I Don’t Hate Social Media – It’s More Complicated Than That…
I launched this website to help people to change their relationship with social media. I did so because of the mounting evidence that social media is, in some cases doing quite a few people more harm than good...
Why I launched this website
I launched this website to help people to change their relationship with social media. I did so because of the mounting evidence that social media is, in some cases doing quite a few people more harm than good. You can find examples of the kind of harm I’m referring to throughout this site, especially in The Awful Truth section. While it’s important to heed the negatives and take steps to manage those dangers, it wouldn’t be fair to call social media all bad.
Why social media is ‘free’
I’ve noticed that many people are extremely naïve about the business model of the internet generally and social media specifically. It’s not that I hate social media, but I feel it’s important for people to get a balanced view of both the positives and the negatives, hence this blog.
On the positive side, one of the most obvious benefits is that social media is free – but it’s free for a reason, and people need to be aware of that reason. Companies like Google and Facebook are data harvesters, and to make up for the service they provide ‘for free’ to users, they make vast sums selling the information they collect about you to their advertisers. If you have any concerns about privacy, beware of going online. You’d likely be surprised or even shocked, at the volume and detail of the information the data harvesters collect, and you can see the scope of it here.
Humans need people
Human beings are social creatures who need the companionship of others to lead happy lives. Social media helps people to stay connected with friends and family, remain up to date on the news or for example, find events happening in their communities. These days many people use it to maintain such contact and in 2020 a Pew Research Centre study found that 93% of adults use it to stay in touch with family and friends and 87% use it to get back in touch with old friends. In the same study, 81% of teens aged 13-17 say that social media makes them feel more connected to the people in their life, while 68% say using it makes them feel supported during tough times.
It’s not commonly understood and seldom mentioned, that to trigger the hormones that make you feel happier, more positive and to best alleviate your stress, you need to meet people in person. Online socialising is not the same as physically being with people. If you find yourself spending a lot of time on social media but still feel lonely, isolated, anxious, and even depressed, then it suggests you might need to find a healthier balance between online hook-ups and meeting people in person. Or you could attend one of my Public Workshops.
How social media can help teens
On the plus side, social media can help socially isolated or anxious personalities to connect in what may be a less stressful and potentially draining environment than in real life. According to Common Sense Media, 25% of teens report that social media makes them feel less shy and 28% more outgoing. Additionally, 20% reported feeling more confident because of their interactions on social. In an Eckerd College study on social networking amongst teenagers, they report that less socially adept teens find social media makes it easier for them to make friends.
The bully problem
Of course, on social media people aren’t always as gentle or careful as they’d be in an in-person situation. For example, it’s far easier for a bully to act out their behaviour when they’re online because of the perceived distance from their victims – and it’s too easy for them to disguise their identities so they can act anonymously. The result of this behaviour is anxiety and depression in their targets, just as would be the case the bullying had been done in person. Unfortunately, social media platforms do not bother to verify user’s identities. You can find out more about the downsides of social media in various pieces on the site such as Why Instagram is the Worst Social Media for Mental Health.
How social media can help with education
Returning to the positives, social media has been found to reduce stigmas around mental illness, disease, and sexuality. It has sparked awareness and an ongoing conversation on these issues in an extraordinary way in a short space of time as notable celebrities such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Adele and Demi Lovato have opened up about their struggles.
Then, according to a study published by the National School Boards Association in the US, organised social media programs help students to do better in school and improve their attendance. In the study more than half the students used social to discuss school assignments. In another study published by Science Direct, it was found that freshmen in college used social media to build friendships and that their activity on the medium reduced the risk of them dropping out. In Portland, a middle school in Oregon implemented a social media program exclusively for students and saw grades increase by over 50%, chronic absenteeism reduce by more than 50% and 20% more students voluntarily complete extra-credit projects. So, despite the dangers and downsides of social media, especially for teens and children, there are also real positives.
Some downsides of social media
Perhaps the biggest positive about social media is the technology it employs. It’s quite extraordinary that you can carry around all the main platforms (and much more) in a smartphone in your pocket and access all your accounts from pretty much anywhere. But returning to the downsides I do question many of the posts allowed on social media platforms as well as how, for example they permit people to bully others unchallenged and tolerate those who encourage self-harm and suicide. As a matter of course I’d like to see improvements like the monitoring and removal of the most palpable and egregious untruths (rife on social media) and the take down of fake accounts routinely used by some governments to pump out propaganda.
A most important question
But the most important question I can ask you is this: can you imagine the good social media could do in the world if its main aim was to benefit humanity? If you could visit such a platform and know that everything posted on it had been fact checked and verified along with the identities of the people posting it? Can you envisage the power of a platform whose primary aim was to tell the truth and to make the world a better place?
There’s a huge need for such a platform, we have the technology, and internet connectivity is steadily improving everywhere. I’d love to hear your views on this and anything else on the site. You can reach me by clicking the Get in Touch link at the top of the page under the Yellow bar.