Does social media encourage or discourage people to do better?


Fact Box

  • 79% of Americans use some form of social media (that's approximately 247 million users) [1].
  • Findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being [2].
  • Social media is defined as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.”
  • Social media websites (SMW) have allowed scientists to obtain funding for research that was not available through traditional government methods by crowdfunding and private investments. These connections rely on social media networking [3].
  • SMW gives scientists a platform to effectively connect with and educate the public [4].

Emma (Yes)

Social media has produced a new age where idea exchange can happen faster and farther, thus enabling global conversation and networking opportunities that could have never happened without its existence. For example, traditional communication methods required scientists to communicate their ideas to peers through journal publications and academic conferences--or through what the media chose to report on--while social media websites (SMW) have proven to be an effective outlet for these people to disperse their work to a wide variety of people both in and outside of the academic world [1]. Social media, therefore, makes knowledge more accessible to the everyday person and allows for scientists to communicate with each other faster, as well as forge connections that would never have happened otherwise.

It is without a doubt that social media--like any technology--can be misused and have unintended negative side effects [2]. But it is important to remember that social media has taken our ability to connect with our fellow people to a new high where positive effects on our community have far outweighed the negative [3]. SMW have created conditions for all voices to have a platform, without relying on the traditional paths of wealth, career, or family background, etc., to create the volume of a person’s voice. Among many things, this allows for oppressed or marginalized people to connect with one another and organize against injustice [4]. But social media also creates a global cultural exchange, where people of all kinds can form bonds, work through problems with the collective intelligence that diverse perspectives bring, and ultimately broaden their horizons with ideas that they would have never otherwise encountered.

Hetal (No)

Social media websites (SMW) have the detrimental effect of making viewers feel like everyone on their friend list is living a comparatively much happier life. Research suggests a positive association between SMW and rates of anxiety, FOMO, and also reduced self-esteem [1]. A causal link has also been found between SMW and feelings of depression and loneliness [2].

Most people curate posts that present the best versions of their lives. Picture filters that increase vibrancy and post about achievement and vacations dominate newsfeeds. This, understandably, creates the illusion of 24/7 success [3]. This would be fine if the human psyche wasn't so complex. We as humans, inherently compare ourselves to others. SMW makes users wonder why they aren’t as good looking as friend X, have the finances to travel often to exotic locations like friend Y, or why they don’t have as many “likes,” “retweets,” or “followers” as friend Z. The constant bombardment of perfection only serves to discourage people in aspects of their lives that are posted about. 

The simple truth is that no single person's life is exactly how they portray it on SMW. For example, couples post about their weddings but not about the stress involved in the planning. Parents post about the joy of having a newborn but fail to mention the sleepless nights. What is posted is merely the tip of the iceberg, yet causes titanic damage to the user's mental health and self-esteem. SMW may be commonplace now, but perfection is not, despite what social media depicts.

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