Social media can be either destructive or build you up. It all depends on your own personality and what you make of the experience.
Deciding whether or not social media is harmful or beneficial depends on two primary factors - your personality and how often you use it. Many studies have been conducted in various countries such as Australia, England, and the USA on long-term social media use. Both positive and negative results on the mind and social behavior have been found to be linked with using social media regularly. Let's start with the bad news.
The first thing most people think of that is negative when talking about social media is cyberbullying. Make no mistake - while cyberbullying does account for a small amount of overall social media experience, it is increasing - and far from being harmless teasing, it can be downright deadly. At best, victims may become depressed and/or feel worthless. In more extreme cases, targets of cyberbullying may end up harming themselves or others. Or worse. Perhaps this ability to be bullied by someone who was met on the net comes from another negative aspect of social media - a desire to belong, or rather a fear of being left out. A strong desire to belong can make some people more susceptible to negative influences. This includes not just becoming a target for cyberbullying, but also being more likely to engage in self-destructive behavior such as doing hard drugs.
Research done in Australia found that excessive use of social media can even shrink the hippocampus, leading to problems such as Alzheimer's and schizophrenia. While there is some debate about this study, there does seem to be common agreement that social media does influence the brain's structure. Another fairly common symptom of being on social media is developing anxiety. This can come from being afraid to be left out or from comparing one's own life to various postings on social media.
It isn't all bad, though. Social media has been shown to also have a very positive effect on one's sociability. The theory is that social media tends to enhance one's empathy level (think of all the "save the children" type messages you see). Empathy is a useful skill when working with other people in real life. Another positive aspect social media can have is inspiration. Far from feeling inferior, some people see success stories and feel inspired to work harder and achieve more.
Is social media bad for you? That depends entirely on you. So to answer the question, reflect on your own personality. Here's a question to help: when you see someone post that they just got a new house, new car, and are going to celebrate with a two-week long vacation in the Carribean, how do you feel? If you are jealous, limit your time using social media. If it makes you want to log off and get to work - you're probably going to be fine.
Possible short-term side effects
Possible long-term side effects
- lack of social skills
- lowered productivity
- lowered self-esteem
- altered brain structure
- improved empathy
- may lead to higher productivity
- real life conversations
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Written by Jeff Volling | 12-28-2015
Written by Jeff Volling
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