The Negative Effects of Social Media on Society
Iit seems these days some mothers are no longer just sharing family pictures but are on social media to make money...
Social media is a marketplace
Katie Bower and her husband, Jeremy, have five children — four boys and a baby daughter — and they live in Georgia. In the week the second of her four sons turned 6, Bower posted a long social media tribute on Instagram and Facebook to mark his birthday and complain about the lack of likes his photos were getting, compared to her other children. She then asked her 52,000 plus followers to show her son some love. Her post went viral, but her followers left her a ton of negative feedback.
It turns out Katie Bower is a micro-influencer, and it seems these days some mothers are no longer just sharing family pictures but are on social media to make money.
In 2021, influencer marketing grew to become a $13.8 Billion industry and is expected to expand to $15 Billion in 2022. Those with between 1000 and 100,000 followers like Katie Bower, are known as micro-influencers and their share of the market grew from 89% to 91% in 2021. Of course, micro-influencers are not in the same league as Mega Influencers like Kylie Jenner who charges $1 million for a single post…
According to Social Shepherd, businesses make $5.20 for every $1 spent on Influencer Marketing – on average. But in terms of what they really make, the top 13% of businesses are seeing revenue of $20 or more per every $1 spent.
The reason I’m telling you all this is to illustrate how social media’s original promise to just connect people (see more further down) has instead grown into a toxic commercialised landscape and platforms like Facebook are just a huge and very profitable marketplace. Facebook’s user numbers are in decline – but their advertising revenue definitely is not.
Humans find disclosing information about themselves intrinsically rewarding – the reward being the release of the mood enhancing hormone dopamine. This hormone activates a pleasure sensation in the brain usually associated with food, money, and sex.
It’s no one fault and there’s nothing wrong with feeling pleasure. The challenge is that the human brain is constantly on the lookout for threats and one way it checks for these is by constantly comparing our environment to that of everyone else, to see how we measure up. The problem is that the human brain learns by repetition, the words you say to yourself and how those words make you feel. Therefore, if you’re going on social media and subconsciously comparing yourself to the virtual reality of apparent perfection you’ll often find, it’s going to potentially make you feel less of yourself.
What you see on social media isn’t necessarily reality. Sometimes the characters posting are using pictures, names and personal details that aren’t even their own.
But it gets worse. Rogue states like Russia employ state financed cyber-espionage groups like Fancy Bear. These purposely pump out disinformation day and night, often on social media platforms using fake accounts. The idea is to deceive and mislead Russia’s perceived enemies, which of course include the UK and US.
Disinformation was defined in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1952) as “false information with the intention to deceive public opinion”. It should not be confused with misinformation, which is incorrect or misleading information, but not deliberate. Often misinformation results from people falling for disinformation and then unknowingly spreading it as fact. Posted disinformation can often be contradictory, but outfits like Fancy Bear don’t care. The idea isn’t to spread anything truthful or useful, but to leave people uncertain with the sense they no longer know who to trust or what to believe.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just major players like foreign states who indulge in this practice. The majority of Covid disinformation/misinformation was spread by just 12 people…
How ‘likes’ on social media are detrimental to mental health
Multiple studies have shown that the psychological effects of likes, comments and shares on social media are proving detrimental to the mental health of the general population.
According to the,American Journal of Epidemiology, face-to-face social interactions enhance well-being and there’s a considerable body of research that has demonstrated the importance of social interactions for human well-being.
The journal also investigated the associations of Facebook activity and real-world social network activity with self-reported physical health, self-reported mental health, self-reported life satisfaction, and body mass index. Their results concluded that overall, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with well-being. You can view the full report here.
Another study by the University of Copenhagen found that many people suffer from ‘Facebook envy,’ the concept of being jealous of friends’ activities on social media.
From Utopia to Dystopia
Back in 1998, British researchers Debra Howcroft and Brian Fitzgerald distilled what they found out about the newly arrived internet into an article called From From Utopia to Dystopia: the twin faces of the Internet published on researchgate.net.
Since it launched in 2004, according to itself, Facebook has been working to make the world more open and connected. This sounds great, but as Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie puts it her article The Secret History of Facebook Depression, does the thought of connecting with everyone you’ve ever met on Facebook make you happy? Probably not. If the research is any indication, you may actually be finding Facebook and other social media sites aren’t so great for your mental health. Instead of feeling blissfully open and connected with your friends, you feel inadequate or maybe even a bit depressed.
Well, quite so…Kate Raynes-Goldie’s Facebook depression article is definitely well worth a read. It shows that alternate social media can be (and was) different and can actually support mental illness rather than harm it.
Does it have to be this way?
I hope by now that you’ve been able to look at the links I’ve provided, and that you’re starting to regard social media with a certain degree of suspicion. And perhaps like me, you might also be starting to think what a shame it is that something with the power to reach so many people is being squandered in the way it is. And hopefully you might even agree that currently, social media is not exactly a force for good. But does it have to be this way?
I need hardly remind you of the huge problems we all face. I’m thinking of Energy Security, Climate Change, Drought and Famine. Medicine, Politics and Science, the spread of truthful and useful information about all these. I’m thinking that the world can’t change until we all get better at communicating, cooperating, and coordinating.
I’d love to know what you think, so please feel free to click the Get in Touch link at the top of the screen and confidentially share your thoughts with me.