The dangers of social media

Social media usage is linked to a variety of unhealthy emotional and physical habits, and individuals need to know the dangers

Monkonjay Junius, Opinions Writer

Today, everyone uses social media in one way or another, whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or TikTok. While there is nothing wrong with that, it’s necessary to know several issues associated with social media. For example, stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness. Knowing the dangers of social media is imperative so people can deal with them. 


What are the Dangers of Social Media?

The use of social media is associated with a variety of issues concerning a person’s well-being, (emotional, mental and physical) and many other areas of life. Social media correlates with anxiety, depression, stress and low self-esteem. These issues have been found, to varying degrees, in users of various social media platforms. 

Some of these issues are not just limited to social media but are relatively associated with internet use in general. However, many of these issues coincide most strongly with social media use and with behaviors that are almost entirely exclusive to social media.

At times these issues tend to have long-lasting effects. According to a newsletter published by Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University, “A recent investigation by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook was aware of mental health risks linked to the use of its Instagram app but kept those findings secret. Internal research by the social media giant found that Instagram worsened body image issues for one in three teenage girls, and all teenage users of the app linked it to experiences of anxiety and depression. It isn’t the first evidence of social media’s harm. Watchdog groups have identified Facebook and Instagram as avenues for cyberbullying, and reports have linked TikTok to dangerous and antisocial behavior, including a recent spate of school vandalism.” 


Why Do People Keep Using Social Media?

So why do people keep using social media? One notable reason why people continue to use it is that they are simply unaware of its influence. Or, in some cases, people are aware of the influence social media has on them but don’t care enough to change their behavior. Social media usage can also be associated with the fear of missing out. 

Many situational factors can cause people to use social media. For example, if all of a person’s friends use a certain social media network, that person might use it too. Similarly, the high accessibility of social media can also push people to use it, for example, when they see the icon for a social media app every time they open their phone. Or someone can be more inclined to the internet as a way to vent and send out hurtful comments about their peers.

“People use social media to disrespect and shame others by giving people wrong information to make the person that they dislike look like a bad person,” said senior Gretchen Soffel.


How to tell that you’re being affected negatively

In some cases, it is obvious that social media is negatively affecting you. For example, if it makes you feel depressed. Even if this is not that blatant, it may only take a bit of thinking to realize that your use of social media is problematic. To help yourself do this, try to identify issues that social media might be causing you, such as feeling anxious because it seems as though other people are much more successful than you.

In addition to that, when considering how social media affects you, it can also be beneficial to ask yourself whether it benefits you in any way. This can help you get a clearer picture of the value that social media brings you. You might realize that even if it’s not actively harmful, it’s still a waste of time, and you can do other things instead, which will be more productive and enjoyable.


How to avoid the dangers

Different ways to avoid social media would be to reduce or eliminate your social media use or positively use social media. This involves time spent browsing social media, the number of platforms that you use, situations in which you use social media, and information that you share. Sometimes, this happens naturally, and many people end up feeling tired of it over time, which causes them to take a break from social media on their own.

However, this isn’t always easy to accomplish in practice, especially given the reasons that cause people to continue using social media even when they know that it’s bad for them. Here are ways to separate yourself from the internet, according to experts at Columbia:

  • Make Your Social Media Invisible. For example, if you have a social media app on your phone, it can help to remove the icon from your home screen, that way you won’t see it each time you open your phone.
  • Reduce your need for social media. If you’re constantly on social media because you’re afraid of missing out, a friend could let you know about it instead.
  • Find alternative activities. For example, if you find that you keep using social media simply because you’re bored, try replacing it with reading, hanging out with friends, and listening to music.
  • Hold yourself accountable. You can tell someone whose opinion you value about your goals to use social media less, and ask them to follow up with you in a week to check whether you’ve successfully managed to achieve those goals.

Social media use is associated with a variety of issues, including emotional and mental issues, such as anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness and low self-esteem, and physical issues, such as reduced sleep quality.

People keep using social media even though it’s bad for them for various reasons, including a lack of awareness of the risks involved, psychological mechanisms such as the fear of missing out, and situational factors such as the high accessibility of social media.

To avoid the issues that are associated with social media, you can reduce your use of social media by doing things such as limiting your access and finding alternatives, realizing that you have become more and more dependent on it. The constant use of social media makes you become more detached from your surroundings. Social media are interactive technologies that give society a way to express their ideas and opinions. However, those opinions can be harmful to those who take part in it on a daily basis.