervasiveness of Misinformation and Fake News on Social Media

Misinformation and fake news are prevalent on social media platforms, where they can spread quickly and reach a large audience. This is partly due to the way social media algorithms work, which prioritizes content likely to generate engagement, such as sensational or controversial stories. As a result, false information can spread rapidly and be widely shared before it is fact-checked or debunked.

The Influence of Social Media on Public Opinion

Social media can significantly impact public opinion, as people are likelier to believe the information they see shared by their friends and followers. This can lead to a self-reinforcing cycle, where misinformation and fake news are spread and reinforced, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

The Challenge of Correcting Misinformation and Fake News

Correcting misinformation and fake news on social media can be a challenging task. This is partly due to the speed at which false information can spread and the difficulty of reaching the same audience exposed to the wrong information in the first place. Additionally, some individuals may be resistant to accepting correction, primarily if the incorrect information supports their beliefs or biases.

In conclusion, the function of social media in disseminating misinformation and fake news is complex and urgent. While social media has revolutionized the sharing of information, it has also made it simpler for false information to propagate and be widely believed. Individuals must be accountable for the information they share and consume, and social media firms must take measures to prevent the spread of disinformation and fake news on their platforms.

The Effects of Social Media on Mental Health and Well-Being

Social media has become an integral part of modern life, with billions of people around the world using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay connected with others and access information. However, while social media has many benefits, it can also negatively affect mental health and well-being.

Comparison and Low Self-Esteem

One of the key ways that social media can affect mental health is by promoting feelings of comparison and low self-esteem. People often present a curated version of their lives on social media, highlighting their successes and hiding their struggles. This can lead others to compare themselves unfavorably, leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Cyberbullying and Online Harassment

Another way that social media can negatively impact mental health is through cyberbullying and online harassment. Social media provides a platform for anonymous individuals to harass and abuse others, leading to feelings of anxiety, fear, and depression.

Social Isolation

Despite its name, social media can also contribute to feelings of isolation. At the same time, people may have many online friends but need more meaningful in-person connections and support. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.

Addiction and Overuse

Finally, social media can be addictive, leading to overuse and negatively impacting mental health and well-being. People may spend hours each day scrolling through their feeds, neglecting other important areas of their lives, such as work, family, and self-care.

In sum, social media has positive and negative consequences on one's psychological and emotional well-being. Realizing this, and taking measures like reducing one's social media use, reaching out to loved ones for help, and prioritizing one's well-being, are crucial. In addition, it's vital that social media giants take ownership of their platforms and actively encourage excellent mental health and well-being.

The Use of Social Media in Political Activism and Social Movements

Social media has recently become increasingly crucial in political action and social movements. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have given people new ways to express themselves, organize protests, and raise awareness about social and political issues.

Raising Awareness and Mobilizing Action

One of the most important uses of social media in political activity and social movements has been to raise awareness about important issues and mobilize action. Hashtags such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, for example, have brought attention to sexual harassment and racial injustice, respectively. Similarly, social media has been used to organize protests and other political actions, allowing people to band together and express themselves on a bigger scale.

Connecting with like-minded individuals

A second method in that social media has been utilized in political activity and social movements is to unite like-minded individuals. Through social media, individuals can join online groups, share knowledge and resources, and work with others to accomplish shared objectives. This has been especially significant for geographically scattered individuals or those without access to traditional means of political organizing.

Challenges and Limitations

As a vehicle for political action and social movements, social media has faced many obstacles and restrictions despite its many advantages. For instance, the propagation of misinformation and fake news on social media can impede attempts to disseminate accurate and reliable information. In addition, social media corporations have been condemned for censorship and insufficient protection of user rights.

In conclusion, social media has emerged as a potent instrument for political activism and social movements, giving voice to previously unheard communities and galvanizing support for change. Social media presents many opportunities for communication and collaboration. Still, users and institutions must be conscious of the risks and limitations of these tools to promote their responsible and productive usage.

The Potential Privacy Concerns Raised by Social Media Use and Data Collection Practices

With billions of users each day on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, social media has ingrained itself into every aspect of our lives. While these platforms offer a straightforward method to communicate with others and exchange information, they also raise significant concerns over data collecting and privacy. This article will examine the possible privacy issues posed by social media use and data-gathering techniques.

Data Collection and Sharing

The gathering and sharing of personal data are significant privacy issues brought up by social media use. Social networking sites gather user data, including details about their relationships, hobbies, and routines. This information is made available to third-party businesses for various uses, such as marketing and advertising. This can lead to serious concerns about who has access to and uses our personal information.

Lack of Control Over Personal Information

The absence of user control over personal information is a significant privacy issue brought up by social media usage. Social media makes it challenging to limit who has access to and how data is utilized once it has been posted. Sensitive information may end up being extensively disseminated and may be used maliciously as a result.

Personalized Marketing

Social media companies utilize the information they gather about users to target them with adverts relevant to their interests and usage patterns. Although this could be useful, it might also cause consumers to worry about their privacy since they might feel that their personal information is being used without their permission. Furthermore, there are issues with the integrity of the data being used to target users and the possibility of prejudice based on individual traits.

Government Surveillance

Using social media might spark worries about government surveillance. There are significant concerns regarding privacy and free expression when governments in some nations utilize social media platforms to follow and monitor residents.

In conclusion, social media use raises significant concerns regarding data collecting and privacy. While these platforms make it easy to interact with people and exchange information, they also gather a lot of personal information, which raises questions about who may access it and how it will be used. Users should be aware of these privacy issues and take precautions to safeguard their personal information, such as exercising caution when choosing what details to disclose on social media and keeping their information sharing with other firms to a minimum.

The Ethical and Privacy Concerns Surrounding Social Media Use And Data Collection

Our use of social media to communicate with loved ones, acquire information, and even conduct business has become a crucial part of our everyday lives. The extensive use of social media does, however, raise some ethical and privacy issues that must be resolved. The influence of social media use and data collecting on user rights, the accountability of social media businesses, and the need for improved regulation are all topics that will be covered in this article.

Effect on Individual Privacy:

Social networking sites gather tons of personal data from their users, including delicate information like search history, location data, and even health data. Each user's detailed profile may be created with this data and sold to advertising or used for other reasons. Concerns regarding the privacy of personal information might arise because social media businesses can use this data to target users with customized adverts.

Additionally, individuals might need to know how much their personal information is being gathered and exploited. Data breaches or the unauthorized sharing of personal information with other parties may result in instances where sensitive information is exposed. Users should be aware of the privacy rules of social media firms and take precautions to secure their data.

Responsibility of Social Media Companies:

Social media firms should ensure that they responsibly and ethically gather and use user information. This entails establishing strong security measures to safeguard sensitive information and ensuring users are informed of what information is being collected and how it is used.

Many social media businesses, nevertheless, have come under fire for not upholding these obligations. For instance, the Cambridge Analytica incident highlighted how Facebook users' personal information was exploited for political objectives without their knowledge. This demonstrates the necessity of social media corporations being held responsible for their deeds and ensuring that they are safeguarding the security and privacy of their users.

Better Regulation Is Needed

There is a need for tighter regulation in this field, given the effect, social media has on individual privacy as well as the obligations of social media firms. The creation of laws and regulations that ensure social media companies are gathering and using user information ethically and responsibly, as well as making sure users are aware of their rights and have the ability to control the information that is being collected about them, are all part of this.

Additionally, legislation should ensure that social media businesses are held responsible for their behavior, for example, by levying fines for data breaches or the unauthorized use of personal data. This will provide social media businesses with a significant incentive to prioritize their users' privacy and security and ensure they are upholding their obligations.

In conclusion, social media has fundamentally changed how we engage and communicate with one another, but this increased convenience also raises several ethical and privacy issues. Essential concerns that need to be addressed include the effect of social media on individual privacy, the accountability of social media businesses, and the requirement for greater regulation to safeguard user rights. We can make everyone's online experience safer and more secure by looking more closely at these issues.

In conclusion, social media is a complex and multifaceted topic that has recently captured the world's attention. With its ever-growing influence on our lives, it's no surprise that it has become a popular subject for students to explore in their writing. Whether you are writing an argumentative essay on the impact of social media on privacy, a persuasive essay on the role of social media in politics, or a descriptive essay on the changes social media has brought to the way we communicate, there are countless angles to approach this subject.

However, writing a comprehensive and well-researched essay on social media can be daunting. It requires a thorough understanding of the topic and the ability to articulate your ideas clearly and concisely. This is where comes in. Our AI-powered tool is designed to help students like you save time and energy and focus on what truly matters - your education. With , you'll have access to a wealth of examples and receive personalized writing suggestions and feedback.

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Social media use can be positive for mental health and well-being

Mesfin Bekalu

January 6, 2020— Mesfin Awoke Bekalu , research scientist in the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, discusses a new study he co-authored on associations between social media use and mental health and well-being.

What is healthy vs. potentially problematic social media use?

Our study has brought preliminary evidence to answer this question. Using a nationally representative sample, we assessed the association of two dimensions of social media use—how much it’s routinely used and how emotionally connected users are to the platforms—with three health-related outcomes: social well-being, positive mental health, and self-rated health.

We found that routine social media use—for example, using social media as part of everyday routine and responding to content that others share—is positively associated with all three health outcomes. Emotional connection to social media—for example, checking apps excessively out of fear of missing out, being disappointed about or feeling disconnected from friends when not logged into social media—is negatively associated with all three outcomes.

In more general terms, these findings suggest that as long as we are mindful users, routine use may not in itself be a problem. Indeed, it could be beneficial.

For those with unhealthy social media use, behavioral interventions may help. For example, programs that develop “effortful control” skills—the ability to self-regulate behavior—have been widely shown to be useful in dealing with problematic Internet and social media use.

We’re used to hearing that social media use is harmful to mental health and well-being, particularly for young people. Did it surprise you to find that it can have positive effects?

The findings go against what some might expect, which is intriguing. We know that having a strong social network is associated with positive mental health and well-being. Routine social media use may compensate for diminishing face-to-face social interactions in people’s busy lives. Social media may provide individuals with a platform that overcomes barriers of distance and time, allowing them to connect and reconnect with others and thereby expand and strengthen their in-person networks and interactions. Indeed, there is some empirical evidence supporting this.

On the other hand, a growing body of research has demonstrated that social media use is negatively associated with mental health and well-being, particularly among young people—for example, it may contribute to increased risk of depression and anxiety symptoms.

Our findings suggest that the ways that people are using social media may have more of an impact on their mental health and well-being than just the frequency and duration of their use.

What disparities did you find in the ways that social media use benefits and harms certain populations? What concerns does this raise?

My co-authors Rachel McCloud , Vish Viswanath , and I found that the benefits and harms associated with social media use varied across demographic, socioeconomic, and racial population sub-groups. Specifically, while the benefits were generally associated with younger age, better education, and being white, the harms were associated with older age, less education, and being a racial minority. Indeed, these findings are consistent with the body of work on communication inequalities and health disparities that our lab, the Viswanath lab , has documented over the past 15 or so years. We know that education, income, race, and ethnicity influence people’s access to, and ability to act on, health information from media, including the Internet. The concern is that social media may perpetuate those differences.

— Amy Roeder

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Chapter 6: 21st-century media and issues

6.10.2 Social media and communication (research essay)

Lindsey Matier

English 102, April 2021

Communication is extremely important in today’s world, whether it be verbal or nonverbal. It can take place through many different forms such as through writing, speaking, listening and physical actions. These forms of communication evolve and continue to improve over time. As humans, we rely on communication for almost everything and it is a way of life. Communication has evolved from talking to writing letters to texting or talking over the phone. Every time a new form of communication is brought up and becomes more popular, we have to adapt and evolve to that new lifestyle. Throughout all the new forms of communication and ways of evolving, social media has been one of the most influential so far. Social media has allowed us to create new ways of communicating, such as texting or posting through different apps. It can connect us with people all over the world and give us a platform to express ourselves in ways that have not been possible before. While social media started off as a small form of technology, it has morphed into aspects of our everyday life. Now there are apps for everything from social media profiles to online shopping. While social media and technology itself has evolved, this has also affected our communication with each other and the world. Social media has created a fast track for information in a matter of seconds. It can give people a platform with millions of followers overnight for doing practically anything. It can help people express themselves in new ways and connect with people who have similar interests. The end goal of social media is to make people happy and ultimately make lives easier.


With all this being said, it is evident that social media is in our everyday lives and will continue to change. It has a very strong grip on society as social media usage continues to rise throughout the years. Generalizing social media, we are exposed to forms of media at almost all times of the day. Answering the question of what media is will help give a better understanding of social media as a whole. Media can be defined as a way of mass communication. This could include siting in the car listening to ads on the radio all the way to scrolling on twitter. We are exposed to social media less often than generalized media, but it tends to come in greater quantities when exposed. For example, for people that wake up and check twitter it is an instant flood of information with every scroll. Everything from politics to sports to celebrity news is available at the fingertips. The concern is not all focused on the overwhelming information, but also the overwhelming number of comments and opinions. If we wanted to debate or talk about something before social media it had to be done in person, face to face. Now with social media, we are able to fight with people in comment sections on a backup account with a different name and no connection to who we really are. This new form of communication takes away the vulnerability of speaking to people and having genuine conversation, and makes up for it in internet trolls. Overall, social media is impacting the way we communicate with each other and the real questions are: Is social media impacting us in a positive or negative way? Do the positive aspects outweigh the negative aspects? Is social media hindering the way we communicate in person with each other? Is their more room for improvement when it comes to dealing with communication in the social media spectrum? How is social media impacting younger generation’s communication versus older generation’s communication? How can we help improve our communication skills on social media and in real life?

Personal Research 

Along with the other studies that I found from the sources I chose, I also conducted my own study to determine more accurate and recent data. I asked students mostly within high school and college range questions relating to social media and communication. I tried to get a wide range of data dealing with social media apps, screen time, and overall communication as a result of social media. I expected to see almost all negative responses about social media and communication. I figured that most people would respond saying that it has affected them negatively rather than positively, but the results were different compared to what I expected.

The first questions I asked had to do with social media itself. I asked questions about their most used social media apps, screen time, what age they were allowed to start using social media, and whether or not they think social media has had a negative or positive impact on them. As expected, most of the social media apps were some of the most popular ones like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok. Overall, the average screen time for all apps was evenly split between 4-6 and 6-8 hours, which I also expected. Something that did surprise me was the amount of time spent on certain social media apps. The data was split pretty evenly three ways and all between 1-4 hours. The next two questions dealt with when they group surveyed started using social media. I asked these questions because a lot of the points I want to discuss later in my paper have to deal with age and whether younger generations are suffering when it comes to communication. More than half the people surveyed said that they wished that they had waited to get social media until they were older. Some said that it is not appropriate for younger kids and that it is just toxic in general. Something that I really like that a couple people mentioned was that in reality, social media at a young age is stupid and useless. A lot of people said they wish they would have enjoyed their childhood more and they would be more extroverted now if they had not been exposed that early. The last question of this section that I asked was if they thought social media has had a more positive or negative impact on them. Overall, the data was split but leaning slightly towards the more positive side. The positive answers mostly dealt with being able to talk to stay in contact with people and meeting new friends. The negative answers all related to mental health and feeling bad about themselves. A lot of people said it is toxic and very controlling and takes up too much of our time.

The next set of questions I asked had to do more with communication and interaction with and without social media. I asked questions like how they feel about social media and how it has impacted their communication, their mental health, and if it has made our lives easier. I decided to ask questions like these because I figured I would get a wide range of responses and a lot of people’s different opinions. I started off by asking if people are an introvert or an extrovert to get an idea of what the responses would be like, and 66% said somewhere in between the two. The response for the next question really shocked me because I received such a one-side response. I asked if they think social media has impacted their communication and the way they interact with others and 75% (18/24 people) said yes. This is the information that I was looking for along with the next two questions. The next question asked if they think social media has negatively impacted their mental health and 50% said yes. I also plan on using this as a research question to show that social media can affect our mental health and therefore affect the way we interact with and around other people. The last two questions are similar but the responses were both very good. Almost everyone answered yes to the question asking if social media has made our lives easier. Everyone that answered yes said they think so because it helps them talk to friends, stay in touch with people they do not see as much, and meet new people that they are comfortable talking to. The people that said no also made good points such as it takes over our lives and it is filled with too much hate and cancel culture. I agree with both sides and am very happy that people can feel a positive response especially when it comes to communicating with other people online. The last question I asked was used to wrap up the whole survey and topic. I asked if they think social media has made our generation’s communication improve or worsen. The data was pretty evenly split, and most people gave a positive and a negative. The people that said improve gave that answer because they said it broadens our communication and allows us to talk to people at a wider range. The people who said it has made it worse all said that it is ruining our face-to-face interaction and causing us to lose emotion. They said that some people do not even know how to have a proper in person conversation and that they are too dependent on their phones. Overall, I agree with both arguments that people made but I do think that the positives outweigh the negatives in most of these situations and questions.

Research Questions

The first question I want to ask has to deal with the overall social media and communication connection and has multiple other questions I would like to cover within it. The main question is: Is social media hindering the way we communicate with each other? I also want to touch on questions like: Is social media impacting us in a positive or negative way? Do the positives outweigh the negatives? The second set of research questions I have is: Is their more room for improvement when it comes to dealing with communication in the social media spectrum? How can we help improve our communication skills on social media and in real life? How is social media impacting younger generation’s communication versus older generation’s communication?

Research Question One

Social media and communication have a direct connection to each other and both have a strong impact on the outcome of the other. My first research question has to do with that. My questions center around how social media has impacted our communication, and whether or not it is positive or negative. First, I think it is important to note the changes and different characteristics that come into play when talking about this. Things like age and problems going on in our world can affect our social media usage and communication. While we connect to people on a deeper level when talking to the in person, social media has also given us a newer and more broad way of communicating. The article “How Social Media Affects Our Ability to Communicate” by Stacey Hanke, talks about different ways social media has impacted our communication. Social media has become so relevant in our day to day lives and Hanke describes it in a couple different ways. She describes it as information binging and the fear of missing out, social graces and conversational boredom. Within these, she explains how social media has become an excuse and escape to talk to people face to face. Hanke also talks about how even though it is limiting our in person communication, it can sometimes make communicating in general easier, by being able to talk to each other in just a few words (Hanke 1). In another article by Ryan J. Fuller titled “The Impact of Social Media Use on Our Social Skills”, he discusses similar topics to Hanke’s article but also brings up more positive attributes of social media. Fuller starts of his article by giving some statistics, stating that 75% of teens own cellphones and 25% of them using it for social media, and also says that they use 7.5 hours a day using it (Fuller 1). I am glad that this was brought up because it is important to know how much time is spent on social media, scrolling through feed. Next, Fuller starts to discuss some of the benefits of social media. He briefly explains how social media is beneficial because we are able to stay in touch with our friends and family, and share important parts of our lives with them. He also explains how it helps people reach out to new friends and provide themselves with more opportunities (Fuller 1). Overall, I really like that he mentioned these because it is important to keep in mind the vast majority of social media and communication. While some use it for more simpler purposes likes just keeping up to date with what is going on in the world, others use it to make new friends, find new job opportunities, and stay in touch with people. Another topic I find important when it comes to answering this research question is how Covid affected everything. With the pandemic, we were left inside with nothing to do but what was at our fingertips. This pandemic increased social media usage drastically. The article “Social Media Insights Into US Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Longitudinal Analysis of Twitter Data” by Danny Valdez et al, shows extensive research into determining just how much social media usage in the United States increased during the pandemic. They did experiments and surveys to determine multiple responses to research questions and show how much we rely on social media to communicate with each other. During the pandemic, everyone spent more time on their social media and their phone in general, probably more than they would like to admit. The article helps give more insight into this claim. There is the idea that social media was meant as an addition to our lives. For some people, it has become an addiction and a new piece of their life. The article focuses on how social media could be a toxic place and have a negative effect on our mental health. The time period for this information focuses around the COVID-19 pandemic. Using data from Twitter, Valdez created a study to determine the mood of people during the pandemic and the usage throughout (Valdez et al 2). Collecting tweets with certain hashtags and during time periods, the goal was to determine how much the pandemic affected people’s moods, and how much they put out and shared on social media. They used hashtags, timeline data, and tweets from different periods such as the first lockdown, different stay at home orders, etc. Given the responses to the data, they were able to determine the increase in social media usage. We cannot determine if this had a positive or negative effect on the people who were using Twitter, but we can infer that social media is becoming a key part of our lives. Not being able to talk to people as much in person during the first few months of the pandemic greatly affected communication, in positive and negative ways. Communication over the phone increased due to the amount of free time that people had and were able to spend talking to others. Contrary to that, in person communication also decreased given that people were not really allowed to leave the house. The next article by Tayebi et al, “The Role of Information Systems in Communication Through Social Media” focuses a lot about how we have evolved over time with social media and communication. They start off by talking about how social networks are like social media societies. They explain it by resembling it to a human society, as it is filled with people communicating, regardless of time or place. They also exemplify other aspects such as emotional support, information, emotions (Tayebi 2). Social media is constantly looked at through such a negative light due to some of the major bad events that have taken place. While it can be difficult at times to look past the negatives, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the positives. The growth of scientific research would not be possible without the amount of information received from the media (Tayebi 3). Without social media and media in general, we would not be where we are today as a society. As mentioned earlier, it is so easy to get lost in the negative aspects of social media and discard the positive ones. Positive parts of social media such as widespread communication and unlimited access to information makes it all worth it. Staying on topic with positive aspects of social media and communication, social media in the workplace has also broken down barriers for communication. The article “A Guide to the Successful Use of Social Media in the Workplace” by Clark Boyd gives insight into how social media has improved the workplace, and ultimately communication and interaction as a whole. Companies can use social media as a form of branding and way to communicate their products (Boyd 4). Boyd states, “Harvard Business Review finds that 82% of employees believe social media improves work relationships. Left to their own devices, your teams will connect and communicate on social networks, both inside and outside the office.” This directly relates to the research question asking whether social media hinders our communication with each other. Social media also helps when it comes to dealing with complaints placed online. By seeing these through social media, it can help the company communicate either with the person or their company the concerns that are being stated (Boyd 9). Overall, it is safe to say that social media has directly affected communication throughout different aspects of our lives.

Research Question Two

My second set of research questions has a lot to do with the future and how we can improve. Questions such as: Is their more room for improvement when it comes to dealing with communication in the social media spectrum? How can we help improve our communication skills on social media and in real life? How is social media impacting younger generation’s communication versus older generation’s communication? The article “What is Literacy” by James Paul Gee talks a lot about the basics of communication. I find this an important article to talk about before I go into more detail with this second research question. Gee explains discourse as a socially accepted way of speaking, thinking, and acting (Gee 1). It is important to note this because social media has changed that discourse for us. We no longer communicate and interact the same way in which we use to therefore almost giving us a new discourse. Another thing Gee discusses is identity kits. Gee explains identity kits as “appropriate costumes and instructions on how to act and talk” (Gee 2). This relates to social media because there is a certain way we communicate online that we wouldn’t do in person. For example, we use emojis and abbreviations to communicate on social media or over text, but this is something we would not do when communicating face-to-face. There are also some basic well-known rules of social media that follow along the lines of an identity kit. Such as, for Instagram it is a common idea not to like people’s pictures from too long ago. When you say this aloud it sounds like it is not a big deal and silly almost, but for people that use social media it is something that makes sense. The next article is going to focus more on the question that has to do with room for improvement of communication. The article “The Positive Effect of Not Following Others on Social Media” by Francesca Valsesia, Davide Proserpio, and Joseph C. Nunes involves how we deal with social media and how we react to it. The article has a lot to do with pyramid schemes and marketing schemes on social media, simply due to follower count. Social media has a lot of power over us and the content we see. Influencers have too much impact on what we see every day and this overall effects our communication (Valsesia 1). Social media feeds us information at our fingertips, whether it be true or false. Valsesia is trying to get the point across that social media has no impact on our lives without the phone and therefore, having a smaller follower count is better for our communication and overall wellbeing in the first place. Leading into my next article, social media can have a huge impact on the younger generation. This leads into part of my second research question dealing with the younger generation and their communication. The article “The Impact of Social Media on Youth Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunities” by Jacqueline Nesi shows how social media is a very complex brand of information and makes it complicated for everyone. Younger kids having access to it and multiple devices like computers and phones makes it that much more difficult. There are a lot of positives and negatives for younger kids having access to social media and the internet in general. It has an impact on their mental health and studies show it leads to signs of depression, body dysmorphia, eating disorders (Nesi 2). It can also affect their communication and outward identity due to things such as bullying, internet drama, and behavioral problems. While it does have serious negative risks, social media also can bring a lot of new positive ones. Things like creative ideas, humor and entertainment, and being able to explore their identity are all really great positives that social media gives us (Nesi 4). Most of them using it as a way to connect with friends and family and help them feel a sense of acceptance and belonging (Nesi 4). Similarly to this, social media has given a great outlet for kids and young adults to speak out on issues going on in the world. The article “Building Bridges: Exploring the Communication Trends and Perceived Sociopolitical Benefits of Adolescents Engaging in Online Social Justice Efforts” by Mariah Elsa Kornbluh goes into detail about the racial injustices in the world and how they are communicated through social media. Social media networks can help connect kids to different backgrounds and aspects of their lives (Kornbluh 1). Kornbluh expresses how a society only can flourish under civic engagement and being able to express ourselves, and social media is helping us do that. It is helping the younger generation prepare for the civic role that they will undergo (Kornbluh 2). Social media helps play a major role in participating in political movements and bringing awareness to topics (Kornbluh 3). This all is done by the younger generation and would not be possible without them. So, while it is easy to look at the negative parts of social media and how it effects the younger generation, it also brings great awareness to real life problems in our world. This last article I wanted to go over dealing with this research question has to do with the pandemic. The article “Responses to COVID-19 in Higher Education: Social Media Usage for Sustaining Formal Academic Communication in Developing Countries” by Abu Elnasr E. Sobaih, Ahmed M. Hasanein and Ahmed E. Abu Elnasr briefly talks about communication with social media in higher education systems. Education systems had to switch from in person learning and communication to online learning, which was a struggle for everyone. Throughout the time that this took place, results showed that social media had a positive effect on students dealing with this (Sobaih 1). Students used social media to build a community and help support each other through this rough time. Through these results, proper usage of social media can be shown as a positive result for a new era of learning (Sobaih 1). This is just one more reason why social media can help us improve our future.

After answering my research questions, it has become clear to me that while social media does have negative aspects, the positive aspects outweigh them. Between the articles and my own research, I have enough evidence to prove that social media does effect communication, but in a more positive way. The way we act and present ourselves is heavily influenced by social media and communication between generations are different and can be seen that way. It is important to note the accomplishments we have made as a society with social media and the media in general. It has helped connect families, provide support groups, and provide entertainment in desperate times. Our communication has changed because of social media but has changed and helped us for the better in the long run. Keeping social media a positive place and staying away from the toxic people on it will only help us grow and learn new things about ourselves.

Works Cited

Boyd, Clark. “A Guide to Using Social Media in the Workplace in 2021.”  The Blueprint , The Blueprint, 13 May 2020,

D, Valdez, et al. “Social Media Insights Into US Mental Health During the Covid-19 Pandemic: Longitudinal Analysis of Twitter Data.”  Journal of Medical Internet Research  , vol. 22, no. 12, 14 Dec. 2020, pp. 1438–8871. vid=8&sid=ff59b04c-b868-44cd-b864-4538e112a2ea%40sessionmgr103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#AN=33284783&db=mnh

J, Nesi. “The Impact of Social Media on Youth Health: Challenges and Opportunities.”  North Carolina Medical Journal , vol. 81, no. 2, 2020, pp. 116–121.

Gee, James Paul. “What is literacy.”  Negotiating academic literacies: Teaching and learning  across languages and cultures  (1998): 51-59.

Hanke, Stacey. “How Social Media Affects Our Ability to Communicate.”  Thrive Global , 13  Sept. 2018,

Kornbluh, Mariah Elsa. “Building Bridges.”  Youth & Society , vol. 51, no. 8, 2017, pp. 1104–1126., doi:10.1177/0044118×17723656.

Retchin, Sarah, et al. “The Impact of Social Media Use on Social Skills.”  New York Behavioral Health , 1 Dec. 2020,

Sobaih, Abu Elnasr E., et al. “Responses to COVID-19 in Higher Education: Social Media Usage for Sustaining Formal Academic Communication in Developing Countries.”  MDPI , Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 12 Aug. 2020,

Tayeb, Seyed Mohammad, et al. “The Role of Information Systems in Communication through Social Media.”  International Journal of Data and Network Science , vol. 3, no. 3, 2019, pp. 245–268., doi:10.5267/j.ijdns.2019.2.002.

Valsesia, Francesca, et al. “The Positive Effect of Not Following Others on Social Media .”  Journal of Marketing Research  , vol. 57, no. 6, Dec. 2020, pp. 1152–1168.

Understanding Literacy in Our Lives by Lindsey Matier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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How Harmful Is Social Media?

By Gideon Lewis-Kraus

A socialmedia battlefield

In April, the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt published an essay in The Atlantic in which he sought to explain, as the piece’s title had it, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid.” Anyone familiar with Haidt’s work in the past half decade could have anticipated his answer: social media. Although Haidt concedes that political polarization and factional enmity long predate the rise of the platforms, and that there are plenty of other factors involved, he believes that the tools of virality—Facebook’s Like and Share buttons, Twitter’s Retweet function—have algorithmically and irrevocably corroded public life. He has determined that a great historical discontinuity can be dated with some precision to the period between 2010 and 2014, when these features became widely available on phones.

“What changed in the 2010s?” Haidt asks, reminding his audience that a former Twitter developer had once compared the Retweet button to the provision of a four-year-old with a loaded weapon. “A mean tweet doesn’t kill anyone; it is an attempt to shame or punish someone publicly while broadcasting one’s own virtue, brilliance, or tribal loyalties. It’s more a dart than a bullet, causing pain but no fatalities. Even so, from 2009 to 2012, Facebook and Twitter passed out roughly a billion dart guns globally. We’ve been shooting one another ever since.” While the right has thrived on conspiracy-mongering and misinformation, the left has turned punitive: “When everyone was issued a dart gun in the early 2010s, many left-leaning institutions began shooting themselves in the brain. And, unfortunately, those were the brains that inform, instruct, and entertain most of the country.” Haidt’s prevailing metaphor of thoroughgoing fragmentation is the story of the Tower of Babel: the rise of social media has “unwittingly dissolved the mortar of trust, belief in institutions, and shared stories that had held a large and diverse secular democracy together.”

These are, needless to say, common concerns. Chief among Haidt’s worries is that use of social media has left us particularly vulnerable to confirmation bias, or the propensity to fix upon evidence that shores up our prior beliefs. Haidt acknowledges that the extant literature on social media’s effects is large and complex, and that there is something in it for everyone. On January 6, 2021, he was on the phone with Chris Bail, a sociologist at Duke and the author of the recent book “ Breaking the Social Media Prism ,” when Bail urged him to turn on the television. Two weeks later, Haidt wrote to Bail, expressing his frustration at the way Facebook officials consistently cited the same handful of studies in their defense. He suggested that the two of them collaborate on a comprehensive literature review that they could share, as a Google Doc, with other researchers. (Haidt had experimented with such a model before.) Bail was cautious. He told me, “What I said to him was, ‘Well, you know, I’m not sure the research is going to bear out your version of the story,’ and he said, ‘Why don’t we see?’ ”

Bail emphasized that he is not a “platform-basher.” He added, “In my book, my main take is, Yes, the platforms play a role, but we are greatly exaggerating what it’s possible for them to do—how much they could change things no matter who’s at the helm at these companies—and we’re profoundly underestimating the human element, the motivation of users.” He found Haidt’s idea of a Google Doc appealing, in the way that it would produce a kind of living document that existed “somewhere between scholarship and public writing.” Haidt was eager for a forum to test his ideas. “I decided that if I was going to be writing about this—what changed in the universe, around 2014, when things got weird on campus and elsewhere—once again, I’d better be confident I’m right,” he said. “I can’t just go off my feelings and my readings of the biased literature. We all suffer from confirmation bias, and the only cure is other people who don’t share your own.”

Haidt and Bail, along with a research assistant, populated the document over the course of several weeks last year, and in November they invited about two dozen scholars to contribute. Haidt told me, of the difficulties of social-scientific methodology, “When you first approach a question, you don’t even know what it is. ‘Is social media destroying democracy, yes or no?’ That’s not a good question. You can’t answer that question. So what can you ask and answer?” As the document took on a life of its own, tractable rubrics emerged—Does social media make people angrier or more affectively polarized? Does it create political echo chambers? Does it increase the probability of violence? Does it enable foreign governments to increase political dysfunction in the United States and other democracies? Haidt continued, “It’s only after you break it up into lots of answerable questions that you see where the complexity lies.”

Haidt came away with the sense, on balance, that social media was in fact pretty bad. He was disappointed, but not surprised, that Facebook’s response to his article relied on the same three studies they’ve been reciting for years. “This is something you see with breakfast cereals,” he said, noting that a cereal company “might say, ‘Did you know we have twenty-five per cent more riboflavin than the leading brand?’ They’ll point to features where the evidence is in their favor, which distracts you from the over-all fact that your cereal tastes worse and is less healthy.”

After Haidt’s piece was published, the Google Doc—“Social Media and Political Dysfunction: A Collaborative Review”—was made available to the public . Comments piled up, and a new section was added, at the end, to include a miscellany of Twitter threads and Substack essays that appeared in response to Haidt’s interpretation of the evidence. Some colleagues and kibbitzers agreed with Haidt. But others, though they might have shared his basic intuition that something in our experience of social media was amiss, drew upon the same data set to reach less definitive conclusions, or even mildly contradictory ones. Even after the initial flurry of responses to Haidt’s article disappeared into social-media memory, the document, insofar as it captured the state of the social-media debate, remained a lively artifact.

Near the end of the collaborative project’s introduction, the authors warn, “We caution readers not to simply add up the number of studies on each side and declare one side the winner.” The document runs to more than a hundred and fifty pages, and for each question there are affirmative and dissenting studies, as well as some that indicate mixed results. According to one paper, “Political expressions on social media and the online forum were found to (a) reinforce the expressers’ partisan thought process and (b) harden their pre-existing political preferences,” but, according to another, which used data collected during the 2016 election, “Over the course of the campaign, we found media use and attitudes remained relatively stable. Our results also showed that Facebook news use was related to modest over-time spiral of depolarization. Furthermore, we found that people who use Facebook for news were more likely to view both pro- and counter-attitudinal news in each wave. Our results indicated that counter-attitudinal exposure increased over time, which resulted in depolarization.” If results like these seem incompatible, a perplexed reader is given recourse to a study that says, “Our findings indicate that political polarization on social media cannot be conceptualized as a unified phenomenon, as there are significant cross-platform differences.”

Interested in echo chambers? “Our results show that the aggregation of users in homophilic clusters dominate online interactions on Facebook and Twitter,” which seems convincing—except that, as another team has it, “We do not find evidence supporting a strong characterization of ‘echo chambers’ in which the majority of people’s sources of news are mutually exclusive and from opposite poles.” By the end of the file, the vaguely patronizing top-line recommendation against simple summation begins to make more sense. A document that originated as a bulwark against confirmation bias could, as it turned out, just as easily function as a kind of generative device to support anybody’s pet conviction. The only sane response, it seemed, was simply to throw one’s hands in the air.

When I spoke to some of the researchers whose work had been included, I found a combination of broad, visceral unease with the current situation—with the banefulness of harassment and trolling; with the opacity of the platforms; with, well, the widespread presentiment that of course social media is in many ways bad—and a contrastive sense that it might not be catastrophically bad in some of the specific ways that many of us have come to take for granted as true. This was not mere contrarianism, and there was no trace of gleeful mythbusting; the issue was important enough to get right. When I told Bail that the upshot seemed to me to be that exactly nothing was unambiguously clear, he suggested that there was at least some firm ground. He sounded a bit less apocalyptic than Haidt.

“A lot of the stories out there are just wrong,” he told me. “The political echo chamber has been massively overstated. Maybe it’s three to five per cent of people who are properly in an echo chamber.” Echo chambers, as hotboxes of confirmation bias, are counterproductive for democracy. But research indicates that most of us are actually exposed to a wider range of views on social media than we are in real life, where our social networks—in the original use of the term—are rarely heterogeneous. (Haidt told me that this was an issue on which the Google Doc changed his mind; he became convinced that echo chambers probably aren’t as widespread a problem as he’d once imagined.) And too much of a focus on our intuitions about social media’s echo-chamber effect could obscure the relevant counterfactual: a conservative might abandon Twitter only to watch more Fox News. “Stepping outside your echo chamber is supposed to make you moderate, but maybe it makes you more extreme,” Bail said. The research is inchoate and ongoing, and it’s difficult to say anything on the topic with absolute certainty. But this was, in part, Bail’s point: we ought to be less sure about the particular impacts of social media.

Bail went on, “The second story is foreign misinformation.” It’s not that misinformation doesn’t exist, or that it hasn’t had indirect effects, especially when it creates perverse incentives for the mainstream media to cover stories circulating online. Haidt also draws convincingly upon the work of Renée DiResta, the research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, to sketch out a potential future in which the work of shitposting has been outsourced to artificial intelligence, further polluting the informational environment. But, at least so far, very few Americans seem to suffer from consistent exposure to fake news—“probably less than two per cent of Twitter users, maybe fewer now, and for those who were it didn’t change their opinions,” Bail said. This was probably because the people likeliest to consume such spectacles were the sort of people primed to believe them in the first place. “In fact,” he said, “echo chambers might have done something to quarantine that misinformation.”

The final story that Bail wanted to discuss was the “proverbial rabbit hole, the path to algorithmic radicalization,” by which YouTube might serve a viewer increasingly extreme videos. There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that this does happen, at least on occasion, and such anecdotes are alarming to hear. But a new working paper led by Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth, found that almost all extremist content is either consumed by subscribers to the relevant channels—a sign of actual demand rather than manipulation or preference falsification—or encountered via links from external sites. It’s easy to see why we might prefer if this were not the case: algorithmic radicalization is presumably a simpler problem to solve than the fact that there are people who deliberately seek out vile content. “These are the three stories—echo chambers, foreign influence campaigns, and radicalizing recommendation algorithms—but, when you look at the literature, they’ve all been overstated.” He thought that these findings were crucial for us to assimilate, if only to help us understand that our problems may lie beyond technocratic tinkering. He explained, “Part of my interest in getting this research out there is to demonstrate that everybody is waiting for an Elon Musk to ride in and save us with an algorithm”—or, presumably, the reverse—“and it’s just not going to happen.”

When I spoke with Nyhan, he told me much the same thing: “The most credible research is way out of line with the takes.” He noted, of extremist content and misinformation, that reliable research that “measures exposure to these things finds that the people consuming this content are small minorities who have extreme views already.” The problem with the bulk of the earlier research, Nyhan told me, is that it’s almost all correlational. “Many of these studies will find polarization on social media,” he said. “But that might just be the society we live in reflected on social media!” He hastened to add, “Not that this is untroubling, and none of this is to let these companies, which are exercising a lot of power with very little scrutiny, off the hook. But a lot of the criticisms of them are very poorly founded. . . . The expansion of Internet access coincides with fifteen other trends over time, and separating them is very difficult. The lack of good data is a huge problem insofar as it lets people project their own fears into this area.” He told me, “It’s hard to weigh in on the side of ‘We don’t know, the evidence is weak,’ because those points are always going to be drowned out in our discourse. But these arguments are systematically underprovided in the public domain.”

In his Atlantic article, Haidt leans on a working paper by two social scientists, Philipp Lorenz-Spreen and Lisa Oswald, who took on a comprehensive meta-analysis of about five hundred papers and concluded that “the large majority of reported associations between digital media use and trust appear to be detrimental for democracy.” Haidt writes, “The literature is complex—some studies show benefits, particularly in less developed democracies—but the review found that, on balance, social media amplifies political polarization; foments populism, especially right-wing populism; and is associated with the spread of misinformation.” Nyhan was less convinced that the meta-analysis supported such categorical verdicts, especially once you bracketed the kinds of correlational findings that might simply mirror social and political dynamics. He told me, “If you look at their summary of studies that allow for causal inferences—it’s very mixed.”

As for the studies Nyhan considered most methodologically sound, he pointed to a 2020 article called “The Welfare Effects of Social Media,” by Hunt Allcott, Luca Braghieri, Sarah Eichmeyer, and Matthew Gentzkow. For four weeks prior to the 2018 midterm elections, the authors randomly divided a group of volunteers into two cohorts—one that continued to use Facebook as usual, and another that was paid to deactivate their accounts for that period. They found that deactivation “(i) reduced online activity, while increasing offline activities such as watching TV alone and socializing with family and friends; (ii) reduced both factual news knowledge and political polarization; (iii) increased subjective well-being; and (iv) caused a large persistent reduction in post-experiment Facebook use.” But Gentzkow reminded me that his conclusions, including that Facebook may slightly increase polarization, had to be heavily qualified: “From other kinds of evidence, I think there’s reason to think social media is not the main driver of increasing polarization over the long haul in the United States.”

In the book “ Why We’re Polarized ,” for example, Ezra Klein invokes the work of such scholars as Lilliana Mason to argue that the roots of polarization might be found in, among other factors, the political realignment and nationalization that began in the sixties, and were then sacralized, on the right, by the rise of talk radio and cable news. These dynamics have served to flatten our political identities, weakening our ability or inclination to find compromise. Insofar as some forms of social media encourage the hardening of connections between our identities and a narrow set of opinions, we might increasingly self-select into mutually incomprehensible and hostile groups; Haidt plausibly suggests that these processes are accelerated by the coalescence of social-media tribes around figures of fearful online charisma. “Social media might be more of an amplifier of other things going on rather than a major driver independently,” Gentzkow argued. “I think it takes some gymnastics to tell a story where it’s all primarily driven by social media, especially when you’re looking at different countries, and across different groups.”

Another study, led by Nejla Asimovic and Joshua Tucker, replicated Gentzkow’s approach in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and they found almost precisely the opposite results: the people who stayed on Facebook were, by the end of the study, more positively disposed to their historic out-groups. The authors’ interpretation was that ethnic groups have so little contact in Bosnia that, for some people, social media is essentially the only place where they can form positive images of one another. “To have a replication and have the signs flip like that, it’s pretty stunning,” Bail told me. “It’s a different conversation in every part of the world.”

Nyhan argued that, at least in wealthy Western countries, we might be too heavily discounting the degree to which platforms have responded to criticism: “Everyone is still operating under the view that algorithms simply maximize engagement in a short-term way” with minimal attention to potential externalities. “That might’ve been true when Zuckerberg had seven people working for him, but there are a lot of considerations that go into these rankings now.” He added, “There’s some evidence that, with reverse-chronological feeds”—streams of unwashed content, which some critics argue are less manipulative than algorithmic curation—“people get exposed to more low-quality content, so it’s another case where a very simple notion of ‘algorithms are bad’ doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. It doesn’t mean they’re good, it’s just that we don’t know.”

Bail told me that, over all, he was less confident than Haidt that the available evidence lines up clearly against the platforms. “Maybe there’s a slight majority of studies that say that social media is a net negative, at least in the West, and maybe it’s doing some good in the rest of the world.” But, he noted, “Jon will say that science has this expectation of rigor that can’t keep up with the need in the real world—that even if we don’t have the definitive study that creates the historical counterfactual that Facebook is largely responsible for polarization in the U.S., there’s still a lot pointing in that direction, and I think that’s a fair point.” He paused. “It can’t all be randomized control trials.”

Haidt comes across in conversation as searching and sincere, and, during our exchange, he paused several times to suggest that I include a quote from John Stuart Mill on the importance of good-faith debate to moral progress. In that spirit, I asked him what he thought of the argument, elaborated by some of Haidt’s critics, that the problems he described are fundamentally political, social, and economic, and that to blame social media is to search for lost keys under the streetlamp, where the light is better. He agreed that this was the steelman opponent: there were predecessors for cancel culture in de Tocqueville, and anxiety about new media that went back to the time of the printing press. “This is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis, and it’s absolutely up to the prosecution—people like me—to argue that, no, this time it’s different. But it’s a civil case! The evidential standard is not ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ as in a criminal case. It’s just a preponderance of the evidence.”

The way scholars weigh the testimony is subject to their disciplinary orientations. Economists and political scientists tend to believe that you can’t even begin to talk about causal dynamics without a randomized controlled trial, whereas sociologists and psychologists are more comfortable drawing inferences on a correlational basis. Haidt believes that conditions are too dire to take the hardheaded, no-reasonable-doubt view. “The preponderance of the evidence is what we use in public health. If there’s an epidemic—when COVID started, suppose all the scientists had said, ‘No, we gotta be so certain before you do anything’? We have to think about what’s actually happening, what’s likeliest to pay off.” He continued, “We have the largest epidemic ever of teen mental health, and there is no other explanation,” he said. “It is a raging public-health epidemic, and the kids themselves say Instagram did it, and we have some evidence, so is it appropriate to say, ‘Nah, you haven’t proven it’?”

This was his attitude across the board. He argued that social media seemed to aggrandize inflammatory posts and to be correlated with a rise in violence; even if only small groups were exposed to fake news, such beliefs might still proliferate in ways that were hard to measure. “In the post-Babel era, what matters is not the average but the dynamics, the contagion, the exponential amplification,” he said. “Small things can grow very quickly, so arguments that Russian disinformation didn’t matter are like COVID arguments that people coming in from China didn’t have contact with a lot of people.” Given the transformative effects of social media, Haidt insisted, it was important to act now, even in the absence of dispositive evidence. “Academic debates play out over decades and are often never resolved, whereas the social-media environment changes year by year,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of waiting around five or ten years for literature reviews.”

Haidt could be accused of question-begging—of assuming the existence of a crisis that the research might or might not ultimately underwrite. Still, the gap between the two sides in this case might not be quite as wide as Haidt thinks. Skeptics of his strongest claims are not saying that there’s no there there. Just because the average YouTube user is unlikely to be led to Stormfront videos, Nyhan told me, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worry that some people are watching Stormfront videos; just because echo chambers and foreign misinformation seem to have had effects only at the margins, Gentzkow said, doesn’t mean they’re entirely irrelevant. “There are many questions here where the thing we as researchers are interested in is how social media affects the average person,” Gentzkow told me. “There’s a different set of questions where all you need is a small number of people to change—questions about ethnic violence in Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, people on YouTube mobilized to do mass shootings. Much of the evidence broadly makes me skeptical that the average effects are as big as the public discussion thinks they are, but I also think there are cases where a small number of people with very extreme views are able to find each other and connect and act.” He added, “That’s where many of the things I’d be most concerned about lie.”

The same might be said about any phenomenon where the base rate is very low but the stakes are very high, such as teen suicide. “It’s another case where those rare edge cases in terms of total social harm may be enormous. You don’t need many teen-age kids to decide to kill themselves or have serious mental-health outcomes in order for the social harm to be really big.” He added, “Almost none of this work is able to get at those edge-case effects, and we have to be careful that if we do establish that the average effect of something is zero, or small, that it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be worried about it—because we might be missing those extremes.” Jaime Settle, a scholar of political behavior at the College of William & Mary and the author of the book “ Frenemies: How Social Media Polarizes America ,” noted that Haidt is “farther along the spectrum of what most academics who study this stuff are going to say we have strong evidence for.” But she understood his impulse: “We do have serious problems, and I’m glad Jon wrote the piece, and down the road I wouldn’t be surprised if we got a fuller handle on the role of social media in all of this—there are definitely ways in which social media has changed our politics for the worse.”

It’s tempting to sidestep the question of diagnosis entirely, and to evaluate Haidt’s essay not on the basis of predictive accuracy—whether social media will lead to the destruction of American democracy—but as a set of proposals for what we might do better. If he is wrong, how much damage are his prescriptions likely to do? Haidt, to his great credit, does not indulge in any wishful thinking, and if his diagnosis is largely technological his prescriptions are sociopolitical. Two of his three major suggestions seem useful and have nothing to do with social media: he thinks that we should end closed primaries and that children should be given wide latitude for unsupervised play. His recommendations for social-media reform are, for the most part, uncontroversial: he believes that preteens shouldn’t be on Instagram and that platforms should share their data with outside researchers—proposals that are both likely to be beneficial and not very costly.

It remains possible, however, that the true costs of social-media anxieties are harder to tabulate. Gentzkow told me that, for the period between 2016 and 2020, the direct effects of misinformation were difficult to discern. “But it might have had a much larger effect because we got so worried about it—a broader impact on trust,” he said. “Even if not that many people were exposed, the narrative that the world is full of fake news, and you can’t trust anything, and other people are being misled about it—well, that might have had a bigger impact than the content itself.” Nyhan had a similar reaction. “There are genuine questions that are really important, but there’s a kind of opportunity cost that is missed here. There’s so much focus on sweeping claims that aren’t actionable, or unfounded claims we can contradict with data, that are crowding out the harms we can demonstrate, and the things we can test, that could make social media better.” He added, “We’re years into this, and we’re still having an uninformed conversation about social media. It’s totally wild.”

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The Effects of Social Media on Society Essay

The social networks broke into the everyday life of the majority of common people in the middle of 00s, first giving neglectful and suspicious attitude, as a tracking instrument of the government. Nevertheless, shortly, almost every individual including teenagers and elderly people, created a page on some kind of social media platform. Today it is hard to find anyone who does not have an account on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, or another local network.

People post news, share impressions and pictures, follow their friends’ activity and the activity of the people they are interested in. The whole world seems to become broader, but at the same time closer, as you can track your best friend who moved to another part of the country a long time ago. However, these new opportunities also bear a certain amount of dangers. People get addicted, lose contact with reality, and unthoughtfully provide strangers with important details of their personal life.

Let us start with the advantages. Advocates claim that social media provide a connection with people, allow you to stay in touch even if you are far away from each other. That is a good point. The friend is always in the background, you might not have conversations often, but if he or she updates his or her status frequently enough, you might have an idea what is going on in his or her life.

Social networks carefully remind you of friend’s birthday or other important events of his or her life, and you do not have to keep this information in your mind. There is almost no risk to miss it. The dark side of this statement is that you lose a skill of conversation, because you do not have to ask questions. Your friend posts, you tap “Like” – everyone is happy.

You do not have to write long letters, choosing the most correct words; do not have to consider what questions to ask to find out more about the friend. Your interaction becomes kind of robotic. You start to expect post’s approval from your friend, and if there is no “Like” in response, you get upset and start developing prejudgments towards him or her. However, the friend might be far away or just have not noticed your post. A friend might be not involved in social networking that much. However, the networking has its own laws.

The second advantage claimed by advocates is that people are getting more informed, as they follow the sources with the most recent and reliable news, they choose. According to people’s point of view, of course. A person starts following a source that seems trustworthy, and thus, providing the source with the connection to own emotions, the ability to generate an own opinion.

As the information is updated constantly, and the individual consumes it regularly, the interaction starts to gain hypnotic features, and if the source is professional, it certainly knows how to make you think the way it wants.

Following celebrities and popular persons also has a negative side, as they tend to post some minor things from their everyday life. By paying too much attention to those posts, an individual starts to lose such minor things in his own life, wasting time on the activity of the person he or she will never see or will never have a chance of a personal talk.

Despite certain advantages, there are several serious dangers hidden within spreading and vast application of social networks. First, making their life look exciting and interesting, people post too much important personal information online, making it available to the vast majority of absolute strangers or envious and malevolent persons. These posts might evoke envy and anger. You never know what is going on in strangers’ head, and they already know where you live, what your parents look like and how many kids you have.

Stalking and cyberbullying are not a pleasant thing to deal with as well. Second, many people get addicted, and this addiction is similar to drug or alcohol dependence. Just compare – angriness, frustration, losing focus on real-life issues, bad temper, relationship problems, abandoning hobbies and usual interests, depression if the desired substance is beyond the reach (Robinson, Smith, and Saisan par. 8).

Does not it remind the symptoms of the frequent social media network user if the one cannot get online? Actually, there are certain official criteria for measuring internet addiction. They are the preoccupation with social networks, increasing an amount of on-line time to get satisfaction, staying online longer than planned, lying about the time spent online (Young 21).

Moreover, the National Poll states that 22% of teens check social networking sites more than ten times a day and 28% have shared personal information that they normally wouldn’t have shared in public (“Common Sense” par. 2).

As concluded on the basics of many researches, extracting “information from friends’ pages appears particularly pleasurable” and “may be linked to the activation of the appetitive system, which indicates that engaging in this particular activity may stimulate the neurological pathways known to be related to addiction experience” (Kuss and Griffiths 3532). Sounds frightening. Third, people are simply losing time they could spend on some useful activity.

Nowadays the enormous number of entertainment websites generates content that is widely spread all over the network. Users share funny pictures, quotes of famous people (frequently assigned to wrong authors), top 10 lists of the most stupid celebrities and the best places to visit from 4 p.m. till 8 p.m. The majority of this information does not even make sense, but people continue to repost it filling the online space with garbage content that takes your time as you are trying to get something important digging your way through.

The concept of friendship also shifts as people get closer to someone they have never met offline and lose their connection with offline friends. Friendship gains some new attributes and loses the old ones. People are starting to get too serious if their post was not approved, liked, or read by someone they consider as friends. People would rather provide some personal information to a complete stranger, who looks reliable online, than talk to a friend over the cup of coffee.

Thus, this behavioral pattern is more typical if the person has a lack of communication and understanding in real life (Mesch and Talmud 41). There is no correct answer if this way of acting is good or bad for the individual, but the access to online communication may cause losing individual’s ability of successful offline communication at all.

Social networks both have their advantages and disadvantages. The thoughtful application can provide people with important information. Inaccurate use may cause serious psychological, social and even criminal problems that might affect not only you but also your friends and your family members.

Works Cited

Common Sense: Is Social Networking Changing Childhood? 2009. Web.

Kuss, Daria J., and Mark D. Griffiths. “Online social networking and addiction—anreview of the psychological literature.” International journal of environmental research and public health 8.9 (2011): 3528-3552. Print.

Mesch, Gustavo S., and Ilan Talmud. “Online friendship formation, communication channels, and social closeness.” International Journal of Internet Science 1.1 (2006): 29-44. Print.

Robinson, Lawrence, Melinda Smith, and Joanna Saisan. Drug Abuse and Addiction . 2015. Web.

Young, Kimberly S. “Internet addiction: symptoms, evaluation and treatment.” Innovations in clinical practice: A source book 17.1 (1999): 19-31. Print.

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  • Tween and teen health

Teens and social media use: What's the impact?

Social media is a term for internet sites and apps that you can use to share content you've created. Social media also lets you respond to content that others post. That can include pictures, text, reactions or comments on posts by others, and links to information.

Online sharing within social media sites helps many people stay in touch with friends or connect with new ones. And that may be more important for teenagers than other age groups. Friendships help teens feel supported and play a role in forming their identities. So, it's only natural to wonder how social media use might affect teens.

Social media is a big part of daily life for lots of teenagers.

How big? A 2022 survey of 13- to 17-year-olds offers a clue. Based on about 1,300 responses, the survey found that 35% of teens use at least one of five social media platforms more than several times a day. The five social media platforms are: YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

Social media doesn't affect all teens the same way. Use of social media is linked with healthy and unhealthy effects on mental health. These effects vary from one teenager to another. Social media effects on mental health depend on things such as:

  • What a teen sees and does online.
  • The amount of time spent online.
  • Psychological factors, such as maturity level and any preexisting mental health conditions.
  • Personal life circumstances, including cultural, social and economic factors.

Here are the general pros and cons of teen social media use, along with tips for parents.

Healthy social media

Social media lets teens create online identities, chat with others and build social networks. These networks can provide teens with support from other people who have hobbies or experiences in common. This type of support especially may help teens who:

  • Lack social support offline or are lonely.
  • Are going through a stressful time.
  • Belong to groups that often get marginalized, such as racial minorities, the LGBTQ community and those who are differently abled.
  • Have long-term medical conditions.

Sometimes, social media platforms help teens:

  • Express themselves.
  • Connect with other teens locally and across long distances.
  • Learn how other teens cope with challenging life situations and mental health conditions.
  • View or take part in moderated chat forums that encourage talking openly about topics such as mental health.
  • Ask for help or seek healthcare for symptoms of mental health conditions.

These healthy effects of social media can help teens in general. They also may help teens who are prone to depression stay connected to others. And social media that's humorous or distracting may help a struggling teen cope with a challenging day.

Unhealthy social media

Social media use may have negative effects on some teens. It might:

  • Distract from homework, exercise and family activities.
  • Disrupt sleep.
  • Lead to information that is biased or not correct.
  • Become a means to spread rumors or share too much personal information.
  • Lead some teens to form views about other people's lives or bodies that aren't realistic.
  • Expose some teens to online predators, who might try to exploit or extort them.
  • Expose some teens to cyberbullying, which can raise the risk of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

What's more, certain content related to risk-taking, and negative posts or interactions on social media, have been linked with self-harm and rarely, death.

The risks of social media use are linked with various factors. One may be how much time teens spend on these platforms.

In a study focusing on 12- to 15-year-olds in the United States, spending three hours a day using social media was linked to a higher risk of mental health concerns. That study was based on data collected in 2013 and 2014 from more than 6,500 participants.

Another study looked at data on more than 12,000 teens in England between the ages of 13 to 16. The researchers found that using social media more than three times a day predicted poor mental health and well-being in teens.

But not all research has found a link between time spent on social media and mental health risks in teens.

How teens use social media also might determine its impact. For instance, viewing certain types of content may raise some teens' mental health risks. This could include content that depicts:

  • Illegal acts.
  • Self-harm or harm to other people.
  • Encouragement of habits tied to eating disorders, such as purging or restrictive eating.

These types of content may be even more risky for teens who already have a mental health condition. Being exposed to discrimination, hate or cyberbullying on social media also can raise the risk of anxiety or depression.

What teens share about themselves on social media also matters.

With the teenage brain, it's common to make a choice before thinking it through. So, teens might post something when they're angry or upset, and regret it later. That's known as stress posting.

Teens who post content also are at risk of sharing sexual photos or highly personal stories. This can lead to teens being bullied, harassed or even blackmailed.

Protecting your teen

You can take steps to help your teens use social media responsibly and limit some of the possible negative effects.

Use these tips:

Set rules and limits as needed. This helps prevent social media from getting in the way of activities, sleep, meals or homework.

For example, you could make a rule about not using social media until homework is done. Or you could set a daily time limit for social media use.

You also could choose to keep social media off-limits during certain times. These times might include during family meals and an hour before bed.

Set an example by following these rules yourself. And let your teen know what the consequences will be if your rules aren't followed.

  • Manage any challenging behaviors. If your teen's social media use starts to challenge your rules or your sense of what's appropriate, talk with your teen about it. You also could connect with parents of your teen's friends or take a look at your teen's internet history.
  • Turn on privacy settings. This can help keep your teen from sharing personal information or data that your teen didn't mean to share. Each of your teen's social media accounts likely has privacy setting that can be changed.

Monitor your teen's accounts. The American Psychological Association recommends you regularly review your child's social media use during the early teen years.

One way to monitor is to follow or "friend" your child's social accounts. As your teen gets older, you can choose to monitor your teen's social media less. Your teen's maturity level can help guide your decision.

Have regular talks with your teen about social media. These talks give you chances to ask how social media has been making your teen feel. Encourage your teen to let you know if something online worries or bothers your teen.

Regular talks offer you chances to give your child advice about social media too. For example, you can teach your teen to question whether content is accurate. You also can explain that social media is full of images about beauty and lifestyle that are not realistic.

  • Be a role model for your teen. You might want to tell your child about your own social media habits. That can help you set a good example and keep your regular talks from being one-sided.

Explain what's not OK. Remind your teen that it's hurtful to gossip, spread rumors, bully or harm someone's reputation — online or otherwise.

Also remind your teen not to share personal information with strangers online. This includes people's addresses, telephone numbers, passwords, and bank or credit card numbers.

  • Encourage face-to-face contact with friends. This is even more important for teens prone to social anxiety.

Talk to your child's healthcare professional if you think your teen has symptoms of anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns related to social media use. Also talk with your child's care professional if your teen has any of the following symptoms:

  • Uses social media even when wanting to stop.
  • Uses it so much that school, sleep, activities or relationships suffer.
  • Often spends more time on social platforms than you intended.
  • Lies in order to use social media.

Your teen might be referred to a mental healthcare professional who can help.

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  • Coyne SM, et al. Does time spent using social media impact mental health? An eight year longitudinal study. Computers in Human Behavior. 2020; doi:10.1016/j.chb.2019.106160.
  • Viner RM, et al. Roles of cyberbullying, sleep, and physical activity in mediating the effects of social media use on mental health and wellbeing among young people in England: A secondary analysis of longitudinal data. The Lancet. Child & Adolescent Health. 2019; doi:10.1016/S2352-4642(19)30186-5.
  • Riehm KE, et al. Associations between time spent using social media and internalizing and externalizing problems among US youth. JAMA Psychiatry. 2019; doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.2325.
  • Hoge E, et al. Digital media, anxiety, and depression in children. Pediatrics. 2017; doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758G.
  • How to help kids navigate friendships and peer relationships. American Psychological Association. Accessed Oct. 24, 2023.
  • Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Oct. 31, 2023.
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Just How Harmful Is Social Media? Our Experts Weigh-In.

A recent investigation by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook was aware of mental health risks linked to the use of its Instagram app but kept those findings secret. Internal research by the social media giant found that Instagram worsened body image issues for one in three teenage girls, and all teenage users of the app linked it to experiences of anxiety and depression. It isn’t the first evidence of social media’s harms. Watchdog groups have identified Facebook and Instagram as avenues for cyberbullying , and reports have linked TikTok to dangerous and antisocial behavior, including a recent spate of school vandalism .

As social media has proliferated worldwide—Facebook has 2.85 billion users—so too have concerns over how the platforms are affecting individual and collective wellbeing. Social media is criticized for being addictive by design and for its role in the spread of misinformation on critical issues from vaccine safety to election integrity, as well as the rise of right-wing extremism. Social media companies, and many users, defend the platforms as avenues for promoting creativity and community-building. And some research has pushed back against the idea that social media raises the risk for depression in teens . So just how healthy or unhealthy is social media?

Two experts from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia Psychiatry share their insights into one crucial aspect of social media’s influence—its effect on the mental health of young people and adults. Deborah Glasofer , associate professor of psychology in psychiatry, conducts psychotherapy development research for adults with eating disorders and teaches about cognitive behavioral therapy. She is the co-author of the book Eating Disorders: What Everyone Needs to Know. Claude Mellins , Professor of medical psychology in the Departments of Psychiatry and Sociomedical Sciences, studies wellbeing among college and graduate students, among other topics, and serves as program director of CopeColumbia, a peer support program for Columbia faculty and staff whose mental health has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She co-led the SHIFT research study to reduce sexual violence among undergraduates. Both use social media.

What do we know about the mental health risks of social media use?

Mellins : Facebook and Instagram and other social media platforms are important sources of socialization and relationship-building for many young people. Although there are important benefits, social media can also provide platforms for bullying and exclusion, unrealistic expectations about body image and sources of popularity, normalization of risk-taking behaviors, and can be detrimental to mental health. Girls and young people who identify as sexual and gender minorities can be especially vulnerable as targets. Young people’s brains are still developing, and as individuals, young people are developing their own identities. What they see on social media can define what is expected in ways that is not accurate and that can be destructive to identity development and self-image. Adolescence is a time of risk-taking, which is both a strength and a vulnerability. Social media can exacerbate risks, as we have seen played out in the news. 

Although there are important benefits, social media can also provide platforms for bullying and exclusion, unrealistic expectations about body image and sources of popularity, normalization of risk-taking behaviors, and can be detrimental to mental health. – Claude Mellins

Glasofer : For those vulnerable to developing an eating disorder, social media may be especially unhelpful because it allows people to easily compare their appearance to their friends, to celebrities, even older images of themselves. Research tells us that how much someone engages with photo-related activities like posting and sharing photos on Facebook or Instagram is associated with less body acceptance and more obsessing about appearance. For adolescent girls in particular, the more time they spend on social media directly relates to how much they absorb the idea that being thin is ideal, are driven to try to become thin, and/or overly scrutinize their own bodies. Also, if someone is vulnerable to an eating disorder, they may be especially attracted to seeking out unhelpful information—which is all too easy to find on social media.

Are there any upsides to social media?

Mellins : For young people, social media provides a platform to help them figure out who they are. For very shy or introverted young people, it can be a way to meet others with similar interests. During the pandemic, social media made it possible for people to connect in ways when in-person socialization was not possible.  Social support and socializing are critical influences on coping and resilience. Friends we couldn’t see in person were available online and allowed us important points of connection. On the other hand, fewer opportunities for in-person interactions with friends and family meant less of a real-world check on some of the negative influences of social media.

Whether it’s social media or in person, a good peer group makes the difference. A group of friends that connects over shared interests like art or music, and is balanced in their outlook on eating and appearance, is a positive. – Deborah Glasofer

Glasofer : Whether it’s social media or in person, a good peer group makes the difference. A group of friends that connects over shared interests like art or music, and is balanced in their outlook on eating and appearance, is a positive. In fact, a good peer group online may be protective against negative in-person influences. For those with a history of eating disorders, there are body-positive and recovery groups on social media. Some people find these groups to be supportive; for others, it’s more beneficial to move on and pursue other interests.

Is there a healthy way to be on social media?

Mellins : If you feel social media is a negative experience, you might need a break. Disengaging with social media permanently is more difficult­—especially for young people. These platforms are powerful tools for connecting and staying up-to-date with friends and family. Social events, too. If you’re not on social media then you’re reliant on your friends to reach out to you personally, which doesn’t always happen. It’s complicated.

Glasofer : When you find yourself feeling badly about yourself in relation to what other people are posting about themselves, then social media is not doing you any favors. If there is anything on social media that is negatively affecting your actions or your choices­—for example, if you’re starting to eat restrictively or exercise excessively—then it’s time to reassess. Parents should check-in with their kids about their lives on social media. In general, I recommend limiting social media— creating boundaries that are reasonable and work for you—so you can be present with people in your life. I also recommend social media vacations. It’s good to take the time to notice the difference between the virtual world and the real world.

How Social Media Impact Our Life (Explained)

By: Author Valerie Forgeard

Posted on Published: December 8, 2021  - Last updated: January 2, 2024

Categories Society

Social media is a big part of our lives. It has become how we sometimes communicate with others and even ourselves. We rely on social media to keep up with friends, family, and what’s happening worldwide. Social Media impacts our life in many ways, but it can also be detrimental if used incorrectly or too much.

This blog post will help you understand how social media impacts our lives for better or worse by providing tips that you can use to make your experience more positive for yourself and those around you!

Social Media Has an Impact on Real Life

I always think of social media as mapping our social lives in the mass media, where everyone can interact with us and judge our every move. Social media has become an essential part of our lives whether we like it or not. They can be used for good or for bad.

Social media has changed the face of communication and personal interaction. The impact they have on the world can be observed in many ways.

Social media has changed how we live and will continue to do so in the future. Social media is a great place to get new information, make friends, and voice your opinion.

Before, you could only talk to people face-to-face or over the phone. Making friends that way was difficult because you’d have to be around them for them to consider you a friend.

Social media has changed that because it allows you to connect with people worldwide in your everyday life. This has allowed us to expand our social network and connect with more people than ever before.

Social media positively affects our lives and can help us grow as individuals, but it can also be harmful if abused.

How Social Media Affects Mental Health

Social media can affect your mental health in several ways. First, they can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth.

Most people on social media post only their most flattering, heavily filtered photos and present themselves in the best light.

When you log on to social media, you’re confronted with a seemingly endless stream of beautiful pictures and perfect strangers who’re getting married, traveling the world, or have six-figure jobs – all things that make you feel like you’re falling short.

You may wish you were more attractive, had more impressive friends/family/colleagues, lived in a nicer house, or owned more material things.

This can lead to feelings of envy and resentment toward others.

These feelings are amplified by so many people presenting the best version of themselves online: We tend to post our happiest moments and most achievements online – our bad days, failures, and frustrations are much less reported.

Some studies show that we’re more likely to share our feelings on Facebook when we feel strong emotions like happiness or sadness than when we feel neutral.

So when you see a Facebook user talking about his/her great vacation (on a sandy beach, for example), it’s easy to think they have a perfect life even though you don’t see the in-flight arguments or the complaints about the heat.

Social Media Can Cause Depression

A new study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry suggests that teens who spend more than three hours daily on social media sites are more likely to develop depression and other mental health problems.

In another JAMA Psychiatry article, new statistics about social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram negatively impact adult mental health.

A 2018 study from the College of Pennsylvania found that reducing social media use to 30 minutes daily led to less depression, insomnia, loneliness, and fear of missing out.

If Social Media Is Bad For Our Mental Health, Why Do We Still Use It?

Social media is a blessing and a curse. They bring people together and can sometimes tear them apart. But the reason people use social media is to love it.

Social media is a great tool that allows us to connect with people who’re unreachable in the real world, make ourselves heard, and stay in touch with all of our friends.

They’re also beneficial for social media marketing purposes.

For many people, social media is their first contact with the outside world. It’s how they learn about events, communicate with people they don’t know, and have access to many resources that help them run their businesses while enjoying their free time.

I have a few friends who decided to retire from social media, and most of them came back because they couldn’t keep in touch with most people outside of social media.

10 Examples of the Positive Impact of Social Media

1. provides new opportunities for interaction and connections.

Social media connects us with friends, family, and social networks in ways that weren’t possible before. Everyone knows how to use it, even if they don’t always use it well. The power of social media lies in its ability to break down communication barriers and create connections between people on a global scale.

2. Helps people stay in touch and keep up to date

Social media helps you stay connected with loved ones who live far away.

Everyone can share personal experiences, post pictures, new music, videos, and discuss various topics. Social media is unlike any other ever created because it’s changed how people share their lives with their loved ones.

3. Allows people to share moments spontaneously

Social media lets you share your life with the world in real-time. People love to see what’s happening in your life, and social media lets you show them.

Being able to connect with others instantly means that if there’s a problem, everyone in the world has access to the same information at the same time and can take action quickly.

4. Allows people to share their views with the world and get feedback

A person can have a business idea, but if no one in their town knows about it, they won’t get any money. Social media allows people to share their ideas with friends, family, colleagues, and anyone accessing the Internet.

5. Creates a sense of community

Social networking sites allow social media users to create their communities based on their interests and preferences.

These communities offer people the opportunity to meet and discuss various topics.

By joining these groups or creating your own, you can meet like-minded people with similar interests and create a positive impact.

6. Create more jobs in the economy

The most popular social media sites, like Facebook and LinkedIn, have job boards where new jobs are posted daily.

Using social media, unemployed people can find job opportunities and apply directly through their social media accounts.

7. Informs users about local and online events

Social media platforms can create local and online events on the same or different platforms.

You can live stream an event in real-time and interact directly with your audience.

8. Helps charities raise funds

Charities and donors use social media to raise awareness and funds for various causes.

For example, on the social networking sites Facebook and Instagram, you can create pages, post updates, hold fundraisers, and collect donations.

Users no longer have to wait for telethons or other televised events to donate or help a cause. Charities can create their fundraiser, and donors can track progress in real-time.

9. Builds a brand presence for businesses

You can build relationships with your customers directly through social media. You can share news, products, events, and even the day-to-day happenings in the office or job site.

Social media also allows you to build your brand’s reputation through consistent posts across all networks.

Your online presence showcases your company’s personality, culture, and beliefs and shows potential customers who you’re and what sets you apart.

10. Enables brands to do business

Social media is used by businesses of all sizes, including many small and medium-sized businesses. Social media has become an important marketing tool for many businesses. Some social media platforms also allow companies to sell their products directly through the social media business page.

Related: What Is the Importance of Business Communication

10 Negative Effects of Social Media

1. impact on social interaction.

Many people look at their phones every few minutes. This leads to many interruptions during a normal day and often to “phubbing” – snubbing someone in favor of your phone. This causes stress in relationships.

Social networking has also allowed us to meet new people and interact with friends and family in a new way. However, the more people we “friend,” the more the quality of our interactions can diminish.

2. Emotional detachment

The more time you spend on social media, the more likely you will become disconnected from the real world.

If you spend more time on these sites than with your friends and family or with physical activities, it’s time to examine how you spend your time.

Are you becoming addicted? Are you looking at other people’s lives more than your own? If so, it could be affecting your professional and personal relationships.

3. Constant distraction

Social media is a double-edged sword. They can be a great way to connect with other people but also a great way to waste time.

This is especially true for entrepreneurs, who should know better than anyone that time is a minimal resource.

4. Sleep deprivation and the fear of missing out

Sleep deprivation can affect anyone who doesn’t get enough sleep, but late-night social media sessions can exacerbate it.

Many people check their social media feeds after they go to bed and before they leave for work or school in the morning. This lack of sleep can lead to depression, poor concentration, and mental health problems.

5. Danger from fake profiles, spammers, and scammers

Fake profiles on social media are used for various purposes, including identity theft, spamming, and scamming.

The worst thing about these fake profiles is that they contain all your data. If someone decides to use this information for identity theft, they’ll first look at your connections on Facebook to see who might be at risk.

6. No privacy

Your personal information is vulnerable.

The information you share on social media is available to anyone, including potential employers and government agencies.

Information you disclose on your Facebook, Twitter , and other social media accounts can be tracked by third parties, such as websites and companies that create databases to target potential customers.

7. Increased feelings of inadequacy

Regular social media use can lead to increased feelings of inadequacy, isolation, and depression in young adults, research suggests.

These feelings of inadequacy and the need for social comparison can lead young people to change aspects of their personality (diets, hair color, clothing) or try risky behaviors they see portrayed on social media.

8. Social isolation

With all the time people spend on social media, they can lose touch with what’s important – genuine human relationships, like close family ties or friendships with neighbors or colleagues.

Social isolation can make you lonely, depressed, or anxious.

Some people are surprised that they spend more time on social media than with their families! That’s one reason a young person who uses social media heavily is more likely to feel depressed or have other negative emotions than peers who don’t use social media as much.

9. Stress & instant messaging

Studies have shown that the constant presence of social media and the need to respond immediately to text messages, emails, and phone calls can cause high stress and anxiety.

10. Fake news

Although social media platforms are doing their best to stop it, Fake News is still a problem, but they aren’t solely to blame.

We’ve already seen that some people use this tragedy to promote their political agenda.

For example, before social media existed, Populists used the power of modern technology, including the movie camera and radio, to spread their message of hate and genocide.

The speed with which information can be disseminated today makes it even more important to be vigilant in sourcing news.

We must demand sources we can trust because our freedom depends on them.

Imagine Life Without Social Media

I’ve been thinking about that for a while.

For nearly two decades, I’ve lived and traveled abroad and experienced many places where I was removed from social media and digital technologies.

I’ve also found myself in situations where my access to the Internet was severely limited or cut off altogether, and that was the best time in my life.

However, social media and digital communications have become an integral part of our daily life for many people, even those who don’t live in a big city or have a job that requires them to be connected to the Internet all day. And so it’s tough to disconnect from all of that, even if you want to because your contacts are just there.

They’re accessible, and they’re easy to use. You can always connect with them, find out what they’re up to, see what they think about things, and constantly interact with friends and family far away.

Sometimes we wish it was a little more difficult or less direct. We’d love to sit down with a book or some other form of distraction without feeling guilty that someone might get back to us because we haven’t responded to him or her in 15 minutes.

The Question is: How Do You Find a Balance?

A social media detox might be just what you need to get your life back on track.

It can be very tempting to check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat every few minutes. But it might be time for a break if you’re having difficulty focusing on work or paying attention to the people around you.

How to Take a Break From Social Media

Find out which social media platform(s) you use most.

Once you’ve figured out which apps you use the most, look at how much time you spend on them daily.

If it’s more than an hour, maybe it’s time to take a break from social media for the next week or so.

Block out certain times during the day

If you want to spend an hour or two on social media daily, that’s fine. But if it starts to take over your everyday life – constantly looking at your phone when you’re supposed to be doing something else and feeling restless when you’re not – it’s time to take a break.

Delete your apps from your phone

If you can’t live without checking Facebook every five minutes, install the app on your desktop computer (you can even save it as your desktop wallpaper for quick access) and ensure it’s easily accessible. If you can’t delete your apps, at least turn off notifications on your phone.

Focus on offline activities

Many fulfilling offline activities include sports, art, writing, cooking, reading, etc. Get together with your friends or family face-to-face. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll appreciate the time you spend with those you haven’t seen.

Leave your phone outside your bedroom when you go to sleep

Many people get so attached to their devices that they don’t want to turn them off while they sleep.

This makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep because all you can think about is what’s happening on your social media feeds.

The result is insomnia and anxiety: you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about world events, news, your bank balance, or someone you like will be looking at their phone in an hour.

What to Keep in Mind When You Want to Opt Out of Your Social Media Accounts

The decision to remove yourself from social media is a serious one.

As with most things in life, there are both pros and cons.

It’s important to consider your feelings before making the decision to remove yourself from any of these platforms.

Benefits of Withdrawing From Social Media

  • Reduce your stress and anxiety levels in your daily life. Social media can be addictive and stressful. You may compare your life to other social media users as you read others’ posts. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression. If you think social media is stressing you out, it may be an excellent decision to withdraw from it.
  • Spend more time with your family and friends. Social media can keep you from real social interaction with the people most matter to you. By withdrawing from social media, you can put away your phone or computer and spend more time with the people who matter to you.
  • Give your eyes a break. If you’re reading Facebook or Instagram all day, your eyes will quickly become strained and tired. Step away from social media for a while and give your eyes a much-needed break by looking at other things (like the face of

Benefits of Staying on Social Media

  • Keep in Touch with Friends and Family. It’s also a great way to meet new people – especially if you’re traveling. Some of your closest relationships result from a chance encounter online. And even if they’re far away – or maybe even dead – you can always reach them on social media.
  • Stay Connected Social media can make it easier to find out things about other people’s lives, including their interests and activities. If you’re bored with people who aren’t interesting enough to keep you entertained, social media can help by connecting you with cool groups and events in your area or around the world.
  • Stay Informed Social media is a great way to learn new things from people who share your interests and passions.

Social Media for Business

Social media isn’t just for your personal use anymore. Small businesses are using various forms of social media to grow their business.

It’s a great way to reach new customers and interact with their existing customers. They can get feedback from their customers and provide great customer service.

Social media allows small businesses to build relationships with potential customers before meeting them in person.

Social Media Helps You Network

Social media helps you network with people with similar interests and allows you to meet new people with the same or similar ideas and beliefs.

Whether you’re looking for friends or want to network, there are many different ways that social media can improve your life in different ways.

Which Social Media Platform is Right for You?

If you use social media for your business or professional networking, the question isn’t whether you should leave social media but which social platform is right for you.

Most Popular Platforms Used by Businesses and Professionals

  • LinkedIn – This platform offers business-to-business (B2B) contacts a great opportunity. It’s primarily geared toward professional use and allows you to connect with potential clients. LinkedIn gives you more control over your audience than on other social networks. You can narrow them by job title, company size, industry, etc.
  • Facebook – this social platform is best for marketers with a small budget. It allows you to focus on your target audience and get the most out of your advertising budget. Facebook is still growing and therefore offers many untapped opportunities for business.
  • Twitter – is primarily used as a real-time news feed, but it also provides a great way for businesses to connect with customers and prospects. Using Twitter ads, you can connect with new prospects and customers cost-effectively. Twitter is especially effective for those who’ve little time for social media. The messages are usually short.
  • Instagram – great for eCommerce is a fun way to market your business and get your name out there. The Instagram app and ads are constantly improving.

A Social Media Site Is Like Any Other Tool; It Only Affects Us if We Let It

Social media is here to stay, so it is essential to know how to use it properly.

The impact of social media on our lives, how we do business, and more is significant.

They’ve become a way of life for everyone and are a good network for people to stay in touch and share information.

Related Post

Did you know that social media also significantly affects our reading habits and literacy?

With the digital age in full swing, the way we consume information and literature is rapidly changing, especially among younger generations.

To delve deeper into this topic, check out our insightful article: Why It Matters That Teens Are Reading Less . This piece sheds light on the critical impact of social media on traditional reading practices, highlighting the decline in leisure reading among teenagers. It explores how social media platforms’ instant gratification and fast-paced nature can reshape attention spans and reading preferences.

Understanding this shift is crucial, as it has profound implications for cognitive development, academic performance, and emotional well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the impact of social media on our lives.

Social media profoundly impacts our lives, including how we communicate, consume information, political opinions, buying behaviors, and overall sense of self and community. The impact can be positive and negative, depending on its use.

How does social media affect our mental health?

Studies have shown that excessive use of social media can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and lower self-esteem. However, social media can also provide support networks and connections to improve mental health. The impact largely depends on how and why individuals use these platforms.

How does social media impact communication?

Social media has revolutionized communication, making it faster and more immediate. It allows people to connect globally, share ideas, and collaborate like never before. However, this can also spread misinformation and misunderstandings due to digital communication’s lack of non-verbal cues.

What are the positive effects of social media?

Positive effects of social media include the ability to connect with people worldwide, access to a wealth of information and different perspectives, opportunities for learning, and a platform for self-expression and creativity.

What are the negative effects of social media?

Negative effects of social media can include cyberbullying, privacy concerns, misinformation, and the potential for addiction. It can also lead to decreased productivity and adversely affect mental health.

Can social media impact our decision-making process?

Yes, social media can significantly impact our decision-making processes. From influencing our purchasing decisions through ads and influencer marketing to shaping our political views, our social media content can shape our thoughts, perceptions, and actions.

How does social media influence our perception of reality?

Social media can influence our perception of reality by presenting curated, often idealized versions of people’s lives, leading to unrealistic expectations and comparisons. It can also influence our perception of events or issues based on the opinions and perspectives we’re exposed to.

Is it possible to reduce the negative impacts of social media?

Yes, it is possible to reduce the negative impacts of social media. This can be done by setting boundaries, curating feeds to include diverse and positive content, taking regular digital detoxes, and fostering healthy offline relationships and hobbies.

How does social media impact teenagers differently than adults?

Teenagers, who are in a critical stage of social and emotional development, might be more susceptible to the negative impacts of social media, such as cyberbullying, peer pressure, and the impact on self-esteem from comparison. However, they can also benefit from these platforms’ educational content and social connections.

How has social media changed society?

Social media has significantly changed society in various ways. It has transformed how we communicate, how we access information, and even how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. It has led to significant societal changes, including shifts in political discourse, consumer behavior, and social activism.

Related Articles

Associations Between Time Spent Using Social Media and Internalizing and Externalizing Problems Among US Youth )

Association Between Social Media Use and Self-reported Symptoms of Depression in US Adults

Help Guide: Social Media and Mental Health

Monica Vermani C. Psych.

Social Networking

How your social media habits are damaging your relationships, are your social media activities causing real-life problems.

Posted August 9, 2023 | Reviewed by Davia Sills

  • Individuals are spending more time than ever on screens and electronic devices.
  • How people engage in social media can negatively impact real-life relationships with themselves and others.
  • It's important to take steps to manage one's social media engagement and care for important relationships.

We’ve all participated in or witnessed social disconnection in action… people gathered together, with gazes fixed on screens rather than interacting with one another. Screens and social media have become a part of everyday life. Social media , at its best, has provided us with many ways to connect, interact and expand our social networks exponentially. In 2022, on average, people spent 152 minutes a day on social networking … slightly higher than the previous year’s 147-minute average.

Clearly, social media is on the rise. Not just how much, but where, when, and how we engage in social media could be negatively impacting our real-life relationships. Our relationships matter. Our deep connections and close social and romantic relationships with others are key to our happiness and longevity.

What’s the problem?

Though social media has become a part of our regular lives, in terms of our awareness of and our ability to manage the impacts of social media on our relationships—our relationships with the people in our lives and with ourselves—we have some catching up to do.

“Social Media Use and Its Impact on Relationships and Emotions” (Christensen, Spencer Palmer), a 2018 Brigham Young University study , found that: “the more time an individual spent on social media, the more likely they were to experience a negative impact on their overall emotional well-being and a decreased quality in their relationships.” The study also found that social media use negatively impacted interpersonal relationships due to: “distraction, irritation, and decreased quality time with their significant other in offline settings” and that participants reported increased “frustration, depression , and social comparison” related to their engagement in social media.

Driving intimate partner disconnection

According to a 2019 Pew Research Center study , 51 percent of people in a committed relationship reported that their partner is: “often or sometimes distracted by their cellphone while they are trying to have a conversation with them, and 4 in 10 say they are at least sometimes bothered by the amount of time their partner spends on their mobile device.”

Besides the disconnection resulting from screen distractions, partners can often feel threatened by real or imagined online third parties, including rekindled connections to former partners, habitual engagement with social media influencers, and habitual use of online pornography . These forms of engagement can lead to insecurities, an erosion of trust, and relationship breakdowns.

Feelings of low self-worth

Although it is not unheard of for people to share their struggles and hard times on their social media platforms, most people present an upbeat, curated—and sometimes highly filtered and photoshopped—that is to say, unrealistic—version of their lives to their online followers. “The Effects of Active Social Media Engagement with Peers on Body Image in Young Women” by Jacqueline Hogue and Jennifer S Mills, a 2019 York University body image study , concluded that comparisons “may lead to increased body concerns in young women.” When we compare ourselves to people with out-of-reach lifestyles, career success, beauty, or wealth, these comparisons can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and hopelessness.

It is important that we build awareness of how our social media habits impact our relationships—with ourselves and the people we care about—and that we take steps to manage and take care of our time, our energy, and our real-life relationships.

7 steps to creating healthier social media habits

If your online life is negatively impacting your relationships…

Listen to what the people in your life are saying to you about your social media habits. Observe their reactions to your decreased interactions.

Build awareness about your social media habits and engagement. Make an effort to track the amount of time you spend online for a week.

Create healthy boundaries around your online activities if you find you are spending too much time on social media. Scheduling brief times throughout the day to engage in social media and silencing notifications from social media apps could be a healthy first step in curbing over-engagement.

Put some distance between you and your devices daily. Go out for dinner, watch a movie, take a walk, or meet up with friends and leave your devices behind.

Prioritize your real-life relationships. Make an effort to stay mindful of how your actions and presence impact other people, and be engaged in person with friends, colleagues, and family members.

how social media affects us essay

Unfollow unhealthy, unrealistic, attention -seeking social media influencers. Social media “models” and lifestyle influencers often present a false sense of who they are and set unrealistic goals and aspirations that can negatively impact your sense of self-worth or the self-worth of your partner.

Seek the help of a mental health professional if your social media engagement has led to feelings of low self-worth or depression or if your social media usage has become unmanageable.

Monica Vermani C. Psych.

Monica Vermani, C. Psych., is a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of trauma, stress, mood and anxiety disorders, and the author of A Deeper Wellness .

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Home — Essay Samples — Sociology — Effects of Social Media — The Social Media Effect On People


The Social Media Effect on People

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Published: Apr 29, 2022

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NPR in Turmoil After It Is Accused of Liberal Bias

An essay from an editor at the broadcaster has generated a firestorm of criticism about the network on social media, especially among conservatives.

Uri Berliner, wearing a dark zipped sweater over a white T-shirt, sits in a darkened room, a big plant and a yellow sofa behind him.

By Benjamin Mullin and Katie Robertson

NPR is facing both internal tumult and a fusillade of attacks by prominent conservatives this week after a senior editor publicly claimed the broadcaster had allowed liberal bias to affect its coverage, risking its trust with audiences.

Uri Berliner, a senior business editor who has worked at NPR for 25 years, wrote in an essay published Tuesday by The Free Press, a popular Substack publication, that “people at every level of NPR have comfortably coalesced around the progressive worldview.”

Mr. Berliner, a Peabody Award-winning journalist, castigated NPR for what he said was a litany of journalistic missteps around coverage of several major news events, including the origins of Covid-19 and the war in Gaza. He also said the internal culture at NPR had placed race and identity as “paramount in nearly every aspect of the workplace.”

Mr. Berliner’s essay has ignited a firestorm of criticism of NPR on social media, especially among conservatives who have long accused the network of political bias in its reporting. Former President Donald J. Trump took to his social media platform, Truth Social, to argue that NPR’s government funding should be rescinded, an argument he has made in the past.

NPR has forcefully pushed back on Mr. Berliner’s accusations and the criticism.

“We’re proud to stand behind the exceptional work that our desks and shows do to cover a wide range of challenging stories,” Edith Chapin, the organization’s editor in chief, said in an email to staff on Tuesday. “We believe that inclusion — among our staff, with our sourcing, and in our overall coverage — is critical to telling the nuanced stories of this country and our world.” Some other NPR journalists also criticized the essay publicly, including Eric Deggans, its TV critic, who faulted Mr. Berliner for not giving NPR an opportunity to comment on the piece.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Berliner expressed no regrets about publishing the essay, saying he loved NPR and hoped to make it better by airing criticisms that have gone unheeded by leaders for years. He called NPR a “national trust” that people rely on for fair reporting and superb storytelling.

“I decided to go out and publish it in hopes that something would change, and that we get a broader conversation going about how the news is covered,” Mr. Berliner said.

He said he had not been disciplined by managers, though he said he had received a note from his supervisor reminding him that NPR requires employees to clear speaking appearances and media requests with standards and media relations. He said he didn’t run his remarks to The New York Times by network spokespeople.

When the hosts of NPR’s biggest shows, including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” convened on Wednesday afternoon for a long-scheduled meet-and-greet with the network’s new chief executive, Katherine Maher , conversation soon turned to Mr. Berliner’s essay, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting. During the lunch, Ms. Chapin told the hosts that she didn’t want Mr. Berliner to become a “martyr,” the people said.

Mr. Berliner’s essay also sent critical Slack messages whizzing through some of the same employee affinity groups focused on racial and sexual identity that he cited in his essay. In one group, several staff members disputed Mr. Berliner’s points about a lack of ideological diversity and said efforts to recruit more people of color would make NPR’s journalism better.

On Wednesday, staff members from “Morning Edition” convened to discuss the fallout from Mr. Berliner’s essay. During the meeting, an NPR producer took issue with Mr. Berliner’s argument for why NPR’s listenership has fallen off, describing a variety of factors that have contributed to the change.

Mr. Berliner’s remarks prompted vehement pushback from several news executives. Tony Cavin, NPR’s managing editor of standards and practices, said in an interview that he rejected all of Mr. Berliner’s claims of unfairness, adding that his remarks would probably make it harder for NPR journalists to do their jobs.

“The next time one of our people calls up a Republican congressman or something and tries to get an answer from them, they may well say, ‘Oh, I read these stories, you guys aren’t fair, so I’m not going to talk to you,’” Mr. Cavin said.

Some journalists have defended Mr. Berliner’s essay. Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, NPR’s former ombudsman, said Mr. Berliner was “not wrong” on social media. Chuck Holmes, a former managing editor at NPR, called Mr. Berliner’s essay “brave” on Facebook.

Mr. Berliner’s criticism was the latest salvo within NPR, which is no stranger to internal division. In October, Mr. Berliner took part in a lengthy debate over whether NPR should defer to language proposed by the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association while covering the conflict in Gaza.

“We don’t need to rely on an advocacy group’s guidance,” Mr. Berliner wrote, according to a copy of the email exchange viewed by The Times. “Our job is to seek out the facts and report them.” The debate didn’t change NPR’s language guidance, which is made by editors who weren’t part of the discussion. And in a statement on Thursday, the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association said it is a professional association for journalists, not a political advocacy group.

Mr. Berliner’s public criticism has highlighted broader concerns within NPR about the public broadcaster’s mission amid continued financial struggles. Last year, NPR cut 10 percent of its staff and canceled four podcasts, including the popular “Invisibilia,” as it tried to make up for a $30 million budget shortfall. Listeners have drifted away from traditional radio to podcasts, and the advertising market has been unsteady.

In his essay, Mr. Berliner laid some of the blame at the feet of NPR’s former chief executive, John Lansing, who said he was retiring at the end of last year after four years in the role. He was replaced by Ms. Maher, who started on March 25.

During a meeting with employees in her first week, Ms. Maher was asked what she thought about decisions to give a platform to political figures like Ronna McDaniel, the former Republican Party chair whose position as a political analyst at NBC News became untenable after an on-air revolt from hosts who criticized her efforts to undermine the 2020 election.

“I think that this conversation has been one that does not have an easy answer,” Ms. Maher responded.

Benjamin Mullin reports on the major companies behind news and entertainment. Contact Ben securely on Signal at +1 530-961-3223 or email at [email protected] . More about Benjamin Mullin

Katie Robertson covers the media industry for The Times. Email:  [email protected]   More about Katie Robertson

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6 facts about americans and tiktok.

A photo of TikTok in the Apple App store. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Increasing shares of U.S. adults are turning to the short-form video sharing platform TikTok in general and for news .

Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to better understand Americans’ use and perceptions of TikTok. The data for this analysis comes from several Center surveys conducted in 2023.

More information about the surveys and their methodologies, including the sample sizes and field dates, can be found at the links in the text.

Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest analysis in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

This analysis draws from several Pew Research Center reports on Americans’ use of and attitudes about social media, based on surveys conducted in 2023. For more information, read:

Americans’ Social Media Use

How u.s. adults use tiktok.

  • Social Media and News Fact Sheet
  • Teens, Social Media and Technology 2023

At the same time, some Americans have concerns about the Chinese-owned platform’s approach to data privacy and its potential impact on national security. Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that, if passed in the Senate and signed into law, would restrict TikTok’s ability to operate in the United States.

Here are six key facts about Americans and TikTok, drawn from Pew Research Center surveys.

A third of U.S. adults – including a majority of adults under 30 – use TikTok. Around six-in-ten U.S. adults under 30 (62%) say they use TikTok, compared with 39% of those ages 30 to 49, 24% of those 50 to 64, and 10% of those 65 and older.

In a 2023 Center survey , TikTok stood out from other platforms we asked about for the rapid growth of its user base. Just two years earlier, 21% of U.S. adults used the platform.

A bar chart showing that a majority of U.S. adults under 30 say they use TikTok.

A majority of U.S. teens use TikTok. About six-in-ten teens ages 13 to 17 (63%) say they use the platform. More than half of teens (58%) use it daily, including 17% who say they’re on it “almost constantly.”

A higher share of teen girls than teen boys say they use TikTok almost constantly (22% vs. 12%). Hispanic teens also stand out: Around a third (32%) say they’re on TikTok almost constantly, compared with 20% of Black teens and 10% of White teens.

In fall 2023, support for a U.S. TikTok ban had declined. Around four-in-ten Americans (38%) said that they would support the U.S. government banning TikTok, down from 50% in March 2023. A slightly smaller share (27%) said they would oppose a ban, while 35% were not sure. This question was asked before the House of Representatives passed the bill that could ban the app.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents were far more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to support a TikTok ban (50% vs. 29%), but support had declined across both parties since earlier in the year.

Adults under 30 were less likely to support a ban than their older counterparts. About three-in-ten adults under 30 (29%) supported a ban, compared with 36% of those ages 30 to 49, 39% of those ages 50 to 64, and 49% of those ages 65 and older.

In a separate fall 2023 survey, only 18% of U.S. teens said they supported a ban. 

A line chart showing that support for a U.S. TikTok ban has dropped since March 2023.

A relatively small share of users produce most of TikTok’s content. About half of U.S. adult TikTok users (52%) have ever posted a video on the platform. In fact, of all the TikTok content posted by American adults, 98% of publicly accessible videos come from the most active 25% of users .

Those who have posted TikTok content are more active on the site overall. These users follow more accounts, have more followers and are more likely to have filled out an account bio.

Although younger U.S. adults are more likely to use TikTok, their posting behaviors don’t look much different from those of older age groups.

A chart showing that The most active 25% of U.S. adult TikTok users produce 98% of public content

About four-in-ten U.S. TikTok users (43%) say they regularly get news there. While news consumption on other social media sites has declined or remained stagnant in recent years, the share of U.S. TikTok users who get news on the site has doubled since 2020, when 22% got news there.

Related: Social Media and News Fact Sheet

TikTok news consumers are especially likely to be:

  • Young. The vast majority of U.S. adults who regularly get news on TikTok are under 50: 44% are ages 18 to 29 and 38% are 30 to 49. Just 4% of TikTok news consumers are ages 65 and older.
  • Women. A majority of regular TikTok news consumers in the U.S. are women (58%), while 39% are men. These gender differences are similar to those among news consumers on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Democrats. Six-in-ten regular news consumers on TikTok are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, while a third are Republicans or GOP leaners.
  • Hispanic or Black. Three-in-ten regular TikTok news users in the U.S. are Hispanic, while 19% are Black. Both shares are higher than these groups’ share of the adult population. Around four-in-ten (39%) TikTok news consumers are White, although this group makes up 59% of U.S. adults overall .

Charts that show the share of TikTok users who regularly get news there has nearly doubled since 2020.

A majority of Americans (59%) see TikTok as a major or minor threat to U.S. national security, including 29% who see the app as a major threat. Our May 2023 survey also found that opinions vary across several groups:

  • About four-in-ten Republicans (41%) see TikTok as a major threat to national security, compared with 19% of Democrats.
  • Older adults are more likely to see TikTok as a major threat: 46% of Americans ages 65 and older say this, compared with 13% of those ages 18 to 29.
  • U.S. adults who do not use TikTok are far more likely than TikTok users to believe TikTok is a major threat (36% vs. 9%).

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WhatsApp and Facebook dominate the social media landscape in middle-income nations

Teens and social media fact sheet, most popular.

About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .


2024 Ethics Essay Contest winners announced

Claire Martino , a junior from New Berlin, Wis., majoring in applied mathematics and data science, is the winner of the 2024 Ethics Essay Contest for the essay "Artificial Intelligence Could Probably Write This Essay Better than Me."

The second place entry was from Morgan J. Janes , a junior from Rock Island, Ill., majoring in biology, for the essay "The Relevant History and Medical and Ethical Future Viability of Xenotransplantation."

Third place went to Alyssa Scudder , a senior from Lee, Ill., majoring in biology, for the essay "The Ethicality of Gene Alteration in Human Embryos."

Dr. Dan Lee announced the winners on behalf of the board of directors of the Augustana Center for the Study of Ethics, sponsor of the contest. The winner will receive an award of $100, the second-place winner an award of $50, and the third-place winner an award of $25.

Honorable mentions went to Grace Palmer , a senior art and accounting double major from Galesburg, Ill., for the essay "The Ethiopian Coffee Trade: Is Positive Change Brewing?" and Sarah Marrs , a sophomore from Carpentersville, Ill., majoring in political science and women, gender and sexuality studies, for the essay "Dating Apps as an Outlet to Promote Sexual Autonomy among Disabled Individuals: an Intersectional Approach to Change."

The winning essays will be published in Augustana Digital Commons .

The Augustana Center for the Study of Ethics was established to enrich the teaching-learning experiences for students by providing greater opportunities for them to meet and interact with community leaders and to encourage discussions of issues of ethical significance through campus programs and community outreach.

Dr. Lee, whose teaching responsibilities since joining the Augustana faculty in 1974 have included courses in ethics, serves as the center's director.

If you have news, send it to [email protected] ! We love hearing about the achievements of our alumni, students and faculty.

Brazil judge opens inquiry into Musk after refusal to block accounts on X

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Reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Edwina Gibbs

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how social media affects us essay

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Anthony has covered Brazilian politics since 2012, the narrow 2022 election of leftist President Lula following four years of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, and the turbulence faced by Brazilian democracy. He has reported from Chile under General Pinochet and from Havana under Fidel Castro. He has also covered U.S.-Latin American affairs from Washington 1995-2002. Anthony holds an M.A. in Politics from Essex University.

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Long March-8 rocket, carrying the relay satellite Queqiao-2 for Earth-Moon communications, blasts off in Hainan

China launch of relay satellite Queqiao-2 for lunar probe mission successful

China National Space Administration (CNSA) said on Friday its launch of a key signal relay satellite was a "complete success" and it would serve as the communication bridge for its future lunar probe missions for years to come, state media reported.

Shell EV charging station in Beijing

Sisense has been hit by a data compromise, the U.S. cybersecurity watchdog agency said in an alert on Thursday.

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