Over 75% of American teenagers had profiles on social media websites in mid-2020, according to Common Sense Media. That number only grew in late 2020 and early 2021, and so did dependence on technology in education. On a worldwide scale, the user number is likely staggering, especially with the availability of mobile or low-cost Internet. Before we start, know that we examined the pros and cons of social media a few years back. We’ll assume you read it and realized it barely scratched the surface. So, this article is a continuation and a deeper, serious analysis of why social media is bad.
1. Social media can be very addictive
Social media is damaging because its use can be compared to an addiction. Now we have some facts to support it, thanks to the Common Sense Media study from mid-2020. About 51% of teens in America visit social media networks daily, while more than 1/3 of that number do it several times per day. Also, at least 1 in 4 of those teens describe themselves as “heavy social media users”, logging in into 2 or more social media profiles daily.
Why are teens drawn to social networking?
The reason can be extracted from the UCLA Brain Mapping Center’s study. When 32 teenagers saw 140+ images in a social media app resembling Instagram, their behavior was analyzed with an fMRI scanner. The brain circuitry responsible for “rewards” was particularly active when they saw a large number of likes from (they assumed) their peers. The same area of the brain is very sensitive during the teenage years. It activates when we win money or see pictures of people or animals we love deeply, for example.
2. It can cause a lot of anxiety
Social media users get emotionally invested in their profiles. That’s where the negative aspect of social media comes in, making them feel anxious. Users are under pressure to respond quickly, keep their profiles up-to-date and eye-appealing, exude confidence, be well-spoken and publish well-written posts. Additionally, they must adhere to unwritten rules, as they’re worried about what others think of them. So, they must constantly avoid expressing opinions that can ostracize them. Another tell-tale sign of anxiety is the act of constantly checking their phone, thinking they’ll miss out on something.
3. Social media can cause body image concern
Not only does increased use of social media cause a reduction in physical activities, but so does seeing other people’s profiles. Anyone who seeks to gain the approval of others based on their appearance is vulnerable to this. They link their self-worth and self-esteem to their looks, leading to other reasons social media is detrimental. Those who view the content end up comparing themselves. This can lead to extreme behavior to reach a certain body weight or shape, in hopes of also gaining approval from others.
4. Social networks can evoke jealousy and envy
Comparing looks isn’t the only way social media can be harmful. Feeling jealous or envious of other people’s success, feelings, circumstances, financial situation, status, lifestyle, family, or relationships can wreak havoc in social media users’ lives. What they can’t grasp is that social media profiles are the “highlight reel” and that those people experience the same emotions offline.
3. It introduces negative aspects of digital communication
This is one of the primary reasons social media is bad. We will split it into 3 categories:
StopBullying.org research shows that a child is bullied every 7 minutes, that 85% of all cases aren’t addressed. Even worse, adults-only intervene in 4% of cases, while child’s peers do so in 11%. It’s hard to differentiate between physical and online bullying because of increasingly blurred lines. For example, 58% of children don’t tell others of something hurtful that they experienced online.
Here are a few severe issues to see what we mean. Impersonation, inappropriate contact, harassment, body-shaming, abuse of trust (think sexting leaks or blackmail), pressure to perform, glamorizing violence, toxic behavior, substance use, etc.
The line between online and reality
Users can stop communicating with others outside of public media networks. This can cause misunderstandings, as some things don’t translate well digitally. Also, it can lead them toward living a life of shallowness and inauthenticity. Instead of living in the moment, experiencing joy, or forging deeper connections, users worry about showing others that’s the case.
5. It can intensify symptoms of depression
We mentioned quite a few reasons that social networks can induce or worsen depression, and not only in teens. One study, published in Computers in Human Behavior, found that those who had 7 or more public media network profiles had 3 times the bigger risk of depression than those with 2 or fewer profiles. A more conclusive sign of why social media is detrimental is sleep deprivation.
In a 2016 study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, from 1788 surveyed adults (ages 19 to 32), about 30% reported sleep loss caused by social networking site use.
A 2017 British research, released in the Journal of Youth Studies, analyzed 900 teens aged 12 to 15. Their research showed that close to 20% of them “almost always” wake up at night to log in, and girls also fared far worse than boys. Also, both genders reported feeling “less happy” than the peers with undisturbed sleep. Sleep loss can lead to depression symptoms – moodiness, irritability, feeling exhausted and unmotivated, weaker immune system, muscle ache, etc.
6. Social websites might lead to selfishness
Social networking websites can be harmful as they can turn people into self-absorbed individuals. Spending more time on social media means that less time is spent reflecting on their actions. Also, volunteering to help other people or animals or even being polite and interacting with strangers. The instant gratification of public network sites can also cause frustration and disappointment when things don’t come quickly or easily enough.
7. Its use could inadvertently lead to suicide
We’ll end with the most destructive indicator social media is bad. Although indirect and hard to pinpoint the percentage, there’s data to support it. According to The American Association of Suicidology, the suicide rates between 10-year-olds and 14-year-olds, albeit still very low, grew more than 50% in the last 3 decades (1990-2020).