The pros and cons of social media, is it a foe or friend? Does it cause more harm than good? Its a question that’s been asked over and over again. Everyone has their own views, here’s mine.
I don’t disagree that social media causes harm, mainly to young people like myself who frequently use it, taking time away from their lives and spreading miss-information and in many instances dangerous challenges. But this only if we allow ourselves to be swayed by it without verifying independently via other sources if such information is true or fake, harmful or harmless.
But it can also be a stress reliever.
Let’s first address the harmful effects of social media. It can be viewed as a foe because it takes away a lot of vital time from people using it, especially students between the ages of 13 to 24. The most common social media platforms used by this age group are Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok as stated in a Hootsuite blog article “100+ Social Media Demographics that Matter to Marketers in 2021”published in January 2021.
Accordingly to Review42 article “How Much Time Do People Spend on Social Media?’’ published 29th March 2021, the average teenager uses social media for more than 3 hours a day. The fact that people in that age group are spending around an eighth of their day on social media is worrying as 2 thirds of their day is spent on sleeping and school, with around 2 hours spent on eating and showering, leaving them with only 5 hours left to do things. And with 3 out of the 5 hours spent on social media, they would only have 2 hours being spent on studying and other activities. Having only less than 1.5 hours studying will greatly impact their grades. Research has shown that in order to achieve good grades, a student will need to study for around 4 hours, overall causing a lack of time studying and a drop in grades, causing more harm than good.
Secondly, social media does more harm than good by spreading false and harmful information to users, in the form of fake news, or even viral challenges. On apps like Facebook and Instagram, there are tons of fake news spread by people, and on TikTok, there are viral challenges that harm people that take part in them.
People who spread fake news often spread fantastic, implausible stories , but there is much more, such as fabricated reports and Clickbait headlines. People tend to easily believe this fake news and in turn spread it to their friends and family, causing more people to believe this fake news and to act blindly on it.
As for challenges, these are often found on the site Tik Tok, with its participants taking part in absurd challenges that harm themselves and others around them,. One such challenges being the ‘Coronavirus challenge’ where its participants go around licking toilet bowls in order to get infected with the virus. This challenge is not only harmful to the participants but the people around them as they will certainly get infected and later infect others with it, potentially causing death and severe illness to those they come into contact with, the multiplier effect is far more worst as it can spread into their community and across borders.
These examples, few as they are, clearly shows social media exposes its audience to harmful and false information leading to more harm than good. People are often naive and in their need to be seen as “cool” follow anything blindly believing what they see or hear on social media. These are the target audience for those who post fake news.
However, it’s not all bad, there is good as well. Social media can be a friend in the form of a good stress reliever and escape for its users who need to wind down after a busy day at work or school. Relaxing, soothing, inspirational, educational videos can be found on social media sites such as Tik Tok and Facebook, the very same sites that have harmful materials as well.
Since students spend an average of a third of their day at school and adults spend an estimated third of their day at work too, all with little to no rest while at work or at school, these individuals are often physically and mentally drained at the end of the day. They need to have a break to recover, recharge and de-stress themselves. Watching video content like ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) that are relaxing has shown to slow your heart rate into a state of relaxation on top of helping with anxiety (Healthline ‘Everything You Need to Know About Using ASMR for anxiety’ April 6 2020). These videos contain no harmful or explicit content in them, just sounds and clips of things to help satisfy and relax you. So, in some ways social media can cause more good than harm and be our friend rather than foe.
I would advise not to use social media very often, limiting your use to around an hour a day and try not to believe all the news that you read. Always qualify and quantify the information, cross check to verify anything you see or read.
Please do not blindly participate in any of the challenges, especially if they seem harmful to you and people around them. I think it’s OK to be curious but keep an open mind, don’t be easily fooled. Seek advice from parents or adults, be sure that the content presented has a positive impact on you and not a negative one.