The use of social media has been related to numerous benefits and negative effects over the years. While it enables users to access information, eases communication, and use the site to promote their social life, social media also exposes its users to negative effects like cyberbullying and isolation, which can contribute to suicidal thoughts. There has been an increased use of social networking sites among youth. The use of social media has replaced traditional forms of communication that were based on face-to-face interaction and promoted texting and video calls. The top three pros and cons obtained for the list were 1, 9, and 12.
While there are numerous benefits of using social media, this form of technology has had more negative effects than positive impacts on the lives of people especially youths.
The use of social media leads to accelerated spread of information when compared to other forms of media. While this can be viewed as an advantage, social media has been accused of spreading false and unreliable information. The ability of Twitter users to retweet a message contributes to the spread of false information. Since many people use social media worldwide, even when the person who posted the false information corrects it, the number of people who share the accurate information is lower as compared to the initial number of people who shared the false information. According to a study conducted on false and truthful news on social media, the results obtained showed that false news spread faster than the truth on Twitter (Vosoughi). This contributes to confusion and often makes people take drastic actions in response to the news posted on these social media platforms.
Although one of the advantages related to social media was the easy spread of information, fake news on these sites have a greater impact on the society as compared to the truth. Several studies have assessed the impact of false information shared on social media based on user engagement metrics like the re-shares, number of likes, and rumors. These studies showed that a small fraction of this kind of information shared online has a great impact as people are likely to share and comment about it (Kumar and Shah). There is a need for people to use of the media sources to determine the truthfulness of the information posted on social media.
Another disadvantage associated with the use of social media is promotion of crime. Criminals use social media to commit crimes and recruit unsuspecting youths to participate in their criminal activities. Gangs use Facebook and other social media sites to recruit youths, carry out their meetings, coordinate violent crimes, and threaten members of other gangs on the website. The lives of these gangs is usually hidden from the public eye. Some of the gang members are often threatened and killed leading to unresolved murders whose background information is tucked away on the Facebook pages. The proliferation of social media platforms has made increase gang activities and made them more lethal (McKinney). Although police keep an eye on the social media pages, tracing all the messages communicated between gang members can be difficult.
Sex offenders use social media websites to look for victims for sexual exploitation. Pedophiles have been using social media platforms like Facebook to find under-aged children. In a case of a pedophile aged 36 years who had been grooming young girls online, the prosecutor said that that the man targeted girls between 12 and 17 years old while pretending to be a 15-year old boy. The man was also using a teen dating site to target young girls who lived in different locations across the country (Jones). In a different case, a man was jailed for three years for sleeping with an under-aged girl. The man had been grooming the girls online and later on persuaded her to go to his house (Gallagher). Aside from gang crimes and sex offenses, burglars also use Facebook and other social media sites to access information about the whereabouts and location of their victims. By assessing the living standards of people, they can strategically select victim’s property such as celebrity homes. A suspected aged 19 years was charged with four accounts of first-degree burglary after burglarizing the homes of celebrities such as singer and actress Rihanna, Yasiel Puig, and Woods (Karimi and Mossburg). After conducting a search, the police recovered stolen items in the car of the suspects and additional items in their homes. Most social media users innocently post images of themselves in their homes or the location where they spend most of their time, which places them at risk of such crimes.
Although social media has positively been associated with empowering people to make social changes that can benefit their society, it has also promoted cyberbullying. Approximately 52% of students have reported being cyberbullied. Facebook has been the most common platform for cyberbullying with 84.2% of the students experiencing cyberbullying reporting that they were bullied on Facebook. Approximately 23.4% of students experienced bullying through Twitter, while 21.4% and 13.5% cases of bullying were associated with Twitter and Snapchat respectively (Statistic Brain). Middle school children bullied on social media platforms are likely to have suicidal thoughts and attempt to kills themselves.
For instance, in Panama City, Florida, a student in middle school hanged herself after being cyberbullied. Two students aged 12 years were arrested in connection to the death of the girl. Police investigations found out that the two 12-year-olds among other students had started a rumor on social media that claimed that the girl had a sexually transmitted infection. The girl had hanged herself after students threatened to reveal personal information about her life in social media (Dearen). This among other cyberbullying cases have contributed to increased rates suicide among middle-school students. Aside from children, adults can also be victims of cyberbullying through workplace aggression and discrimination being displayed on these websites.
Technological advances have promoted the use of social media. There is a need to address the use of social media among youth as a way of reducing cases such as cyberbullying, involvement in gang activities, and falling prey to sexual predators. Most Americans use social media to communicate with their friends and family members on a daily basis. The effects of social media on the lives of Americans cannot be assumed. While these sites were created to promote social connection among people, the likelihood of developing isolation symptoms and loneliness is common. Parents and schools should work collaboratively to limit the information that their children can access on social media sites. This essay clearly outlines the negative effects of social media on the community and the need to address these issues.
Dearen, Jason. Pre-Teens Arrested for Cyberbullying Before Girl’s Suicide. 23 January 2018. <https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/florida/articles/2018-01-23/2-12-year-olds-charged-with-cyberstalking-in-girls-suicide>.
Gallagher, Conor. Man Jailed After Having Sex with Girl (15) He Groomed using Fake Social Media Profile. 12 January 2016. <https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/man-jailed-after-having-sex-with-girl-15-he-groomed-using-fake-social-media-profile-34357035.html>.
Jones, Callum. Man Jailed for Six Years After He Groomed Girls Online and Offered Money for Sex. 23 February 2016. <https://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/man-jailed-for-six-years-after-he-groomed-girls-online-and-offered-money-for-sex-1-7226356>.
Karimi, Faith and Cheri Mossburg. Burglars Hit Homes of Rihanna, Other Celebrities based on Social Media, Police say. 3 October 2018. <https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/03/entertainment/los-angeles-celebrity-homes-burglarized/index.html>.
Kumar, Srijan and Neil Shah. “False Information on Web and Social Media: A Survey.” Survey (2018): 1(1), 1-35. Accessed https://arxiv.org/pdf/1804.08559.pdf.
McKinney, Matt. Gangs Sometimes Fire First Shots Online. 14 July 2012. <http://www.startribune.com/gangs-sometimes-fire-first-shots-online/162483976/>.
Statistic Brain. Cyberbulling/ Bullying Statistics. 13 July 2016. <https://www.statisticbrain.com/cyber-bullying-statistics/>.
Vosoughi, S. “The Spread of True and False News Online.” Science (2018): Accessed http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1146.