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The Positive and negative effects of Social media on today’s generation

Social media is a combined term for websites and applications that focus on communication, community-based input, content-sharing, interaction and collaboration. People use social media to stay in touch with friends, family and various communities. Social media has both, positive effects and negative effects. And when it comes to effects of social media on teens, those pros and cons are significant. On the plus side,

platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok can be lifesavers for teens who feel isolated. In addition, social media helps teens feel more connected to the outer world and not as lonely. But the impact of social media on youth can also be significantly harmful to mental health. In particular, social media and teen depression are closely linked. Furthermore, excessive use of the apps exposes teens to cyberbullying, body image issues, and tech addiction, and results in less time spent doing healthy, real-world activities which improves their minds.

The negative effects of social media
1. Mental health

Social media is very harmful for teenagers. Some teenagers loose sleep due to surfing the social media at night, and some are more distracted from it during the class in school. Lack of sleep can cause them to perform poorly at school activities and even increase the risk of developing mental health issues. In fact, a study has found that young people who spend more than three hours on social media may have a higher risk of internalizing mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety. A study says that young women seemed most sensitive to social media between ages 11 and 13. Males were more likely to have this experience around 14 or 15. Both genders had an increase in sensitivity to social media around age 19. 

2. Body image
Research has found a connection between social media and having a negative body image. Social media can create an environment where it's easy for teens to compare themselves to the photos of peers, celebrities, or influencers, which are often edited. Linda Charmaraman, a senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women and director of the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab, found out that 21% of teens did not feel good about themselves after looking at social media. Most teens reported that the feeling was related to their bodies. Linda Charmaraman says that women were particularly vulnerable to this, those with a lot of connections on social media, those who checked their social media frequently, and those who followed celebrities. These feelings, where they feel insecure of their bodies, don't end after the teenage years. In a small 2019 study of undergraduate college women, participants who looked at or engaged with an attractive female peer on social media were more likely to experience an increase in negative feelings around their body image than subjects who engaged with a family member's social media.
3. Peer pressure
Peer pressure for teenagers is nothing new. However, social media worsens this pressure because social media is a place where teens are exposed to a larger number of people and they are getting feedback from many more people than they would encounter in daily life. Teens judge themselves by how many "likes" they get on social media sites like Instagram or Facebook. In a small 2016 study of teenage participants, researchers created a social media feed similar to Instagram and measured the teens' brain responses. They found that Teens were more likely to "like" photos that already had a large number of likes. They think that getting less likes means that less people like them. They envy the people who get more likes than them and try to imitate them in order to get more likes. It effects their mental health.
4. Cyberbullying
Social media opens the opportunity for teens to compare themselves to their peers and don’t prioritize communicating in-person. And now, social media has introduced new risks, teens can now harm or be harmed by others online. Teens on social media are more apt to say something negative or mean. According to a 2018 Pew Research survey. 59% of teens in the United States have experienced cyberbullying. A 2019 study of college students found that experiencing cyberbullying may be trigger anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts.

The Positive effect of social media
1. Mental health resources

Many organizations and websites now offer support via social media to those, who are suffering from mental health challenges. They bring people together to share experiences. One study found that patients with severe mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, used social media as a way to feel less lonely. In addition, many sites allow people to sign up to receive texts providing inspiration, positive messages, and recovery resources.
2. Positive inspiration
Social networks can create peer motivation, inspiring young people to develop healthy habits, try something new, follow their dreams, and speak up about things that matter to them.   Teens can also find positive role models online. In addition, a wide variety of apps offer instruction and support for developing a more positive outlook and building healthy habits, such as meditation and exercise.
3. Connection
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat give teens and young adults a sense of belonging and acceptance. This is particularly true for those who feel isolated or marginalized, such as LGBTQ youth and those struggling with mental health issues.
4. Identify formation
Young people who express their opinions on social media experience increased well-being, studies show. As a result of forming and expressing their opinions, they develop self-awareness and self-knowledge. This is beneficial to the maturation process and contributes to a strong sense of self.
5. Research
Another of the positives of social media is that mental health experts and researchers can use it to collect data that subsequently informs research. In addition, therapists and other professionals can network with each other within online communities, thereby expanding their knowledge and reach.
6. Online therapy
Licensed clinical professionals now provide therapeutic services via online platforms. Hence, they are able to reach young people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to mental health treatment. Furthermore, online therapy allows teens and young adults to stay on track with their recovery after leaving residential treatment or an outpatient program.
7. Promotes creativity
Many social media tools provide an outlet for creative self-expression. Not only are you able to share work such as photography, film, written works and illustrations, other users can offer comments and feedback which can offer the added benefit of building self-esteem and confidence.

Despite having so many negative effects, social media still has a lot of positive effects too. The youth should control the use of social media.  They can harness all the positive things social media can offer.

Aritri Ghosh
Amity University, Kolkata


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