THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON SOCIETY

10 Feb 2020 | Student Life

The development of social media tools and mobile technology over the years has had a considerable impact on society, both positive and negative. Our lives can be easily exposed online in whatever way we like, whether it’s an online diary of our every move or simply a show reel of our best bits.

Celebrities thrive off the constant exposure through social media, and some have even found fame through these platforms. Musicians can kickstart their careers on YouTube, artists can showcase their creativity on Instagram and comedians can lighten the mood on Twitter. Even lack of talent is celebrated with humour and anything can go viral within hours. However, the potential for viral exposure isn’t limited to humour or fame, as we have seen with activists such as Greta Thunberg and Jameela Jamil. Short clips of speeches and planned Instagram captions have allowed a political and social platform to develop awareness and create a conversation. Likewise, political leaders can use short clips (often out of context) to spread a rhetoric like wildfire.

Mental health concerns

A social media account is essentially a blurb to a novel – not quite the full story. Everything is shown online through rose coloured glasses. The freedom to expose literally any part of one’s life can be, perhaps naively, exciting and opportunistic. The fast nature of posting a tweet or picture means that we often forget the impact that our posting may have. Influencers are infamous for diet product sponsorships and endorsements. The awe of seeing a “perfect” Instagram model or lifestyle lasts only seconds before self-comparison sets in. The effect here is a growth in lack of self-esteem, particularly in impressionable young people who may think there is only one way for their bodies to look. The pressure on teenagers to look and act a certain way can result in mental health issues, rather than acceptance. 

Social connectedness

The influence of social media is undeniably huge and should never be underestimated. With that said, there are a lot of positives to be gained through the use of social media. Social media is the fastest news outlet the world has to offer, with more and more people using these tools as their main news source. Users are able to exercise their freedom of speech and share updates in real time. Social media has given us the ability to connect quickly with friends, build new relationships with strangers and to learn about diversity. Compassion fatigue may cease to exist in the face of social media and as our stories are shared, our empathy grows stronger. 

By Imogen Killner

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