Opinion | The Roots and Realities of Social Media

Social media has become an integral part of our lives.

THE COSTS

Throughout the history of social media, we have seen the rise of a variety of phenotypic traits becoming sought out in both genders. Blonde hair, light eye colors, sculpted figures and other traits are just a few examples of the latest trends in bodily anatomy. While it is important to emphasize that everyone has their own personal preferences, a part of that should not be putting down people that do not have these types of traits. This is where the toxicity of social media comes into play, because forms of bullying, like fat shaming and body shaming, have come to fruition. In fact, an estimated 94% of teenagers stated that they experience difficulties with socialization as a result of shame and embarrassment in their appearance. As self-esteem in teenagers has plummeted, multiple individuals have gone out of their way to search for trends in order to acquire these traits. Ironically enough, social media has picked up on these insecurities and has become a breeding ground for trends and companies that commercialize on the guarantee of a “thinner waist” or “smaller face”. Popular trends like the Carnivore diet, Keto diet, and Atkins have all promised weight loss, but both drastically cut out large portions of ingredients that are able to improve heart health and other diseases while being unsustainable for long term use. The Carnivore diet also puts users at an elevated risk for higher cholesterol levels, and even the Atkins diet (which has been sworn by for centuries) has had increased media attention with regards to detrimental effects on safety and heart health. Because diets are extremely influential as to how we live our lives, it is extremely damaging that social media has used our insecurities against us, and has enabled us to live our lives in an unhealthy physical state. This is why we must be extremely cautious when researching diet trends and reviewing the results of them — a skinnier body is not necessarily a healthier one.

The promotion of dangerous behaviors on Pro-Ana sites only serves to exacerbate eating disorders and threatens lives.
Desensitization to violence from the media can lead to severe emotional consequences.

PROGRESSIVE USES

Though there have been many downsides towards social media, surprisingly there have been many aces; one of them being the increase of awareness towards issues. Though we did speak negatively about the desentization towards political issues, it has been shown that 54% of teens have gone out of their way to educate themselves on the political issues popular in the news using social media. Speaking from personal experience, during the Black Lives Matters protests I specifically searched out “police brutality statistics” in the attempt of trying to educate those with opposing views. By using specific evidence, I was able to educate others and provide a non-biased point of view in which they could think critically about. Though some people were ignorant and close-minded, a lot of people listened and changed their views. This also parallels with the amount of teen activism accounts that have made their way to social media platforms. Activism accounts make small slide-shows in which they entail the most important statistics and points about issues going on in the world. These slideshows allow teens to process information rather quickly and, in addition to this, share their personal stories for other peers to view as well: creating a domino effect in the world of politics. The truth of the matter is that social media has allowed teenagers to educate themselves on issues outside of themselves.

WAYS TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA IN A HEALTHY WAY

Now that we have spoken about the good and bad ways social media can affect our lives, we can now focus on ways to overpower the negative effects with good. One of the main variables in what we see on social media is the algorithm in which it uses. The good part is that your algorithm can be changed. Maybe instead of seeing sad poetry on your explore, you see a “you can do it!” motivational post instead. However, be wary of this, as even commenting on stuff you do not want to see can allow it to appear more; if you disagree with a video or post, it is best to block the page rather than or after engaging. Additionally, you could use social media as a platform to motivate other people as well. So many people that go to the gym have highlights on their Instagrams in which they post their progress; who’s to say that can’t be you? Still, one must remember that staying safe is one of the main priorities when using these sites, and the best way to do this is to use your brain. Using critical thinking skills when coming into contact with an account that seems suspicious can help you to stay safe. Inspecting their page as well as their follower count can expose many fake accounts, for they will follow an outrageous amount of people with only a fraction of those people following them in the hopes of looking like a real account. Another tell-tale sign is looking at the posts made on these pages. They may have a good amount of posts, but the real issue lies in when they were actually posted. If they were posted all in the same day, there is a good chance the account is fake. Still, what if you simply feel that you are unable to control yourself with social media? You can set a time limit. iPhones allow a feature in which users can set a time limit on certain apps. Allow someone you trust to set a limit and not give you the password. That way, when your time is up, you are not tempted to input the password and continue to overuse social media. There are many ways in which we can be sucked into the world of social media, but by being self aware and keeping good habits, we can reduce any negative effects that may arise.

CONCLUSION

Though social media has been marketed negatively towards society, it is important to note that there is some good to it. Being able to educate yourselves on issues as well as market your hobbies is a privilege that some people do not have. Despite that, there are still dangers that put our mental health in jeopardy. Social media is no joke — which is why it is important to implement ways to limit our time spent on it and to keep our mental health intact. Still, seeing as social media won’t be going away anytime soon, we may as well try to address the more negative aspects of social media while benefiting from the good.

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Youth Upholding Democracy

Youth Upholding Democracy

A group of students working to increase civic participation among our fellow young people. https://www.youthupholdingdemocracy.com/