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Effects of social media

Mikayla Cantine, Staff Writer

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People all around the world have become involved with the mass communication networking system known as social media, teenagers primarily. Originating as a source to spread news and information to the public, teenagers have grown to use it to update others on their personal lives. Although the use of social media can be beneficial for more than just businesses, the overuse of it can lead to a plethora of negative effects. 

Time Management 

One of the issues that social media causes is the unproductive management of time. Much of the day for an average person is spent at work or in school, which is when they need to have their full attention on the goal at hand. After developing habits of checking social media updates, unintentionally checking one’s phone may become a frequent issue. Even if only distracted for a few seconds, it can take minutes after to refocus on the original task (smallbusiness.chron.com).  

Mental Health 

Many doctors say that short attention spans result from social media breaks. On top of this, the majority of those who frequently use platforms such as Facebook and Twitter report higher levels of stress. This anxiety could be due to the fear of being left out, not having access to the content, or the pressure to keep positive attention while avoiding negative attention, which in turn, could all be symptoms of addiction (anxiety.org). With constant higher stress levels, focusing on specific assigned tasks will be a lot harder. A shorter attention span will cause work to be done at a much slower pace. Productivity results from relaxation, happiness, and confidence. These three traits can easily be drained with social media use. Some people risk becoming so attached to social networking that the number of likes, comments, or reposts they receive affects their mood in a negative way (smallbusiness.chron.com). 

Self Esteem 

A major worry of the Child Mind Institute is that social media can induce anxiety and low self-esteem in teens. After conducting a survey in the United Kingdom where 14 to 24 year olds were asked how social media affected them, the Royal Society for Public Health found Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image, and loneliness (childmind.org). 

According to Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist and author of The Big Disconnect,” girls tend to compare themselves to other girls when developing their identities, which causes them to be more vulnerable to negativity. Girls are prone to having lower self-esteem when they spend too much time online, which may ultimately lead to bringing others down to make themselves feel better (childmind.org). 

 Hours may pass just to pick out the ideal picture(s) to post and then edit them to look even better in the eyes of their peers. Likes serve as a way for people to communicate their opinion, or “vote” on the value of the picture or comment posted. Competition appears once someone else posts a picture more appealing to the public; maybe it got more likes, more comments, or even resulted in more followers. Teenagers can become obsessed with this trend of self-image to the point where it takes over their life and determines their mood. A single like, dislike, or comment on one’s post can affect their self-esteem, which can be very dangerous in a world with such freedom (childmind.org). 

Cyberbullying 

Bullying on the internet can be much easier for someone to do than in real life. This requires no face-to-face communication, which is less intimidating. Fake profiles are easy to make for the bully to hide behind and reduce the chances of confrontation or consequences. The result of these situations include students suffering from psychological, emotional, and physical stress. Students may feel pressured to miss, skip, or even drop out of school if conditions get too serious (fundforcivility.org). 

Every person’s response to a situation is different, therefore, someone being cyberbullied may experience all or some of the common effects. These effects may include depression, changes in sleep or eating patterns, loss of interest in activities, more health complaints, poor grades, lower self-esteem, and/or the use of alcohol or drugs (fundforcivility.org). 

Communication 

Modern teens are more likely to communicate over the screen as opposed to in person, creating a communication barrier. Communicating over the phone is much more difficult in getting across the messages since tone and/or facial expressions are not involved. Emoticons may be useful to outweigh this problem, however, some perceive them differently than others. On top of that, there could never be enough emoticons to cover the vast variety of human expressions. This constant miscommunication can result in unintended arguments and hurt feelings (childmind.org). 

When teens get used to using texts to communicate with others, they learn how to keep their guard up so less information is shared between them. They can take their time thinking about their response and their wording. If they mess up, they can always blame it on autocorrect or say they meant to send it to another person. It is easy to hide behind texts as opposed to speaking to someone in real time, whether it be on the phone or face to face. 

Positives 

Though there may seem to be a great number of negatives, social media also has its benefits. Communicating with family and friends from a distance is made possible through social media, especially internationally. Many phone service providers do not offer connection and calls outside of the country, therefore, those trying to do so must use an alternative route. Getting in contact with people in a different country is only possible over WiFi supported applications, such as social media. Social media allows friends and family to see how one is doing through pictures and updates. Someone that is moving away may want to stay in contact with their hometown friends through social media. Teens may use social media to their advantage when conducting fundraisers or selling items to spread the information faster and to a broader audience. 

While it does have its positives, social media and internet usage is recommended to be monitored and used with caution and moderation to avoid the negatives and maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

Decatur’s Thoughts 

Stephen Decatur’s assistant principal, Trevor Hill, says he has seen his share of negative effects of social media. Students use rude texts, posts, and video threats that turn into intrusive situations in the school day. Depending on the week, resolving these issues can take anywhere from a few minutes to multiple class periods in a row for days on end. Many situations seem to be repetitive with students who take the offensive posts to heart. Hill believes that most of these issues remain because no one is monitoring them. Social media users have free opportunities to post and say anything on their mind with no one to go over how offensive the content may be. Hill agrees that this problem is not going to fix itself. He believes that if students make more of an effort to watch what they post and parents get involved, these situations may get better and lead to less disruptions. For these reasons, Hill does not foresee his two kids, in grades four and six, with social media accounts anytime soon. 

Stephen Decatur’s principal, Thomas Sites, claims to see both the positives and negatives of social media. Positives mostly involve the ability to communicate to a vast public in a matter of seconds. This allows for students and parents to understand what goes on at the school and be able to participate in events and fundraisers. However, these positives are weakened by the negatives. Without balance, phone usage and social media activity can consume days and sometimes present upsetting information that can filter into the school day and cause a disruption. Sites understands that these situations have a large range of how long the resolution may take. Sites strives to attack the issue before it happens. For example, if any drama is heard of, the students involved are found and the issue is taken care of before it escalates, whether it be avoidance contracts, similar to a restraining order, but without court orders, or a group discussion. 

Overall, electronic communication usage has been increasing since 1995. It began with strictly texts on a flip phone and continued to spread into smartphones with multiple social media applications, increasing the risk for misinterpretation and room for cyberbullying. Sites believes that with further education on the appropriate use of social media, conditions have the potential to improve, especially with the help of parents at home. With the enforcement of more proper behavior online, both Sites and Hill believe the constant online disruptions in school will decrease. 

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